Monday, July 9, 2012

Moving Over

So, it's been a while, eh?

Those of you that follow me on Twitter know by now that I have taken my blogging over to The Only Colors, where I am now the blog manager. It took a while for all the paperwork to get through, so that's why there hasn't been an official announcement yet.

When I started Green Thoughts, it was a way to complement my work for The Oakland Press last fall. Once football season ended, I didn't really know what to do with it. But I wanted to keep writing, so I took the blog up a step, and I'm glad many of you enjoyed it. I'm still working at becoming a professional sportswriter, which is tough. I've been working four or five part-time writing jobs and getting along for now. There are so many journalism majors in colleges, and I don't know why. There just aren't jobs. I've been lucky enough to have a supportive family and fiancee to help me continue to try to live out my dream.

But enough about me. I'm still in talks with MSU about getting the "Random Photo" permissions for TOC. That's something I really want to take over there. We have a solid group of writers at TOC, and I hope you'll all take your interest for MSU news over there.

-Chris Vannini

Friday, May 25, 2012

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 5/25

From July 1950: "'How Drunk is Drunk?' is an article by Pageant Magazine about Ralph Turner's experiments on alcohol.

Funded by the National Traffic Safety Council, Ralph Turner ran an extensive experiment with individuals 'under field conditions.' Using volunteers as test subjects, he invited them for a night of cards, chatting, and drinking. Throughout the evening, each individual had their physical and psychological state monitored and recorded."

The words below read: "How does a man look and act when he's drunk? PAGEANT'S startling pictures of tests in Michigan provide an answer."

via MSU Archives

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Report: Football assistant coaches earn raises

We've known since MSU announced the retainment of Pat Narduzzi in January that MSU would increase his salary heavily. We'd known since last season that there were plans to give the assistant coaches raises.

Today, the LSJ got the details on those raises. Here are the numbers:

Pat Narduzzi (defensive coordinator): Raise from $233,000 to $500,000. The three-year deal has a retention bonus of one month's salary. Buyout of $250,000 Narduzzi must pay if he leaves for another coordinator job. Buyout does not go into effect if he leaves for a head-coaching job.

Dan Roushar (offensive coordinator): Raise from $230,000 to $305,000

Dave Warner (quarterbacks): Raise from $175,000 to $205,000

Brad Salem (running backs): Raise from $170,000 to $200,000

Terry Samuel (wide receivers): Raise from $163,500 to $182,000

Mark Staten (offensive line): Raise from $170,000 to $200,000

Ted Gill (defensive line): Raise from $163,500 to $182,000

Mike Tressel (linebackers/special teams): Raise from $170,000 to $203,000

Harlon Barnett (defensive backs): Raise from $170,000 to $203,000

Given the recent success of the football program, it's hard to argue against any of these raises, especially considering MSU was near the bottom of the Big Ten in assistant coach pay. Narduzzi obviously was the most deserving, given his recent track record and courtship from Texas A&M last winter.

MSU isn't going to keep Narduzzi forever, but this contract shows MSU is willing to pay what it takes for long-term success in football. This way, Narduzzi likely will only leave for a step up. If there's one thing every head coach agrees on, it's that their assistants are underpaid. Georgia head coach Mark Richt got in trouble with the NCAA for paying his coaches with money out of his own pocket. Brady Hoke's success at Michigan was helped by some of the highest salaries for assistants in the country.

Mark Dantonio is building his own coaching tree, with Don Treadwell and Dan Enos already having left for head-coaching jobs, and this money shows the program won't take a step back if more coaches leave. For what it's worth, I could see Warner, Tressel and Barnett earning head-coaching or coordinator jobs down the road.

For most of Dantonio's time at MSU, the program has gotten away with underpaying coaches to develop underrated recruits. The program is on the upswing with the play on the field and the renovations of that field. These salary increases will help MSU try to find consistent, long-term success — something the program has historically lacked.

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 5/24

Apologies for missing yesterday. Had a busy day, got a new dog and it slipped my mind.

An aerial view of the MSU campus from 1920:

via MSU Archives

Football Recruiting Roundup: 5/24

My latest football recruiting roundup for The Only Colors is here. Does the Rose Bowl mean more to recruits than we think?

Mark Hollis named top AD by SBJ, but remains undervalued

The secret has getting out more and more, and if anyone didn't know before Wednesday night, they know now.

MSU athletics director Mark Hollis is one of the best at his job, and he's a steal for MSU. Hollis was named Athletic Director Of The Year by Sports Business Journal on Wednesday. He beat out Michigan's Dave Brandon, Arkansas' Jeff Long and Baylor's Ian McCaw.

The award wasn't a shock to those who have followed MSU sports over the last half-decade. Before he became MSU's top athletic official, Hollis engineered the Cold War ice hockey game at Spartan Stadium in 2001 and the Basketbowl game at Ford Field in 2003. Both events changed how games were played — literally.

He lived out his dream with the Carrier Classic in San Diego last year — an event that will continue in the coming seasons. Hollis continues to find new frontiers, with the goal on a basketball game in Greece possibly down the road.

Since taking over the reins of MSU athletics, Hollis has had unbelievable success in hiring coaches, including baseball's Jake Boss Jr. and hockey's Tom Anastos. Hollis also was a major part in the hiring of football coach Mark Dantonio and women's basketball coach Suzy Merchant. Since Hollis' promotion, MSU athletics is in the midst of one of its most successful eras. 

