Saturday, December 9, 2023

MSU football finding versatility up front midway through spring ball

April 5, 2023
<p>Senior center Nick Samac (59) hikes the ball during the first half of a game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 5, 2022. Spartans beat the Fighting Illini with a score of 23-15. </p>

Senior center Nick Samac (59) hikes the ball during the first half of a game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 5, 2022. Spartans beat the Fighting Illini with a score of 23-15.

Photo by Audrey Richardson | The State News

Last season, Michigan State football played most of its season with not many healthy offensive lineman.

This season, with the return of redshirt senior offensive linemen Nick Samac and J.D. Duplain, as well as the addition of some young talent, there looks to be a lot more competition up front.

Competition brings less opportunities for players though, and in order to see the field at MSU, a player has to be able to do multiple things.

For Samac, getting some spring looks at guard rather than center — his natural position — likely will help him down the line.

“You only just wanted to give him some reps there again,” offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic said. “That helps his marketability in the future, plus also, you’re still getting your five best guys and we noticed that if we move our backup center out there and he becomes one of the top five guys, we might have to add him in and now we can move guys like Nick over to guard. So it's creating competition and creating experience in different positions and it is helpful overall.” 

Compared to Kenneth Walker III’s breakout season two years ago, the run game took a considerable decline last year. While a part of the reason for that was due to injury issues, another big reason was that they were missing a guy like tight end Connor Heyward who would provide some huge blocks that would result in big gains. For redshirt junior tight end Maliq Carr, who is primarily known as a large pass catcher with a 6-foot-5 frame, his offseason has been focused more on helping his teammates in the trenches

After spending a portion of last year’s offseason with the basketball team, Carr got a chance this offseason to dedicate all of his time to football. He focused on his weight, it did not change at all. Even though this is the case, Carr said that he has dropped fat and added muscle. While he said strength was not an issue on the field, he has been working on other areas to improve his overall game

“I have been working more on getting off the ball,” Carr said. “It makes blocking a lot easier.” 

While the run game was not where MSU wanted it to be last year, veteran offensive linemen like Spencer Brown understand that success in that area of the game comes from execution by him and his teammates.

“Just guys doing their job,” Brown said. “It was not on the play calls, it wasn't on the coaches, everything's just on the players. If 10 guys do their job and one guy doesn't do it, then the play don't work. So, it just comes down to execution. Everybody has to be doing a job at a high level.” 

Fans will get to see what the players have been working on in action next Saturday afternoon during their 15 and final spring practice.

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