Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Warner, Bollman aim to cure MSU offense
By Brian Bennett
Some would see Michigan State's offense as needing a dire overhaul after a season in which the Spartans averaged just 20 points per game and turned most passing downs into cover-your-eyes moments.
But new playcaller Dave Warner doesn't think the situation is that drastic.
"I don't think it's broken," Warner told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "In previous years, we've been successful. We've never been tops in the conference in scoring or anything like that, but we've always been pretty efficient."
Andrew Maxwell goes into spring practice as the incumbent at quarterback, but new playcaller Dave Warner called the QB position "somewhat wide open."
Warner should know. He served as the Spartans' quarterback coach the previous six years, including the 2011 season when a much more experienced unit scored 31 points per game. So there's no reason to discard the entire system. That said, Warner does see the need for some updates to the offense, which he noted had 25 percent fewer explosive plays in 2012 than it did in 2011.
"I think we're going to be Coach [Mark] Dantonio's offense," he said. "But at the same time, I think we need to make some changes. Whether that's more quarterback run game, more trick plays or whatever it's going to take. That's part of spring practice. That's what we're going to find out."
Warner will be aided in this quest by Jim Bollman, the former longtime Ohio State offensive coordinator. Bollman's official title with Michigan State is co-offensive coordinator, though Warner will be in charge of play calling on game days. Warner, who was last a coordinator at UConn in 1999-2000, says he'll lean on Bollman's expertise, particularly in the running game and on designed quarterback runs, which might become a bigger part of the scheme.
Bollman said he's ready to pitch in wherever.
"I think there are a lot of different ways I can help," Bollman told ESPN.com. "We'll see how it evolves.
"Any time you're working on an offense, you've got to build things together. Even at Ohio State, we worked together. You had to make some decisions on game day, but a lot of things were done during the week and planned ahead of time."
Bollman said he's excited to be reunited with Dantonio, whom he worked with for many years at Ohio State. To do so, he had to leave Purdue -- and another former Buckeyes co-worker in Boilers head coach Darrell Hazell -- after less than two months on the job as offensive line coach there.
"I'd be kidding if I said it was an easy decision," he said. "Darrell is a great guy and obviously did a very good job at Kent State. He'll do a very good job at Purdue. It's very unusual to be in a situation like that and then have another one come up at Michigan State."
While Bollman might be the more recognizable name, Warner will be the guy deciding what to do on third-and-long on Saturdays this fall. And he'll be the guy fans scrutinize, just as they did with Dan Roushar the past couple of seasons before Roushar left for the New Orleans Saints.
"I'm ready for it," he said. "I'm hopeful to do well enough to keep them off my tail for awhile."
The job won't be easy, as Michigan State will have an open competition at quarterback this spring and must replace its two most effective offensive players from last season in running back Le'Veon Bell and tight end Dion Sims.
"It's a work in progress,' Warner said. "A big part of it is evaluating our younger players like our receivers, to see how well they're developing. The running back and tight end position is open. As we find out who those guys are, that might dictate exactly which direction we go or how creative we become with the offense."
Warner called the quarterback position "somewhat wide open."
"Andrew Maxwell goes in as the No. 1 quarterback," he said. "But certainly Connor Cook has shown he can do some things, so he'll get some work. Tyler O'Connor hasn't played for us yet, but I've been very impressed with him since he's been here. The way I see it, as a quarterback makes plays and scores touchdowns, that gives them opportunities to get more reps. The better he does, the more reps he'll get. So we'll see who's the best man."
Warner hasn't talked to the players much since he was named offensive coordinator, but in his few interactions with them he has asked them one question: "Who's going to make plays for us?" Finding the answer to that will determine how successful he, and Michigan State, will be in 2013.