Off the field, Hollis' relationship with Nike has brought huge dividends to the department with the Spartan brand identity renewal in 2010. He helped the athletic department cut expenses and turn a profit after years of losing money. A few months ago, Hollis was named to the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee

But for all his accolades, Hollis is greatly undervalued. As part of a USA Today database released in Oct. 2011, it was revealed that Hollis receives the second-lowest salary among public Big Ten schools, ahead of only Nebraska's Tom Osborne. At $395,000, schools such as Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana and Illinois each pay their ADs more than MSU pays Hollis. Ohio State's Gene Smith and Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez each make more than $1 million. For more perspective, some other schools that pay their AD more (at the time of the database) include New Mexico, Florida International and SMU.

MSU has been lucky it has an alumnus like Hollis. From the USA Today story:

"We all have choices," Hollis says, "and as an AD, if you are not comfortable with your compensation, you have a choice. … Everybody knows where they rank and where they stand, and nobody likes to be in last place. With that said … my choice is, I want to be at Michigan State. I'm comfortable with what the president and the board have provided me. I know where it (ranks), but I also know the values that my family gets by being part of this community and that has a great value to me, as do the coaches. It's more than just compensation for me."

MSU came under some fire in the winter when football defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was courted by Texas A&M with some big money. MSU stepped up and gave Narduzzi the money to keep him around, but there's only so much dough. Tom Izzo is one of the highest-paid basketball coaches in the country, and MSU doesn't bring in nearly the same amount of money that Ohio State and U-M do, while having a comparable number of varsity teams to pay for. The university is having its own financial problems with dwindling public funding.

If MSU can't pay Hollis a completive rate right now, what happens when MSU needs its next AD? What if Hollis becomes the next Big Ten commissioner? (A role most everyone agree he would excel in).

Wednesday night was just a confirmation of what those in East Lansing have known for a long time: Hollis is one of the best in the business. But MSU's past drama with athletics management should be a lesson for what can happen when people aren't on the same page.

Hollis always says he wants to consistently compete for Rose Bowls and Final Fours. At some point, MSU will have to compete with the big boys financially in order to compete on the fields. ADs like Hollis don't come around very often.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thoughts on 2015/16 football schedules

The Big Ten released the 2015/16 schedules today, and my first reaction was that the MSU schedules are very similar to 2011/12.

Here's the 2015 Big Ten schedule for MSU:

Oct. 3 Michigan
Oct. 10 at Iowa
Oct. 17 at Ohio State
Oct. 24 Indiana
Oct. 31 at Nebraska
Nov. 7 Bye
Nov. 14 Penn State
Nov. 21 at Northwestern
Nov. 28 Minnesota

Here is 2016:

Oct. 1 at Michigan
Oct. 8 Iowa
Oct. 15 Ohio State
Oct. 22 at Indiana
Oct. 29 Nebraska
Nov. 5 Bye
Nov. 12 at Penn State
Nov. 19 Northwestern
Nov. 26 at Minnesota
(Here are the 2012/13/14 schedules)

MSU will play the same teams these two seasons as they did/will in 2011/12, with Penn State (remember them?) replacing Wisconsin. Compared to 2013/14, MSU will replace Purdue/Illinois with Ohio State and Penn State. The Land Grant trophy will (presumably) be on the line for the first time in five years when MSU and PSU meet in East Lansing on Nov. 14, 2015. After this coming season, the #borderbattle with Wisconsin will go on hiatus for five years. I'm sure MSU is happy about that, but it will stop what was becoming a great rivalry.

A reminder: Indiana is MSU's permanent division-crossover game. You can just feel the rivalry hatred oozing out of the Old Brass Spittoon.

The other major point is that MSU will open up the Big Ten seasons with rival Michigan, which has to be considered a disappointment. In these two years, the game's meaning in the standings won't really be known until later in the season. Given how early it is in the season, could it possibly be a night game? I wouldn't plan on it.

Considering MSU will have nonconference games against Alabama, Oregon and Notre Dame over the two years, the first seven games of the season are going to be a real challenge. Games against Indiana and the MAC schools should help, but who knows how teams will look five years down the road.

As for the home/road difference, it is pretty balanced when you include the nonconference games.

Overall, the schedule looks quite difficult (if you go by current program standing), but it appears this is how the scheduling is going to be. For MSU, the 2011/12 schedules are really difficult, but the 2013/14 schedules are much easier. (Seriously, MSU could be a national championship contender in 2013).

Then again, if the ACC implodes and we get to four superconferences, none of this will matter. Tradition!

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 5/21

From 1913:

"Students stand in front of a M.A.C. train car coming home from a game in Wisconsin. Signs reads, "MAC Football Special" and "MAC Did It." The front reads, "At St. Johns on way home from victory at Madison Wis. M.A. C. 12 - U. of W. 7, Madison, Wis." Photograph has been cut out of a scrapbook. On the back is a picture of a M.A.C. military student in uniform."

via MSU Archives

Friday, May 18, 2012

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 5/18

An action shot from the MAC-Notre Dame football game in 1910. MAC won the game 17-0 in East Lansing and went 6-1 on the season.

The photo says "Exelby (MAC) thru line." This likely is referring to Leon Exelby, a fullback from Britton, Mich., who played at MAC from 1907-10.

via MSU Archives

Thursday, May 17, 2012

MSU Football Recruiting Roundup: 5/17

If you didn't know by now, I've been writing football recruiting roundups once a week over at The Only Colors for a while. I figure I may as well link to it here from now on.

Here is the latest, with updates on Texas OL commit Caleb Benenoch and some southern prospects MSU is going after.

