Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell #24

Le’Veon Bell was literally the “Bell Cow” (pun intended)  for the Michigan State Spartans offense last night. Bell toted the rock an astounding 44 times for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns, while hauling in 6 receptions for 55 yards as well. Bell’s 265 total yards from scrimmage in the game last night out performed the entire Boise State offense by nearly 50 yards. Bell is a big strong runner (6-2 245 lbs.) who lacks elite burst, explosion and top-end speed but is a chains mover who can get the tough yards inside. One of the most impressive aspects of Bell’s game last night was his ability to slip blocks, as he showed some elusiveness in the open field as well as natural and nimble footwork to side-step would be tacklers. Watching Bell reminded me of a more complete LeGarette Blount, especially considering this impressive leap over a defender in the 1st quarter last night.

Le’Veon Bell showed impressive agility, power and vision while torching the Boise State defense for 250+ yards from scrimmage in last night’s season opener

However, Bell isn’t simply just a bruiser who can grind inside and wear down a defense, as he also showcased impressive ability in blitz pickup and becoming a receiver out of the backfield. Showcasing the ability to be a complete back is what separates Bell from a player like Blount. Perhaps the greatest improvement from this year to last from Bell was his ability to feel out and find the cut back lane, showing the vision, patience and power to consistently pick up positive yardage, as he consistently fell forward and displayed the leg drive to churn out yards after contact. Bell also changed gears effectively and has the start stop ability to keep the defense honest and respect his overall skill-set. I would like to see Bell become more of a downhill runner as he doesn’t  always attack the line of scrimmage and show the burst and acceleration to get up to the 2nd level of the defense. Overall, Bell was extremely impressive last night and is well on his way to an All-American type season, assuming he avoids injuries from his high number of carries. If State is to challenge for the Rose Bowl this season their pass game will have to improve as it will be hard for Bell to carry the offense, especially once conference games begin.

Michigan State TE Dion Sims #80

Sims was a consistent target over the middle and in the flats for the Spartans offense last night and for first-year starter Andrew Maxwell. Sims nabbed 7 receptions for 65 yards to lead all Spartan receivers and displayed soft hands and good hand-eye coordination to consistently pluck the ball away from his body and extend his arms on passes over his head. Sims size (6-5 285) is NFL quality and while his athleticism and quickness is impressive for a man of his stature, I am not quite sold on his ability to stretch the defense to this point but need to see more film of him. He is a big target and safety blanket type player who can also present some matchup problems being split out wide, while matched up with a linebacker.

Sims is still improving in the run game as a blocker and shows good effort and seems to do just enough to get by, but is in no way a talented in-line blocker to this point. Sims needs technique work as he seemed to struggle sustaining blocks, bending at the waist rather than the knees and dropping his head and falling off blocks. Staying square to his target and developing more upper body strength is needed for Sims to be a more effective blocker in the run game. Sims was good not great in his first game but I certainly appreciated his ability to make key catches and pick up crucial first downs by finding the first down marker, sitting down, squaring to his quarterback and giving Maxwell a big target to throw to. Sims will certainly be a big part of the Spartans offense this season, on a team that lost many key starters in the receiving game.

Michigan State DT Anthony Rashad White #98

White has the challenging task of replacing former Spartan Jerel Worthy who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 2nd round of last years draft. A native of Battle Creek, Michigan White is best known for his key field goal block in overtime of last years bowl game against Georgia to seal the win for the Spartans. Coming into the season White has had limited starting experience and production. However, White has the size (6-2 330 lbs.) to become one of the better NT prospects in this draft with a big senior year. With that said, I didn’t always like what I saw from White last night. He appeared to lack the initial quickness off the line or the lateral agility to make plays along the line of scrimmage. The most troubling part was seeing White struggle to hold his ground in the run game with much consistency or slip blocks to make plays away from his body. While White did command attention and double teams at times his simply lacked proper technique and the motor to fight through contact when his initial move was neutralized. White has to show much better overall awareness and ability to shed blocks/disengage before earning a better grade from me.

Michigan State DE William Gholston #2

William Gholston has an intriguing blend of size and athleticism but his burst and explosion off the line is far from elite or consistent.

William Gholston has a unique blend of size (6-7 280 lbs.) and athleticism but his game was lacking something to be desired last night. Gholston’s burst and acceleration off the blocks was just average and I thought his pad-level off the snap could have been better. Gholston was disruptive at moments but his lack in variety in the pass rush department was troubling. He needs to work on his handwork and becoming a better leverage player to make a difference in both the run and pass game. Gholston’s flexibility was also just average as he struggled to dip his long frame underneath the tackles shoulder pads to get the edge, as tackles simply rode him around the corner and past the quarterback on multiple occasions last night. The good news for Gholston is that he looks to have the body type and frame to add even more weight and become a quality 5 technique prospect at the next level, however he also got off to a rough start and will need to show me more in the following weeks to earn the first round grade many have given him.

Michigan State MLB Max Bullough #40

Bullough was impressive last night as he proved to be very instinctual and smart, always lining up the defense and putting his team in the best position to make the play. I appreciated how well Bullough flowed to the football and moved to his left and right while keeping his head and eyes up to sift through traffic and defeat blocks. While not overly athletic or dynamic, Bullough appeared to have plenty of range to make plays not only between the hashes but also outside on the edge. You can tell he really trusts his eyes and reads his keys well and while he may have taken a false step from time to time, he consistently made the correct decisions to beat blocks and find the football to disrupt the play. In coverage Bullough tended to get a little flat-footed and upright and may not have the foot speed to keep with faster backs coming out of the backfield but I need to see more of him in this department before putting that in concrete. Overall Bullough has a lot of qualities you look for in a quality linebacker and caught my eye and attention with his play last night.

Michigan State CB Johnny Adams #5

Adams (5-11 177 lbs.) has a thin frame especially in his lower half but is a quick twitch athlete who did a nice job defeating blocks and coming off his man to make tackles in the open field. Adams is both quick and fast and moves smoothly changing directions, while showing an agressive and competitive attitude in coverage. Adams did let his man get behind him for a big play once last night and while his recovery speed was decent, it wasn’t enough to make up for his inability to jam his receiver at the line. Adams struggled on more than one occasion re-directing his man at the line, much less getting a hand on his receiver to not give up inside positioning on an easy pass a catch for a first down late in the game. I liked Adams physicality in the running game but his inability to press in man to man was discouraging and I will look to see how he performs in that area within the coming weeks.

Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard #31

Dennard led the Spartans with 3 passes defensed and showed solid coverage skills, awareness and physicality to match up on the outside

Dennard was the more impressive of the two Michigan State corners in my estimation last night. Dennard was agressive, flippedhis hips and broke on the football nicely. His change of direction ability and physicality at the catch point led to 3 passes defensed as he was able to stay in his receiver hip pocket and play tight coverage, not allowing much separation. Has good footwork and can turn and run with just about any receiver thanks to his impressive speed and athleticism. Dennard did gamble at times last night and was over agressive at times, appearing to guess and let his man get behind him while also struggling to find and locate the football in the air which led to a flag. However, Dennard responded well to his bad plays and followed them up with good showings while the ball was in the air, displaying a short memory which you love to see in a defensive back. His ball skills, discipline and awareness were all sound for the most part and he was rarely caught out of position except on a couple occasions.


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