For me, spring football practice is like trying to get back in shape by playing some pickup basketball: it’s always good to do it every few months or so, just to sharpen the skill a little bit, but the real victory is to do it without getting hurt. If you can execute the motions a few times and live to tell the tale, you’ve done good.
That doesn’t make the weeks of spring practice riveting television — for the most part. On occasion there are a couple of things that can happen in spring that might actually prove useful — in a sea of things that are mostly not useful. Let’s separate the two, shall we?
What Matters: Reps for Interior O-Line
Those of you that followed my Film Reviews on Twitter during football season probably saw much more interior offensive line play than you were anticipating, because that group was just so good last year. Losing two pieces from it (center Elgton Jenkins and right guard Deion Calhoun) is no small development, and these 15 practices in the new unit are big.
They’re important for Darryl Williams, who is taking over at center and has a new set of responsibilities. They’re important for Stewart Reese, whose move to right guard is going to come with the expectation of no regression there, fair or not, because he is the veteran moving into that spot. Dareuan Parker also needs the time to playing alongside them — those guys have everything down mentally, and every rep he can get at their side to get up to their speed is a valuable one.
It’s pretty common to see offensive line position battles extend a few weeks into fall camp, which does no favors for chemistry once they set that starting five. Things being as calm as they seem to be on that unit at the moment sure helps — it doesn’t guarantee reaching a ceiling that last year’s unit had, but it at least gives them a better chance than a unit that’s forced to come together in the final week of August.
What Doesn’t Matter: What Quarterbacks Did
There are 110 days in between the Maroon & White Game and August 1, when we can reasonably expect fall camp to truly be up and running. For the most part, football players are on campus for most of those days, doing little more than working out with each other. That’s where you hear the stories of quarterbacks who are true leaders organizing their own 7-on-7 sessions, scheduling times to work with their receivers on routes, maybe see a private quarterback coach to work on their own footwork, etc.
That being the case, spring is used for the development of offensive understanding — especially in MSU’s current situation, being Year Two under Joe Moorhead after Year One showed some offensive holes to address.
Ultimately, these guys are going to be judged on if they can complete passes in September, not March and April. It may not give you much room for hot takes and Twitter nonsense/overreactions, and it’s impossible for us to evaluate now or even accurately project in the future, but it’s the truth. Deal with it as you please.
What Matters: Safety Reps
This is one that makes this list because of how MSU is approaching this.
Given what C.J. Morgan did late last year when thrown into the fire due to injury, it would’ve been easy to pull a plug-and-play here for Mark McLaurin and Johnathan Abram, simply finding an answer for the safety position Morgan isn’t playing and rolling with it.
What MSU is actually doing is whatever it needs to do to get its best five defensive backs on the field. At the two safety positions, that currently means Marcus Murphy and Jaquarius Landrews, both of them having mostly played Nickel last year, at the safety positions. It’s a good move from an athleticism standpoint — and both of those players have the acumen to handle that kind of move well — now they just need as m much experience as they can get back there.
The spring gave them a little, which is useful. In a year with such heavy transition on the interior of the defensive line, being strong up the middle at the second and third levels could be crucial, and seeing now Murphy and Landrews have a head start, if this is the final answer.