September 17, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Eric Lacy: MSU Insider

Uncertainty surrounds Spartans' lineup

Keshawn Martin dropped the ball against Central, and some might say the MSU team did as a whole. (Todd McInturf/The Detroit News)

The barricades are up around Fort Dantonio, so don't put too much stock into Michigan State's weekly depth chart.

At this critical point of the season, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio refuses to share much information publicly about personnel decisions.

Nobody should be surprised in the wake of MSU's 29-27 loss to Central Michigan, the first to the Mid-American Conference school in 17 years.

This is simply what most football coaches do when they feel it's time to put their heads down.

"Been knocked down before," Dantonio said. "Football teaches you to get up."

Players have learned in these three weeks of the 2009 season that it's never safe to assume, especially if you're at one of the skill positions.

"When you starting trying to guess what coaches are going to do, that's when you get yourself in trouble," quarterback Kirk Cousins said.

Cousins and fellow quarterback Keith Nichol have had their patience tested this fall because of the unresolved competition for the job.

This is the third straight week the depth chart read "Kirk Cousins OR Keith Nichol" as the starter, a move that fuels only more ambiguity.

Nichol didn't play in the second half against the Chippewas and can prepare only like he's not out of the running to at least share some snaps.

"If you're not sure what is going to happen, you normally just go with whoever is in there at the moment,' said Nichol, who thought he would return in the second half.

Most jobs safe?

Speculation has surrounded MSU's quarterback situation for more than four months and has now extended to several more positions -- at least on paper.

Once again there's depth-chart wiggle room at the running back, receiver, center, right guard, corner and defensive tackle positions.

Injuries to Edwin Baker (sore knee), Mark Dell (shoulder) and Joel Nitchman (sprained knee) appear to be some reasons for the vagueness.

Some depth-chart postings, however, might be in place by design.

Dantonio did say after the CMU loss he wanted to "circle the wagons."

Redshirt freshman Caulton Ray is the team's leading rusher with 122 yards, but said during preseason camp the No. 1 running back spot could change on a daily basis.

"Who knows what will happen in the heat of the game?" Ray said.

Players take control

A rare early-season players-only meeting was held Sunday afternoon at the team's Skandalaris Football Center. Did the meeting cover a lot of ground and end up being a success?

"Everybody joined in and gave their points of view," tight end Charlie Gantt said. "It was more of a time to come in, communicate, get everyone together and everyone on the same page."

MSU's NCAA leaders

Spartans with statistical rankings within the country's top 25 in numerous categories:

Tackles: Greg Jones, 29, 14.5 tpg., third

Passing efficiency: Kirk Cousins, 186.7, sixth

Receiving yards: Blair White, 133.5 ypg., sixth

Receptions: Blair White, 8 rpg, 16 total, seventh

Field goals: Brett Swenson, 4-for-4 on attempts, t-12th

Tackles for loss: Greg Jones, 4 tackles, t-18th

Spartans vs. Irish

Average heights and weights of each MSU and Notre Dame starter:

MSU Notre Dame

Height Weight Height Weight
Offensive line & tight end6-62926-6306
Running backs & receivers6-12116-0214
Defensive line6-22746-3274
Linebackers6-02296-2241
Defensive backs6-01956-1198

elacy@detnews.com">elacy@detnews.com

MSU coach Mark Dantonio is keeping things close to the vest. (Dale G. Young/The Detroit News)