Also, a quick note: B.J. Cunningham officially signed with the Dolphins, the team announced today. It is a four-year rookie contract.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 5/11

"Action shot from a M.A.C.-DePaul football game, October 6, 1909. On the front: 'M.A.C. 51. DePaul 3 Oct 6.'"

The MSU media guide says this game actually took place on Nov. 6, 1909 and the score was 51-0. I think I'm going to side with the photo. MSU went 8-1 in 1909, with the only loss coming at Notre Dame by a 17-0 score.

via MSU Archives

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Video: College Football Live breaks down MSU

From ESPN:

DeAnthony Arnett cleared to play next fall

In an unsurprising decision, the NCAA has granted transfer wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett a medical waiver, allowing him to play this coming season after transferring from Tennessee following last season.

Arnett, who chose Tennessee over MSU and a few other schools out of high school, wanted to play closer to his hometown of Saginaw due to the health of his father, who needs a kidney transplant.

What was a surprise, though, was how long it took the NCAA to make a decision on what seemed like a no-brainer. Joe Rexrode of the LSJ reported that the NCAA asked for more medical info twice in the last three weeks. I don't blame the NCAA for wanting to make sure everything checks out, but still.

Looking ahead to next fall, Arnett should be an immediate contributor. He struggled a bit in spring ball, what with a new team and all, but he should be much-improved by the time the season rolls around. He had 24 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns for Tennessee last year. With a depleted receiving corps, MSU needs as much experienced help as it can get.

The MSU football Twitter account sent out some quotes from Arnett and Mark Dantonio.


"Coach D's call (regarding the NCAA's decision) put a big smile on my face. … From the beginning, my father told me not to worry and to put the waiver request in the good Lord's hands. … I'm glad everything is taken care of, so I can concentrate on preparing to have an impact on the team this fall."


“We received exciting news from the NCAA late this morning, stating that DeAnthony Arnett’s waiver request has been granted, so he’ll be eligible to participate this season. … The NCAA's decision isn't just beneficial to him as an individual but to his entire family as well, knowing that they'll have an opportunity to see him compete this season. … (He) appreciates Michigan State’s complete team effort, led by (AD) Mark Hollis and (FAR) Mike Kasavana, in presenting his case. … Our compliance staff did an outstanding job of compiling all of his father’s medical records & presenting the facts to the NCAA. … Our director of football operations Tim Allen also worked closely with the compliance staff throughout this process. … "(He) is thrilled with the NCAA’s decision, & he's looking forward to getting back to work in preparation for the upcoming season."

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 5/10

An action photo from MAC's 12-7 win at Wisconsin in 1913. MAC went 7-0 under head coach John Macklin that season.

via MSU Archives

Friday, May 4, 2012

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 5/4

"Women practice woodworking inside Morrill Hall. The back reads, 'Basement of Women's Bldg. Class in Wood-work 1912.'"

via MSU Archives

Report: Matt Giampapa leaves MSU football team, will transfer

Hondo Carpenter of first reported Friday morning that long snapper Matt Giampapa will transfer out of the MSU football program.

MLive later confirmed the news with MSU.

Giampapa's decision doesn't come as a complete surprise, as the writing appeared to be on the wall. After earning a scholarship as a freshman walk-on player last year, Giampapa was suspended for the Outback Bowl. Last month, MSU offered a late scholarship to 2012 Saline long snapper Taybor Pepper, who quickly took up the offer instead of walking-on at Michigan.

Steve Moore, who did the long snapping in the Outback Bowl, did the same in last week's Spring Game.

MSU told MLive that Giampapa wants to move closer to home. Giampapa is from Jackson, Tenn. A decision on where to transfer has not been made.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

William Gholston and Lawrence Thomas OK after Wednesday car accident.

A statement has been released by MSU:

"William Gholston and Lawrence Thomas were shaken after being involved in a rollover accident Wednesday afternoon. The police responded within minutes of the accident, and thankfully, no one was seriously injured. Fortunately, both of them were wearing their seat belts and that made a difference in ensuring their safety."

The Detroit Free Press first reported the news and has details of the accident. Good to hear everyone is OK because this could have been really bad. 

Keith Nichol heads to D.C. looking to prove himself — again

When it gets into the seventh round (and maybe even the sixth round) of the NFL Draft, there comes a point where players are better off going undrafted than getting selected.

The reason being that instead of being tied to one team, you get many suitors and can pick the team that best fits your situation. When Blair White went undrafted in 2010, he chose the Indianapolis Colts, and ended up getting decent playing time in his first season.

Todd Anderson (Rams), Garrett Celek (49ers) and Brian Linthicum (Jets) made their decisions right after the draft and signed contracts. Keith Nichol waited. The LSJ reports Nichol had a dozen teams interested in giving him a shot. He settled on the Washington Redskins, joining a familiar face: Kirk Cousins.

MLive first reported the Nichol news, although the LSJ says he hasn't officially signed with Washington yet. (Note: Joe Rexrode clarified that Nichol chose to go to D.C. mini-camp without a contract in order the keep his options open).

Nichol told the LSJ that the special teams opportunities and the lack of a physical receiver made the Skins the most-appealing option. He told MLive he's wants to show he can play any position. He will head to D.C. with Cousins for mini-camp from Friday to Sunday. Nichol will have a better gauge on his chances with the team after the weekend.

Cousins and Nichol have been attached since they started competing for the starting quarterback job at MSU in 2009. The first thing I thought when I saw the signing was, "I guess the Redskins have their Hail Mary package."

People have always tried to insert a wedge between them — trying to paint them as enemies in 2009, then figuring Nichol had to spite Cousins for winning the job and regret his move to wide receiver. That was never the case.

