EAST LANSING — It wasn’t pretty. From weather (go away snow!), to the production on the field, to the chrome helmets that the White team wore, Saturday’s annual Green-White game had ugly written all over it.
But that’s what this game is for. A chance for the coaches and the fans to get one last look at what their team looks like before heading into the summer and getting to the nitty-gritty. Unfortunately, for the fans and coaches, the last look we got at the Spartans for four months looked strangely similar to the last look we got of the Spartans in 2012.
Dropped passes, errant throws and stellar defense consumed the Spartans spring game, and the only thing of certainty that I took out of the White team’s 24-17 victory is that this team is still lacking that standout, go-to, playmaker from the receiver position.
The White’s opening drive consisted of two dropped passed from receivers John Jakubik and AJ Troup that immediately had everyone thinking, “Oh no! Here we go again,” and gave us a glimpse of what was ahead. Unofficially, I tallied 10 dropped passes, and whether it was eight, nine, or 10, Michigan State’s co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Dave Warner wasn’t too pleased with the offense as a whole.
“I continue to be concerned with our pass game, our efficiency there,” Warner said. “Throwing, catching, protecting, I mean the whole thing put together. I think we made strides this spring there, but I think we’ve got a ways to go.”
The catching, which seems to be a constant problem as of late, was something that Warner thought had improved immensely in recent weeks. But once they got between the lines for the last time this spring the problem seemed to return.
“I thought we did better job throughout 14 practices of consistently catching the football,” Warner said. “So, I was a little surprised with what I saw. But I did see some great catches too, which was very encouraging.”
One of those great catches came from sophomore Aaron Burbridge who made a tremendous 40-yard catch after a Tyler O’Connor misguided throw. Burbridge seems to be the only receiver that the starting quarterback, whoever that is, can trust. The sophomore had a couple of drops on Saturday, but his five catches for 113 yards led all of the receivers in the game. DeAnthony Arnett was another receiver who showed promise, as he made an impressive 22-yard touchdown reception. Senior Bennie Fowler, while he had four catches for 84 yards, was one of the receivers that had a hard time hanging on to the ball, and with all of the unproven receivers on this roster, I think one of those starting positions is his to lose.
With the receiver rotation up in the air, someone who could potentially grab a starting spot by August is Troup. The sophomore had a game-winning 46-yard touchdown reception where he showed a bit of elusiveness and speed. While he was only limited to one catch in the spring game, he’s made enough noise thus far in the off-season that Warner thinks he is in the running for some playing time.
“He will continue to be evaluated like all of our receivers,” Waner said “He’s right here, he’s right in the mix.”
We all know April doesn’t show us much, but who would have thought that nearly four months since their last game that the MSU receiving corps would still have the same problems that badgered them all of last season.
It’s clear where the coaches will focus going into the summer, and with the departure of tight end Dion Sims and running back Le’Veon Bell to the NFL draft, we will figure out who those receivers really are early on in the season.