QB Drew Stanton

2004 Statistics

Coach: John L. Smith
13-12, 2 years
2004 Record: 5-7
at Rutgers LOST 14-19
at Indiana WON 30-20
at Iowa LOST 16-38
at Michigan LOST 37-45 (3OT)
at Penn State LOST 13-37
at Hawai'i LOST 38-41

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

The schizophrenic play that has become a trademark in East Lansing continued during Smith's second season at the helm. The same team that lost to Rutgers, Hawaii and Penn State crushed Wisconsin and Minnesota. Last year, anyway, that was as much a sign of a (re)building program trying to find itself as it was any serious coaching lapses.

Trying to build a Big Ten power in the shadow of Ann Arbor has always been a daunting task - just ask Nick Saban why he left. But if anyone can do it, it's the coach who last summer climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Entering his third year, he's getting a feel for which areas he can effectively recruit. Spartan Stadium is being renovated. There are plans to expand the weight facility and football building.

After last year's 5-7 finish, there's plenty of pressure on Smith to qualify for a bowl game, who is in the third year of a six-year contract. He's already endured a rough offseason that saw him lose three assistant coaches, hire another one only to have him change his mind, and see his wife diagnosed with terminal colon cancer (it was later downgraded). Any pressure he feels this fall will be insignificant in comparison. Tests like this make on-field missions (of winning) into personal battles, a trait that can only improve/motivate the teams' psyche as they rally around his cause(s).

But for this team to get back to a bowl, it has to improve on the 105th-ranked turnover margin in Division I-A while continuing to hold its own in the Big Ten (.500 or better in both of Smith's seasons). Showing up for non-conference games would also be nice. The Spartans could, conceivably, be 3-0 with Kent State, Hawaii and Notre Dame to open up. Then again, this is Michigan State. They beat many they shouldn't and lose to many they should beat, so follow the bouncing pigskin to see how this squad responds to different levels of competition.

Those early games will give a patchwork secondary and some new faces on the offensive line a chance to gel. With a healthy Stanton under center, the offense will be as explosive, if not more so, than last year. The defense will struggle, but it won't have to be perfect. As they put up a respectable effort, and as Stanton stays healthy, Smith and the Spartans will take another step up that proverbial mountain. In a perfect position to surprise many, we know we won't be shocked when they hit the top 25 sometime this fall.

Projected 2005 record: 5-6
LB Eric Smith
QB - 4 DL - 2
RB - 3.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 4 DB - 2.5
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Drew Stanton, 220-141-6, 1601 yds., 8 TD

Rushing: Jason Teaque, 150 att., 688 yds., 8 TD

Receiving: Jerramy Scott, 39 rec., 444 yds., 3 TD

Scoring: Jason Teaque, 10 TD, 62 pts.

Punting: Brandon Fields, 50 punts, 47.9 avg.

Kicking: None

Tackles: Eric Smith, 115 tot., 69 solo

Sacks: David Herron, 3 sacks

Interceptions: Ashton Watson, 1 for 6 yds., Jaren Hayes, 1 for 0 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Jerramy Scott, 1 ret., 25.0 avg, 0 TD

Punt Returns: Kyle Brown, 20 ret., 8.1 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Damon Dowdell-QB, DeAndra Cobb-RB, Jason Randall-TE, Eric Knott-TE, William Whitticker-OG, Sean Poole-OT, Dave Rayner-K
DEFENSE: Clifford Dukes-DE, Kevin Vickerson-DT, Ronald Stanley-MLB, Tyrell Dortch-BAN, Jason Harmon-FS, Roderick Maples-CB

Drew Stanton is a potential superstar. That potential won't be reached with the oft-injured junior on the sidelines, which was why John L. Smith was careful to limit Stanton's reps in the spring scrimmages and shield him from contact. "I'm completely healthy and willing to do whatever they need me to do," said Stanton, who underwent shoulder surgery during the winter. State fans will have to hope that's not just wishful thinking. Stanton has a big arm to go with quick feet and good instincts. He should be more comfortable in his second year running this spread offense that still ranked 10th in the nation, overall, despite a pedestrian No. 51 finish in passing. If Stanton stays healthy, this should be one of the toughest offenses in the country to stop. But the outlook if he goes down is iffy -- backups Brian Hoyer and Domenic Natale didn't thrill anyone this spring. Stephen Reaves, a sophomore, was No. 2 on the depth chart before getting busted for DUI April 27 and is now set to transfer.