Each with a chip on their shoulder, the pair helped lead MSU to a Big Ten championship in 2010 and a Legends Division title in 2011. Cousins' last touchdown pass at MSU was to Nichol in the Outback Bowl. Now, they'll head to the nation's capital looking once again to prove themselves.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thoughts on MSU and the 2012 NFL Draft

Over three days (well, actually the last two) six former MSU football players heard their name called at the NFL Draft — the most since seven in 2000. Three more have signed as undrafted free agents. (Here is MSU's all-time draft history).

First, a recap:

  • Jerel Worthy - Packers - 2nd round No. 51 overall
  • Kirk Cousins - Redskins - 4th round - No. 102 overall 
  • Keshawn Martin - Texans - 4th round - No. 121 overall
  • Trenton Robinson - 49ers - 6th round - No. 180 overall 
  • B.J. Cunningham - Dolphins - 6th round - No. 183 overall
  • Edwin Baker - Chargers - 7th round - No. 250 overall
  • Todd Anderson - Rams - UFA
  • Garrett Celek - 49ers - UFA
  • Brian Linthicum - Jets - UFA
Second, a look at the numbers: 
  • As mentioned, the six Spartans selected are the most since 2000 (7)
  • The six Spartans tied for the most in the Big Ten with Iowa and Wisconsin
  • The six Spartans tied for fourth among all schools (behind Alabama, Oklahoma and Georgia)
  • MSU is one of eight schools to have a player selected every year since the inception of the common NFL Draft in 1967 (MSU, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas and USC)
  • The Big Ten's 41 picks were second among conferences (SEC: 42)
  • Over the last two years, MSU has had a player at every position group other than OL/TE drafted (counting OL and DL as one position group each). h/t KJ

That last stat is telling about the player development over Mark Dantonio's time at MSU. Also, Joel Foreman may have been drafted had he not retired from football due to injuries. As I wrote last week, MSU is one of the top teams in terms of NFL draft picks compared to recruiting class rankings. MSU should improve on that list with all the picks from this year. 

Again, MSU isn't trying to beat Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame on the recruiting path every year, because it can't. Dantonio has molded his program after Wisconsin and Iowa, focusing on recruiting the right players and developing them. And whaddya know? Those three schools led the Big Ten in draft picks this year. 

Five of the six Spartans drafted weren't highly recruited. Worthy, Cousins, Martin and Cunningham were given three stars by Rivals. Trenton Robinson was given two. Only Edwin Baker was highly recruited, given four stars. 

Yes, Alabama dominated with the most players because it gets the best recruits and it wins the most. But 14 of the 32 first-round picks were given three stars or fewer out of high school. You can win games without the best players. I don't want to turn this into another recruiting argument. I've made this point before, and now I'm relating it to the NFL Draft.

Now, let's turn to the players.

Jerel Worthy had a rough birthday on Thursday, watching the first round come and go without his name being called. On Friday, he tweeted that somebody had to pay and that it was adding motivation. He didn't have to wait too long on Friday, being picked by the Packers in the second round. The Packers use a 3-4 defense, so Worthy actually would fit better as a defensive end. The Milwaukee Journal says Worthy could be used in nickel situations, which is ironic, because Worthy was often taken out at defensive tackle in passing situations at MSU. Regardless, I don't question Worthy's work ethic as much as his stamina. He'll get a chance to start for Green Bay.

Kirk Cousins' selection by the Redskins was the most-talked about pick on the final day. Having already traded the kitchen sink to move up and draft Baylor's Robert Griffin III, selecting another quarterback was quite shocking. It was the first time since 1989 a team drafted two quarterbacks in the first four rounds. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan coached the South team in the Senior Bowl, where Cousins impressed on the North team. 

Cousins would have seemed a prefect fit behind a veteran, learning for a few years before possibly getting a shot to start. Now, Cousins will likely compete with Rex Grossman for the backup spot behind Griffin, who will get every chance to succeed in Washington. It's definitely an uphill climb for Cousins. ESPN's Chris Mortensen compared the situation to Atlanta a few years ago, when the Falcons drafted Matt Schaub in the third round despite having the young, athletic Michael Vick. The idea being that Griffin will take a lot of hits, so Cousins would be a solid and groomed backup should Griffin ever go down.

I think Cousins is the newest Avenger.

While ESPN tried to stir up a quarterback controversy, I don't see it. Mel Kiper said the selection of Cousins puts pressure on Griffin to succeed right away. I respectfully disagree. Griffin will be given every opportunity possible. He likely will go through some growing pains, but the Redskins will stick with him. While Cousins' personality is sure to draw a lot of fans and praise, Griffin was actually more beloved for his personality. He'll have plenty of support. All in all, a tough situation for Cousins, but I expect he'll work hard and study hard as a backup and draw the attention of other teams and could get a shot somewhere else, similar to what Brian Hoyer is doing in New England.

As for the other picks, Keshawn Martin can be a Percy Harvin-like player, used to stretch the field in all directions and could get early playing time in the return game. Trenton Robinson drew a lot of praise during the draft process for his effort. He could play cornerback or safety, and he isn't afraid to get his nose dirty, despite his smaller size. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at Robinson's draft day.

B.J. Cunningham in the sixth round seemed like a steal to me. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a solid NFL career as a slot receiver. He doesn't have elite speed to stretch the field vertically, but his hands are superb and he has good strength.

