Here we are a mere 3 1/2 days away from kickoff between MSU and Boise State, perhaps one of the longest offseason build-ups to an opening game for the Spartans as I can remember in the past 20 years.
Later this morning, we will find out the first pregame depth chart. Back on Aug. 5, I took a look at some of the biggest questions and concerns MSU was facing entering preseason camp. Revisiting what I wrote more than three weeks ago, here’s what we know right now:
TOP FIVE STORYLINES TO FOLLOW
1A. Maxwell’s moment: We got to know Maxwell’s personality a lot more. He’s a strong and charismatic leader, for sure. His teammates paid him respect last week by voting him as one of the three captains. Coaches have raved about him, saying he’s farther along at this point than Kirk Cousins was. However, nothing has really changed, in that we need to see Maxwell in live-game action Friday. He’s shown good arm strength and mobility in practices we’ve been allowed to watch, but his development and decision-making ability can’t be fully judged until the games begin.
1B. Questions at receiver: The veterans quickly established themselves as the top six in the early days of camp. Junior Bennie Fowler, whose problematic foot injury appears fully healthy when he runs and cuts, is being talked about as a clear No. 1. Sophomores Keith Mumphery and Tony Lippett, along with redshirt freshman A.J. Sims all are in that group. The final three spots include DeAnthony Arnett, Jeremy Langford and true freshman Macgarrett Kings Jr., who seems to have clearly benefited from injuries to classmates Aaron Burbridge and Monty Madaris. Yet as it is with Maxwell, we’ll know more about their chemistry and timing with their new QB come Friday.
3. Holding the line: Blake Treadwell’s stress/hairline fracture in his tibia bumps redshirt freshman Jack Allen into a starting role at left guard. Skyler Burkland’s hand injury – though not serious – limits the depth as well, but the return of four starters is essential to improving the running game that was statistically one of the worst in the Big Ten a year ago. Seniors Chris McDonald and Fou Fonoti have developed as leaders of not only the line, but also the offense.
4. Backs to the front: Le’Veon Bell continues to be the top dog, but coaches and teammates have talked about how good Larry Caper has looked throughout camp. He’s vital as a second back to help alleviate the wear-and-tear on Bell, plus he’s a strong pass-blocker and screen pass-catcher to help accelerate Maxwell’s development. Nick Hill is pushing for carries as well, and he’s also added the title of starting punt returner along with kickoff returner in having a strong special teams camp.
5. Dominance of defense: The players are tired of hitting each other and working on drills, and they’re amped up for Friday’s opener. Two position battles entering camp – free safety and defensive tackle – turned into even more of a display of the Spartans’ defensive depth. Jairus Jones appears to have moved ahead of Kurtis Drummond, RJ Williamson and true freshman Demetrious Cox at free safety. Converted offensive lineman Micajah Reynolds took the lead to replace Jerel Worthy along the line, edging ahead of James Kittredge and Tyler Hoover. We’ve learned that the young linebackers behind the three returning starters will provide even more strength at a loaded position. The same holds true at defensive end behind starters William Gholston and Marcus Rush. And we’ve heard strong reports on true freshman Ezra Robinson at cornerback.
More later today after we meet with Mark Dantonio and get the initial depth chart.