Running Back
Last year's three-way committee will be whittled down to two, but don't expect much slippage, if any, in the No. 10 rushing attack in Division I-A. Neither Jason Teague nor Jehuu Caulcrick is the type of playmaker DeAndra Cobb was. Teague is a durable, respected runner, though not explosive. He's also a steady receiving threat out of the backfield. Redshirt soph Caulcrick runs a 4.5-second 40 with a fullback's body, though he's not much of a receiver. Look for Smith to use freshmen Tony Howard and Javon Ringer for that missing dash of explosiveness, with another extra element coming from Stanton's fleet feet. Smith can lean on this unit as often as last year (56 percent of MSU's plays), and not have to pay for it.

The best bet to replace Cobb's playmaking abilities is senior Kyle Brown, who put up big numbers this spring. After a disappointing '04, Brown developed his route running and discipline and became Stanton's favorite target. If the speedster is finally ready to emerge as the deep threat out of his Z spot, look for returning starters Jerramy Scott (slot), and 6'6" Matt Trannon (X), as well as their experienced backups, to be more productive underneath, with Shabaj a potential deep-threat complement. Improvement catching the ball will be the key for a group that did a nice job spreading defenses for the running game and making quality, impacting blocks downfield.

Tight End
Look for fifth-year senior Ryan Woods and true soph Kellen Davis to marginally mimic the one-two receiving punch that Eric Knott and Jason Randall gave this offense last fall. The two combined for only two receptions last fall, but showed during the spring that they're ready to step up. Davis, the No. 7-ranked TE in the 2004 recruiting class, isn't the blocker Woods is, but is more athletic. He struggled at times this spring, though, while Woods was more consistent. Expect Davis to catch up this fall.

Offensive Line
One of the biggest concerns on this team is replacing the right side of a line that only allowed eight sacks while paving the way for one of the nation's best ground games. Still, this looks to be a deep, talented group. The anchor role falls to senior C Chris Morris, a strong all-around blocker and one of the Big Ten's best middlemen. Redshirt freshman G Roland Martin and soph T Mike Gyetvai appear to be the new starters. Both are big and quick, which means they fit right in with this athletic group. Though this line won't take anyone by surprise (like last year), it will still be strong enough to provide the base for another productive offense.

Assuming Stanton stays healthy, this could be (one of) the toughest offense in the Big Ten to stop. Stanton's youth and injuries forced Smith to shift most of the burden to the ground game, and the results bode well for how completely the team looked and responded - similar problems wouldn't be welcome, but would again be manageable. With Stanton's blindside safely protected and more maturity at QB and WR, expect the passing game to catch up with the run, resulting in a balanced attack that will be hard to contain. Besides eliminating mistakes, the key is the dynamic Stanton. When he left the field during the spring scrimmages, the offense struggled against a young defense. State was one of only a handful of teams to average 200+ yards via both run AND pass per game, so Stanton can only improve this offense and its achievements.


C Chris Morris


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Drew Stanton-Jr Brian Hoyer-Fr / Domenic Natale-Fr
RB Jason Teague-Sr Jehuu Caulcrick-So
WR Matt Trannon-Sr Terry Love-So
WR Kyle Brown-Sr Aaron Alexander-Sr
WR Jerramy Scott-Jr Agim Shabaj-Sr / Carl Grimes-Fr
TE Ryan Woods-Sr Kellen Davis-So
OT Stefon Wheeler-Sr Tom Kaczmarek-Fr
OG Kyle Cook-Jr Daniel Zynn-Jr
C Chris Morris-Sr John Masters-So
OG Gordon Niebylski-Sr Roland Martin-Fr
OT Mike Gyetvai-So Pete Clifford-So
K John Goss-Jr Kyle Mayer-Jr



Defensive Line
Last year's mediocre pass rush and run defense will improve despite (or because of) the loss of two starters. New defensive line coach Lucious Selmon's group looked tough, for the most part, against the offense this spring. Junior DE Clifton Ryan is poised for a breakout year, while 315-pound NT Brandon McKinney is a solid run-stopper in the middle. Two oft-used backups from last fall, seniors DE Michael Bazemore and DT Domata Peko, will move into starting roles. Bazemore is physical enough to take over at rush end, allowing Ryan to remain at "stud" end. Depth is a concern here, as it is with most of the defense. Redshirt freshman end Justin Kershaw, who had a great spring, will be the top backup.