(More MSU player highlights videos from @Pietrang5 here)

When Edwin Baker declared early for the draft, it was a surprise, and it wasn't. He had lost his starting spot to Le'Veon Bell, so how much higher could his stock go? I didn't think he had a chance of getting drafted, but I was wrong. I know he was drafted a few picks away from Mr. Irrelevant, but he still was drafted. Charles Robinson thinks Baker could have helped his stock by staying in school because he would have gotten more carries in an offense that will likely run the ball a lot more, but I guess that's up for debate. 

Todd Anderson, Garrett Celek and Brian Linthicum were all signed as undrafted free agents. Linthicum was a guy who could have been drafted and likely had a lot of teams looking to sign him. He has a good chance to last in the league because of his versatility. Anderson is a beast in the weight room, so he'll have a chance as a fullback.

There is one notable Spartan missing: Keith Nichol. The quarterback-turned-receiver was getting looks at other positions from scouts, but doesn't appear to have signed anywhere. My guess is that he still will have some workouts with teams for another chance. 

It was one of the most-successful drafts in MSU history, and it won't be the last time MSU has a big weekend. MSU continues to bring in talent — some hyped, some not — and develop it. Johnny Adams (three stars) will be one of the top defensive back prospects next year. If Will Gholston (five stars) has the year some are expecting, he could leave MSU early and be a first-round pick. Isaiah Lewis and Max Bullough appear on the road to the NFL whenever they leave. MSU has plenty of other guys that could develop into that position down the road.

This weekend was another step forward in the advancement of Dantonio's program. He stabilized the program on the field, and now his players are reaping the rewards. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thoughts on MSU's Spring Game

(Box score here)

I think MSU's defense will be pretty good this fall.

At one point in Saturday's Spring Game, I wondered if MSU would end in a 0-0 tie like Pitt did a few weeks back. MSU's defense (even split into two teams) is so good, and redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Cook looked completely helpless. But the offenses found a little bit of a rhythm and the White ended with a 14-2 win.

The story of the day was William Gholston. The rising junior is expected to have a big year (which could be his last at MSU) and that was shown Saturday. Gholston consistently busted through the White team's offensive line, catching Andre Sims Jr. on a reverse on one play. He tackled Hill for a safety for the game's first score. He had a pass breakup and even tackled Sparty on a play.

Note how Gholston is as big as Sparty. That's a big man. Gholston was later overhead on Mark Dantonio's mic asking if he'd get in trouble for doing that, although the players obviously didn't try too hard.

One of the plays Gholston didn't make, however, resulted in a 32-yard touchdown run by Nick Hill at the end of the third quarter. Gholston stayed down on the field after the play. He walked off under his own power, but did not return. BTN's Lisa Byington said Gholston suffered a right knee bruise and that they MSU staff wasn't very concerned.

The most important thing in a Spring Game is staying healthy, and MSU had some guys get banged up. Larry Caper has just one carry before leaving the game. The Spartan Sports Network said Caper had a slight concussion. Le'Veon Bell had just four carries for six yards. Nick Hill got banged up at one point but did return. MSU was running out of running backs, so Jeremy Langford moved back to the backfield and had six carries. Defensive end-turned-tight end Denzel Drone left the game with a left leg injury and was on crutches later in the day.

As for the game, it went about as expected, with Cook struggling early before finding some success against both of MSU's stout defenses. Cook finished a combined 20-for-45 for 294 yards, one touchdown and one interception playing for both teams. He was under constant pressure and missed some easier throws, but he'll get better. He's been in the program for less than one year and likely won't start for a few more years. Dantonio said after the game that Cook "grew enormously."

The wide receivers struggled a bit, also as expected. The most-experienced guys, Bennie Fowler and Tony Lippett were expected to miss the game, although Fowler was out there a little bit. He's coming back from foot surgery. Early-enrollee Kyle Kerrick was noticeable out there. He had an early drop but ran some good routes and made a few plays, finishing with two catches for 23 yards. Sims Jr. had three catches for 22 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Dion Sims actually had the most catches, with four for 73 yards. The receivers have work to do, but that was expected.

The catch of the day actually came from Johnny Adams, who made a nice adjustment on a 45-yard grab. Perhaps the top cornerback in the Big Ten, Dantonio said MSU might give Adams a few chances on offense in the fall. A poor man's Charles Woodson? The number of chances Adams gets might depend on how much the young receivers improve.

The Green team had four of five offensive line starters, but rushed for -10 yards and gave up three sacks. That should be a little worrisome, but MSU's defensive line is going to overwhelm a lot of teams this season. Joel Heath got a lot of hype from the coaches, and he had a solid game. He'll be valuable in the rotation on the ends come fall. Hill played on both teams, finishing with 95 yards and the one touchdown on 19 carries.

Special teams was a bit of an issue. Mike Sadler punted well, but MSU had some problems with snaps and Dan Conroy missed both field goal attempts, including a short 27-yarder.

The forecast for the game showed temperatures in the 40s with a good chance of rain, but the rain held off and MSU estimated 21,000 fans showed up, which was decent given the forecast.

Now we have to wait four more months for some real college football (sadface). It was a pretty uneventful spring for MSU, other than Andrew Maxwell's knee injury. But coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons with one of the top defenses in the country, MSU is settling in as one of the top programs in the Big Ten and success is becoming the norm.

Also, this was pretty cool. From the MSUAA YouTube page, Mark Dantonio talks with MSU's oldest living alumnus, who is 105 years old.

