Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Spartans need young wideouts to step up
By Adam Rittenberg
Michigan State will have quite a few open seats on the team plane as it takes off for San Antonio on Sunday morning.
Blair White provides one reliable option for the Spartans at wideout.
And when offensive coordinator Don Treadwell assembles the Spartans' wide receivers to begin final preparations for the Valero Alamo Bowl, the meeting room might feel a little empty. Fourteen Spartans players aren't making the trip to the bowl game, as 12 have been suspended and two, running back Glenn Winston and safety Roderick Jenrette, have been dismissed from the team.
The wide receiver group has been hit especially hard as four suspended players -- B.J. Cunningham, Mark Dell, Chris D. Rucker and Myles White -- play the position. Cunningham and Dell rank second and third on the team in receiving, having combined for 1,090 receiving yards, 74 receptions and five touchdowns.
Cunningham started nine games, while Dell started the final three regular-season contests. Their presence will be missed Jan. 2 against Texas Tech in a game where Michigan State likely needs to throw the ball a lot and put up points.
"We've talked about all season how at a lot of positions, we feel one of the strengths of our team is depth," Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "We have lost some guys, and it's going to test our depth. There are guys who haven't had opportunities yet to play in games, who we know work very hard year-round behind closed doors when no one else is really watching.
"They're guys we know we can count on, come the bowl game."
Cousins knows what he's got in Blair White, a first-team All-Big Ten receiver who leads Michigan State and ranks third in the league in receiving average (73 ypg). The Spartans also can turn to sophomore Keshawn Martin, who, in addition to becoming a threat on returns, has 14 receptions for 325 yards (23.2 ypr) and four touchdowns.
After those two, though, it's slim pickings. Michigan State can turn to tight ends Charlie Gantt, Brian Linthicum and Dion Sims, but it needs more production from the wide receiver position.
So who steps up? Cousins thinks sophomore walk-on Brad Sonntag could emerge.
"He's got a lot of upside," Cousins said.
Sonntag and redshirt freshman Milton Colbert are listed as the backups to White and Martin on Michigan State's pre-bowl depth chart. Neither Sonntag nor Colbert has caught a pass this season.
"We're still tinkering with all that," Cousins said. "We don't have a set plan yet, and we're still figuring out what would be the best matchups to use. And we're a team that likes to use our tight ends, so we always want to get them the football, too."