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A college sports blog from The Oakland Press, dedicated to covering Michigan and Michigan State athletics as well as former Oakland County athletes at other schools.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Spartans should still be strong at WR position next year

Losing your programs' record-holding quarterback and wide receiver, along with the other primary passing targets, usually doesn't bode well for the passing numbers the following season. In the case of the Spartans, who lose receivers B.J. Cunnigham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol, the damage should be rather tame, however.
Michigan State still has the untapped potential of Bennie Fowler, the former multi-sport star and speedster from Birmingham Detroit Country Day. Injuries have prevented Fowler from being effective thus far in East Lansing, but if he's healthy next season he could put up big numbers in the Spartans' pro-style offense. Also returning to MSU is Tony Lippett. Lippett split time at WR and defensive back this season, but will likely be a full-time offensive player next year. The coaching staff is also very high on youngsters Juwan Caesar and Keith Mumphrey and have newcomer and four-star recruit Aaron Burbridge waiting in the wings. Usually freshman don't make an immediate impact in the upper-echelon of Division I football, but having the opportunity to see Burbrige a ton in person while he played at Farmington Hills Harrison, I think he's going to be an exception to that rule. Physically, Burbridge is already built for Big Ten play, and his conditioning should only improve. He's also got the potential to be a major playmaker, both down the field and gaining yards after the catch.
The wildcard, or in Michigan State's case the potential trump card, could be Saginaw native DeAnthony Arnett (pictured right), who's transferring from Tennessee after a strong freshman season with the Volunteers. Arnett has been granted his full release by Tennessee and has said he wants to transfer to either Michigan State or Michigan — he's returning to the state to be closer to his ailing father, and was upset at the initial response from UT that would have only granted him his release if he played for one of the MAC schools in the state.
Arnett will also likely get a waiver from the NCAA which will allow him to play immediately, wherever he ends up. Various message boards and social media posts around his situation have pointed to the fact he has a strong friendship with incumbent MSU starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell. Arnett could also be swayed to East Lansing and away from Ann Arbor based on the fact that the receiving core, in terms of experience at least, is thinner at MSU than with the Wolverines. Arnett has NFL talent and NFL aspirations, so the safe bet would be for him to choose to play in the Spartans' pro-style offense and not catch passes in a hybrid offense with Denard Robinson at quarterback at Michigan.
The Spartans will have to make up for the loss of both their primary tight ends (Brian Linthicum and Garrett Celek) but do have Dion Sims to step in at that position. Sims was a highly-regarded recruit coming out of Orchard Lake St. Mary's and if he lives up to his potential, and pure talent, will be a much better playmaker at that position.
As for the quarterback position, Cousins won't be easy to replace. I think he was the best quarterback in MSU history, and the stats back that up (my apologies to Tony Banks and Jim Miller... and yes even Jeff 'Slap my face' Smoker). Mark Dantonio said he wanted to get Maxwell more playing time this season, but a too close for comfort opener against Youngstown State and a rigorous schedule prevented that. Maxwell got in during the FAU and Central Michigan games and played fairly well given the circumstances. He'll be a work in progress next season, but as a whole the Spartans' passing attack should remain strong — if not even improve.


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