Video: Sparty takes handoff in Spring Game

This was quite funny. Also, note how Gholston is just as tall as Sparty.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 4/27

(A reminder: Photo of the Day will now be a M/W/F thing)

The MAC bleachers at the 1915 football game between MAC and Michigan in Ann Arbor. MAC won the game 24-0.

via MSU Archives

MSU football one of top programs in player development

As I've written before, recruiting in college football is extremely important, but it's not everything. In his time as MSU, Mark Dantonio has shown the ability to develop players and max out their potential. That's why it wasn't a surprise to see MSU as the No. 17 team in the country in terms of the relationship between recruiting class ranking and NFL draftees, according to College Football Matrix.

Theoretically, a team that brings in the most talent should send the most players to the NFL, which was pretty much true. According to the site, "of the top 25 (schools) of producing NFL draft picks from 2005-2011, all but 4 were in the top 25 for recruiting."

So if you scored a 0, you were right on track. But what about the overachievers and underachievers?

According to the site, MSU had 17 players drafted from 2005-11, which ranks 36th in the country. That is compared to a composite recruiting ranking of No. 45 from 2002-08. While only two of Dantonio's recruiting classes are included in this data, he has been the coach for four of the outgoing classes. MSU has had seven players drafted under Dantonio and will add a few more in this year's draft. Former coach John L. Smith had 10 players drafted in his three years that were in this data.

MSU's difference of +9 is third in the Big Ten. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that Wisconsin (fifth in the nation) and Iowa (seventh) were atop the Big Ten. Those are two programs that have become synonymous with success on the field without highly-rated recruiting classes. Dantonio has said that he has tried to model his program after those two schools. MSU isn't going to be a school that brings in top-five classes and wins on talent, like Michigan and Ohio State. MSU's focus has been on bringing in players that fit the program and can be developed. Team and individual successes have followed.

Dantonio developed some of Smith's players. Now with a program full of his own players, MSU is starting to send more players into the NFL. Dantonio was rated by College Football Matrix as the No. 6 coach in terms of doing more with less.

Here are the rankings for the Big Ten in the College Football Matrix table:

1. Wisconsin +30
2. Iowa +27
3. MSU +9
4. Indiana +9
5. Nebraska +7
6. Ohio State +6
7. Purdue +4
8. Northwestern +2
9. Penn State 0
10. Minnesota -10
11. Michigan -12
12. Illinois -12

In a related story, 14 of the 32 first-round picks Thursday night were rated three stars or fewer by Rivals out of high school. Player development matters.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

MSU Athletics 2011-12 Highlight Video

First off, a note: The Random Photo of the Day will be moved to three days a week (M/W/F) because I'm running out of good things to find. Also, with not much going on in college sports right now, the blog is loading up solely on those photos, so I'm going to slow it down a bit.

Here is a cool 2011-12 highlight video covering most MSU sports. It was made by @Pietrang5 (on Twitter), who has made a lot of good MSU videos on YouTube, if you want to check out his channel.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 4/25

Fans at the MAC-Notre Dame football game. The estimated date of the photo is sometime between 1910-1919.

via MSU Archives

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Videos: Dantonio, Cousins, Narduzzi talk with BTN

Mark Dantonio talks with BTN about Spring Football:

Kirk Cousins talks with BTN about the upcoming NFL Draft:

Also, Pat Narduzzi did a film session with Howard Griffith, which you can see here. I love these kinds of things.

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 4/24

The band shell, in 1949.

"During the warm weather months, the band-shell is the scene of many gatherings, the most well-known of these being the weekly band concerts given by the Michigan State College band in the latter part of the spring term."
via MSU Archives

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why John L. Smith to Arkansas makes (enough) sense

I'll admit it. When I first saw that Arkansas had hired former MSU head coach John L. Smith in an interim role, my initial reaction was "WHAT THE??"

But after the initial face-slapping jokes came out, the hire started to make more sense.

When Bobby Petrino was fired, I tweeted that I wouldn't be surprised if Smith would have gotten the job if he hadn't taken the Weber State head coaching job a few months ago. While the character of Smith has been questioned with another off exit from a school, the hiring by Arkansas makes sense for both parties.

Familiarity is very important when it comes to coaching. Mark Dantonio has credited some of MSU's recent success to a lack of attrition among the coaches. Smith has been the special teams coach in Fayetteville for the last three seasons and has a relationship with most everyone there. This isn't like MSU going with Bobby Williams because the players liked him. Smith is going to be there for one season. Even if Arkansas does well, I'd be really shocked if Smith was given a long-term deal, although I've been shocked before.

Arkansas is going to be a national championship contender this season. Hiring a guy from the outside would have changed everything (and there aren't any great hires available right now, anyway). Arkansas could have promoted one of its current coaches, but none of them has the head-coaching experience of Smith. And by the way, Smith had been quite successful everywhere he had been before the train wreck in East Lansing.

This isn't a long-term fix. Smith is 63. Weber State presumably was going to be his last stop before retirement. Both sides know this, as Smith only signed a 10-month deal. His job isn't to take Arkansas to the next level. It's to keep this ship going in the right direction. All the pieces are in place for a special season, all Smith has to do it not run it to an iceberg. (That analogy would have been better a week ago).

If things go well, Smith could guide the Hogs to a BCS bowl, Arkansas can bring in a big-name coach and the program will move forward. For Smith, I don't think he expected anything big to come his way again. As bad as it looks leaving his alma mater at this time, he sees one last opportunity to coach at the highest level — an opportunity that no one saw coming a few weeks ago.

So while the John L. Smith era at MSU is unearthed one more embarrassing time, Arkansas goes into a hyped-up season knowing that things won't be greatly different than they would have been before Petrino's firing. This isn't a step forward, but it's not a step backward. And with so much on the line and already in place for this fall, that's all Arkansas needed.

