|Guard Chris McDonald at work during a preseason practice|
Photo from Michigan State Spartans Official Facebook Page
Summer is winding to a close and the grind of the gridiron has begun. The Spartans look to continue their on field success this year with a team that is young and hungry. As the old adage goes a football game is won in the trenches. The Spartans O-Line looks strong and determined this year. Great offensive line play will be needed this season. Junior LeVeon Bell and the Spartan running backs will rely on them for protection. Bell is returning off a 948 yard, 13 touchdown season. Credit for his on field success is largely given to the Spartan line.
Last season the Spartans finished in the middle of the pack in sacks allowed in the Big Ten. In a conference that is known for defensive pressure this can be alarming. New Quarterback Andrew Maxwell will need to rally the big boys together and depend on them to protect him from big time pressure. The key to quarterback success is trusting your teammates around you. The biggest trust is between a quarterback and his receivers. Second to that comes the offensive line.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked line positions is that of the tight end. When you break it down a tight end is still a linemen. The Spartans will play big bodied tight end Dion Sims from Detroit. The motor city man is a solid 6 foot 5 inches with 285 pounds on his frame. The junior was named to the Mackey Award watch list. College football guru Phil Steele put Sims amongst the top tight ends in the nation. Sims is a tough player who played the second half of last season with a broken hand. Sims has nice speed on the outside for sweep plays and stretch plays that require clean blocks. Look for him to have a big season.
The preseason depth chart lists the following starters on the O-Line: Left Tackle Dan France (6-6 315, JR) Left Guard Blake Treadwell (6-3 300, JR) Center Travis Jackson (6-3 280, SO) Right Guard Chris McDonald (6-5 298, SR-5) Right Tackle Fou Fonoti (6-4 296 SR) Tight End Dion Sims (6-5 285, JR).
Perhaps what is most impressive about Michigan State's offensive line is that eight players have some starting experience under their belt. Experience will be key in a schedule that leaves no margin for error. When asked about his thoughts on MSU's O-Line during media day, Coach Dantonio responded with the following statement: "If you can run the ball and protect the passer, we're going to be pretty successful on offense. So it's very, very important."
Offensive Line coach Mark Staten feels more comfortable with this years unit. He has a better understanding of the depth that the Spartans have up front. He is also highly pleased with the quality of players.
As of now Blake Treadwell is recovering from a tibia fracture. Replacing him is Redshirt Freshman Jack Allen. Allen has impressed coaches with great run blocking and a tenacity to fight back during tough drives. He has great work ethic according to coaches.
With the first game being August 31st against the scrappy Boise State Broncos, the Spartans have little time to prepare. If all the pieces click well, the Spartans can score a big win at home on national television. It will all start with the offensive line and their desire to persevere through a long, grueling season.