If the D-line truly improves, look sequentially for better production here, especially against the run. Smith moved non-namesake Eric Smith, a two-year starter at strong safety, to the "bandit" spot to help ease the losses of Tyrell Dortch and MLB Ronald Stanley, the team's top tackler. Returning weak-side backer (and ex-RB) David Herron and new MLB Kaleb Thornhill provide plenty of speed and size. Smith's experience and big-hit ability should make him the leader, and he'll be tough to throw underneath against. The inexperienced backups are smaller and obviously less impacting, so health issues here could easily impact the entire team.

Defensive Back
Besides Stanton's health, this area is the most urgent concern entering the fall. New defensive coordinator Chris Smeland is retooling a group that allowed far too many big plays. Out are Smith and two graduated starters. In are converted WR Irving Campbell, who will provide depth at corner for returning starter Jaren Hayes (a former RB), and senior Ashton Watson (once a top recruit). Hayes is ready to be a shut-down corner, while Watson was said to be (finally) making big strides during the spring. Former backups Greg Cooper (who also saw time at corner) and Cole Corey take over at the safety spots. Both have talent, but are short on experience, a consistent dilemma for this unit. Hayes, the top returning tackler here, has only one year under his belt, while neither Watson, Cooper nor Corey exceeded 17 tackles. But once experience is cast aside, we see four three-star recruits joining the team, so depth is there to be tapped. This mediocre unit will improve, and how much will go a long way toward defining the entire team's campaign.

Statistically, there wasn't much difference in the yardage MSU allowed last fall (381.4 per game) compared to the 8-5 2003 group (379.9). The difference was in the details -- that team made 45 sacks and forced 29 turnovers, compared to 21 and 14 last season, respectively. Smeland starts with a young, aggressive group that has proven it wants to improve on those numbers, but first the focus has to be on stopping big plays. The secondary must gel quickly for that to happen. Once opponent's "home-run punch" is contained, the focus can shift to slugging back. Even with a quality running offense, the time-of-possession difference was still negative-0:50, so stopping foes' flow this way is vital for marginally making things work for (and not against) them that much more.


P Brandon Fields


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Michael Bazemore-Sr Nick Smith-So
DT Domata Peko-Sr Bobby Jones-Jr
DT Brandon McKinney-Sr Joe Toth-So
DE Clifton Ryan-Jr Justin Kershaw-Fr
MIKE Kaleb Thornhill-So Eric Andino-So
WHIP David Herron-Jr Devin Pritchett-So
BAN Eric Smith-Sr Sir Darean Adams-So
CB Ashton Watson-Sr Travis Key-So / Eric Hines-Fr
CB Jaren Hayes-Sr Irving Campbell-So
SS Cole Corey-So Tom Dance-Fr
FS Greg Cooper-Jr Mike Bell-So
P Brandon Fields-Jr John Goss-Jr




John Goss didn't get off to a sizzling start as the new placekicker, missing three of four field goals in the final spring scrimmage. The junior doesn't have much experience, having played in just four high school games before being primarily a punter at Scottsdale Community College, where he did hit a 57-yard field goal, though. Sounds like a recipe for inconsistency. Goss' big leg could give a needed boost to an average kickoff coverage squad (fifth in the Big Ten), however.

The most reliable weapon in the MSU arsenal is junior Brandon Fields, a first-team all-American last fall after leading the nation in punting at 47.9 yards per try. It's the personnel around Fields who need work. Opponents blocked three punts and returned three others for TDs while the coverage unit ranked third to last in the country. That type of effort cancels Fields' distance and puts more pressure on a beleaguered defense.

Return Game
The loss of Cobb will be especially felt on kickoffs, where he led the nation's No. 17 return unit. With Brown and Shabaj taking most of the reps, the punt return game fared far worse, finishing 68th. Look for Brown and Shabaj to take most of the returns this year, meaning returns could again be a mediocre aspect.