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 4/23

"Richard R. Morsches, co-drum major of MSU marching band, stands uniform inspection by Spartan 'Coach of the year' Duffy Daugherty. Both football squad & band will be in Pasadena Jan. 2 for the 1956 Rose Bowl game. Morsches, senior from Columbia City, Indiana, will be making his last appearance in front of the 125-piece Spartan band."

via MSU Archives

Friday, April 20, 2012

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 4/20

Michigan State College playing Michigan at dedication of College Field in 1924 (not to be confused with Old College Field, where baseball, softball and soccer now play). The stadium opened in the fall of 1923, but the official dedication was the following year, where MSC almost upset U-M, but fell 7-0. It was renamed Macklin Field in 1935 and Spartan Stadium in 1957.

via MSU Archives

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Offense wins second scrimmage 62-59

From MSU:

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-60s, the Michigan State football team held its second jersey scrimmage of spring practice Thursday afternoon in Spartan Stadium. Utilizing a modified scoring system, the offense defeated the defense, 62-59, in a “situational” scrimmage.

In the first scrimmage held on Saturday, the defense came away with a convincing 72-32 victory.

The biggest difference for the offense in the second scrimmage was the running game. Senior Larry Caper led the way with 106 yards on 21 carries (5.0 avg.), including a 22-yard touchdown and another rush for 31 yards, the longest of the day. Sophomore Nick Hill carried the ball 12 times for 51 yards, while junior Le’Veon Bell had 48 yards on 13 attempts. Hill (15 yards) and Bell (2 yards) also had touchdown runs. The three running backs combined for 205 yards on 46 carries (4.5 avg.) and three TDs.

Big Ten announces men's hockey tournament sites

The Big Ten announces Thursday that St. Paul, Minn. and Detroit will rotate as hosts for the first four conference men's ice hockey tournaments. 

The 2014 and 2016 tournaments will be at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul and the 2015 and 2017 tournaments will be at Joe Louis Arena.

The locations make sense, as Minnesota and Michigan are two of the top college hockey states and hockey in general. Michigan has "Hockeytown," while Minnesota declared itself as the "State of Hockey." With Penn State adding ice hockey as a Division I sport in 2013-14, the sport had enough sponsors to become part of the Big Ten. MSU, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State are set to leave their current conferences and join the Big Ten, which has created tectonic shifts in the college hockey landscape. 

Here is the release from the Big Ten:

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 4/19

A men's intramural softball game from 1957.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Andrew Maxwell injured, questionable for Spring Game

According to the MSU Football Twitter feed, quarterback Andrew Maxwell suffered a sprained knee in the first spring scrimmage and will be sidelined for at least a week. MSU said Maxwell is questionable for the Spring Game on April 28.

That leaves redshirt freshman Connor Cook as the No. 1 quarterback with fifth-year senior Peter Badovinac and redshirt freshman Tommy Vento has the backups. Spartan Tailgate's Dan Kilbridge said Dantonio told reporters the injury occurred while Maxwell was leaving the pocket and "sort of fell backwards."

This also might explain why the defense dominated the scrimmage as much as they did.

For Maxwell, this appears to only be a minor setback. While getting more reps with the young receivers is important, it doesn't seem to be a major injury. For Cook, it will be an big opportunity to develop chemistry with the young receivers, whom Cook could be throwing to as the starter in two seasons. The coaches have liked what Cook has shown in practice over the last year. Incoming freshman Tyler O'Connor likely will be the No. 3 quarterback when he comes to MSU this summer.

Looking at the big picture, this will be a chance for MSU to develop a reliable backup. In five seasons, Dantonio has only had to deal with a serious injury to his starter in 2009, when he had two No. 1 quarterbacks in Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol. (I define "serious" as not being able to start the next game). Sometimes you forget the backup quarterback is only one play away from taking over the reins of the offense.

Injuries happen in the spring. This one just gets more attention because it's the quarterback.

While the Spring Game might not be as exciting without the starting quarterback, the next two weeks will be a good opportunity for Cook to take a step forward in his development, which will help MSU should anything happen to Maxwell again.

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 4/17

A 1923 illustration of the MAC campus. This view is looking south from the Michigan Ave./Grand River Ave. intersection. You can see how North Campus is the only developed part. You can see Macklin Field (Spartan Stadium) alone on the south side of the Red Cedar River.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Video: Kirk Cousins at Jon Gruden's QB camp

Cousins' second go-around with Jon Gruden's QB Camp debuts tonight on ESPNU. Here's a sneak peek from

And here was what Gruden told the media about Cousins.

I love when Gruden does these things. As ESPN starts to drift more toward the drama of football and less about the Xs and Os, I love getting a detailed look at what coaches and players talk about and look for. I know Gruden enjoys his role as a commentator, but still think he'll get back into coaching. Maybe his work with college quarterbacks with his annual camp could push him to being a college coach.

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 4/16

From 1913: "Fans at a M.A.C. vs. University of Michigan football game. On the front: "M.A.C. --- 12" "U. of M. --- 7." On the back: "Property: MSC Historian" "The stands at Ferry Field going wild with first victory of M.A.C. over Michigan."

via MSU Archives

Saturday, April 14, 2012

MSU defense dominates first scrimmage, 72-32

Given the amount of talent returning on each side of the ball, it shouldn't be a surprise that the MSU defense won the first scrimmage of spring practice 72-32.

MSU ran 104 plays in a situational scrimmage. The defense had 10 sacks and three interceptions. Will Gholston and Joel Heath each had two sacks, including a safety for Heath. Johnny Adams had two interceptions, including one for a touchdown.

