Bob Wojnowski, Angelique S. Chengelis and Matt Charboneau preview Week 2 games: Michigan vs. Western Michigan and Michigan State vs. Arizona State. The Detroit News
Finally, football has actually started.
For fans and grumpy scribes alike, the first week of the college football season gave us a chance to actually see the product on the field. For Michigan State, that meant what has become a typically uneven performance in the opener, a 38-31 win over Utah State.
Now, of course, we get to react to everything we saw, and judging from this week’s mailbag, there’s already some concern over not only the running back spot, but the backup receivers. (Yes, the backup receivers).
With that, let’s dive into this week’s offering as Michigan State prepares for its trip to Arizona State on Saturday night.
Question: When will Heyward take over the starting RB position? — @bhiggins42
Answer: Not anytime soon. Mark Dantonio made that clear this week when he said LJ Scott is the horse he plans to ride. Now, did he leave a little opening in there that things could change down the road? Sure, but just like we don’t usually jump to any massive conclusions about a team after one week, I’m not sure we should do the same with Michigan State’s running backs. Yes, Heyward looked to have a little more jump and seemed to hit the holes hard, but it’s not like there was a ton of room in there, either.
Compare the option pitches each took. Scott’s was just as impressive and probably should have counted. Would we be worried about Scott right now if he went over 100 yards and had a touchdown? Probably not. That said, Heyward brings another dimension, one that will continue to be a big part of the offense. Also, don’t forget Weston Bridges, Elijah Collins and La’Darius Jefferson are all likely to get a shot at some point, too.
Q. Why is Sowards playing over Nailor or Cam Chambers? — @SpartyH. Where does Cam Chambers fit in with the WR group given Sowards and Nailor got PT? — @JARRODLYNN1
A. When you’ve got so many starters back, I guess it’s not a surprise that the concern over playing time moves on to the backups and I got a ton of folks wondering about the receivers, namely sophomore Cam Chambers. First, let’s be clear about one thing – Brandon Sowards is not playing over Chambers. They have been playing together (the second unit included sophomore Laress Nelson) with freshman Jalen Nailor taking Sowards’ reps when he got in there.
There’s no real answer other than they believe Sowards is the best option in some cases. My hunch is Nailor gets more and more of those snaps as the season progresses. As for Chambers, I understand he was a highly recruited guy, but there’s no mystery here. There’s not a ton of targets outside the top three guys and Chambers will have to do something to stand out. So far, he’s just been another ugy.
Q. Which position group most likely to be affected by the heat? — @backpackeracker
A. I’m not sure this is something that will be tougher on any one group. OK, I guess the specialists have it made, but otherwise, it will be a challenge for everyone. Yeah, the humidity we deal with here in Michigan won’t be a problem and that’s something the Spartans are used to, but 100-plus degrees is no joke, no matter how “dry” it is. So plenty of hydrating going in and then plenty of substituting.
Expect the substituting aspect to at least be a bit easier this week as Arizona State doesn’t play at the pace Utah State does, so it makes defensive subs a lot easier. Expect to see that have an impact on the secondary the most where Tre Person, Shakur Brown and Xavier Henderson should all see their share of snaps.
Q. How seriously was Jacub Panasiuk’s injury? Will he play Saturday night? Who are the 3 starting LBs? — @SpartyH
A. Dantonio doesn’t give much information on injuries — only when he forgets his own policy — so we’re a little in the dark on Panasiuk. If he’s limited, expect to see more Jack Camper this week after he got a handful of snaps against Utah State.
As for the linebackers, I think you’ll see the starters stay the same, but as always, expect plenty of guys to play, even at middle linebacker where Byron Bullough will likely give Joe Bachie a break here and there. On the outside, Andrew Dowell will start on the weak side with Antjuan Simmons getting plenty of snaps. The strong side will continue to see primarily Tyriq Thompson and Brandon Bouyer-Randle with Jon Reschke seeing his role likely to continue increasing.
Q. Will MSU ever look prepared and play well against a fast-paced, spread offense? — @kylemillikan
A. If you mean the Spartans will dominate a spread offense and shut it down, probably never. They have a clear and consistent approach when it comes to spread teams — keep everything in front of you and don’t get beat for the big plays. Sometimes that can lead to a large chunk of yards being allowed, but often Michigan State limits its opponents on the scoreboard.
The issue against Utah State really amounted to some minor technical mistakes that helped turn some short completions into longer ones while the running quarterback was effective in the red zone. But don’t expect a dramatic shift in philosophy anytime soon.