On offense, Andrew Maxwell went 6-for-11 for 57 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Le'Veon Bell had 12 rushes for 49 yards. In the quotes (below), Mark Dantonio wasn't surprised at how well the defense played, but didn't like the amount of turnovers on offense. While 10 sacks seems like a lot, there were 104 plays, so those numbers are bound to be high when you factor in each string. I wouldn't look too much into that.

MSU will get back to practice on Tuesday. The Spring Game is scheduled for April 28.

Here is the release from MSU:

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Journey: Big Ten Football 2012

This is going to be awesome.

Thoughts on the Derrick Nix situation

It's hard to have a wrong opinion on what Tom Izzo should have done with Derrick Nix following his drug arrest (later reduced to impaired driving).

Drew Sharp said that Nix should be kicked off the team. Joe Rexrode said that Izzo made the right call by reinstating Nix to the program with TBD punishments. While Sharp's opinion is valid, I agree with Rexrode. I'm a guy who believes in giving guys chances to redeem themselves, especially college kids.

But the only person whose opinion matters is Izzo. It's quite clear that he knows what is best for his program. This isn't a case of a guy letting his kids away with everything. Some guys have been able to move past troubles and flourish (Mateen Cleaves), while others didn't take advantage of their second-chances (Chris Allen, Korie Lucious).

As for the car, it was a completely legitimate question, especially given Nix's background. As frustrated as Izzo was by the issue, it is the duty journalists to look into that. As it turned out, there was nothing wrong. But there's a difference between journalists doing their jobs by looking into it and message board fans accusing Izzo's program of cheating. It was looked into, cleared up and that's the end of it.

Anyone who has been around Nix knows he's a great kid, a gentle giant who is not afraid to speak his mind and is full of jokes. During the 2010-11 season, I wrote a story about the relationship between him and Garrick Sherman. I called Nix's mom for the story. She was busy and told me to call back and another time, but never again answered my calls. After the story ran, Nix apologized to me for his mom not getting back to me. He also wanted to know how he could get the story (The State News is free in newsstands all around campus).

I'll never be surprised when a college kid gets in trouble with marijuana. Like Sharp, I've never smoked pot, but I'm not going to berate people who do. I know it's almost as common as alcohol in most places. Both have the potential to ruin lives, but that often comes down to the individual person. When Pat Robertson says it should be legal like alcohol, that should give you an idea of things.

But that doesn't change that Nix broke the law. He will get in trouble. When the War Drill is part of practice, I don't want to know what punishment from Izzo is. Nix will be worked. He will learn his lesson. He had been on the right track after getting in batter shape and having a solid junior season. This is a step back, but it could result in multiple steps forward.

Nix's first two seasons on the court were basically wasted because he couldn't get his weight in order. But that's what college is for. It's about growing, changing, improving. Nix has the skills the play professional basketball some day, it has always been about getting serious about priorities. I do believe Nix was serious with the tears streaming down his face at Thursday's press conference as he apologized to everyone, especially Izzo's son.

I agree with Izzo's view on role models. No one is perfect. The best role models are the ones who learn from their mistakes. I believe that is what will happen from Nix. Unless Izzo forbids it, I still expect Nix to be named a captain next season, and I also expect Nix to finally live up his potential on the court. Some people just need a wake-up call. This could finally be it for Nix.

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 4/13

Cows graze a field near MSU buildings. The year is not listed. My grandfather, a U-M grad, told me they used to refer to MSU as a "cow college." I have no idea why.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Video: Ken Mannie talks with BTN

Howard Griffith of Big Ten Network was in East Lansing recently to talk with Ken Mannie about MSU's strength and conditioning work.

The intro music is super intense, and some of the b-roll shows that Chris McDonald is leading the "Spartans" chant, so he seems to be moving into that leadership role as everyone expected.

A bonus video from BTN's YouTube account:

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 4/12

"The image shows students working in a field (in 1892). A classroom building now stands on the garden site." 

via MSU Archives

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jon Gruden likes Kirk Cousins, and everyone else

Q. What was your opinion of Kirk Cousins going into the interview, and where do you project him to go?

JON GRUDEN:  We got to know Cousins well in the Outback Bowl.  Mike Tirico and I did the Outback Bowl, and we spent a lot of time with Michigan State and with Cousins specifically.  We got to see him practice.  We had him down here at the FFCA headquarters twice.  What you’re getting is a three‑time team captain at Michigan State, so that tells you what type of leader he is.  He does have, I think, NFL prototype size.  He’s in a very good offense at Michigan State.  They ask him to do a lot of different things.  He’s under the center, he’s in the shotgun, there’s a two‑back attack, there’s a no‑back attack.  And quietly Michigan State has become one of the premier football programs in college football.  They’re the winningest team in the Big Ten over the last three years. 

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 4/11

"Action shot from a M.A.C. vs. University of Michigan football game, October 15, 1910. On the front: 'Hill kicking field goal,' M.A.C. vs U of M. Oct. 15th '10, 'M.A.C. 3 U. of M. 6.'"

via MSU Archives

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Random MSU Photo of the Day: 4/10

Michigan State was admitted to the Big Ten in 1948, so it expanded Macklin Field to 51,000 seats and renamed it Macklin Stadium. Here it is under construction.

via MSU Archives

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Baseball takes final game against U-M

After losing the first two games in the weekend series, MSU won the third game against Michigan in Ann Arbor on Sunday by a 10-8 score in 13 innings.

U-M won 4-0 in Ann Arbor on Friday, the Wolverines' first win against MSU since 2009. U-M also won 4-3 in East Lansing on Saturday.

Here are the BTN highlights of Sunday's game.