With four out of five starting offensive linemen returning from Michigan State’s 2017 team that finished 10-3, and a strong spring practice session, offensive line coach Mark Statenhas plenty to be excited about as the 2018 season approaches. Entering 2018 Michigan State is ranked in the top five!
Spartan Nation caught up with Staten, who said that he expects to have seven linemen who will see extended playing time this fall and that number could grow depending on how some players build off of the spring session.
“Seven is a very comfortable number,” he said. “I’d love to have a goon squad and send five extra guys out there and say ‘You guys are out there for this series’ and get it hyped up. We’re working towards that, if I could just send a whole unit that works together all of the time and give them their props and their due, that would be awesome.”
Among the key returners from last year’s team along the offensive line will be tackles Cole Chewins and Luke Campbell and guards David Beedle, Tyler Higby and Kevin Jarvis. Sophomore Matt Allen is one of the favorites to replace his older brother Brian Allen, who was drafted in the fourth round of last month’s NFL draft. Staten also said that he felt that Jordan Reid, Mustafa Khaleefah, and Blake Bueter each had strong showings this spring and could compete for playing time this fall.
While Chewins has started each of the last 16 games at left tackle and has become one of the Big Ten’s best at the position, Staten said that he’s versatile enough to play on the right side as well and is looking forward to seeing how he builds off of his impressive sophomore season.
“He’s going to be a force for us for a couple of more years,” he said. “Fortunately, he can go left or right and that’s the nice thing about him, if you need to go left side or right side, he’ll do whatever we ask him to do and I’m excited about this season coming up.”
Staten also noted that Chewins, who stands at 6-foot-6 and played tight end in high school, is up over 290-pounds as he continues to add weight to fill out his frame as an offensive lineman.
For the offensive line unit as a whole, Staten said that he’s simply looking for consistency in terms of technique and playing together as a position group as the team looks ahead to the summer when it will return to the practice field.
“Consistency, that’s what it always is with me,” he said. “Trust in each other, trust in technique, working through technique and just battling. That’s what the position is all about, it’s about the fight - you may lose one battle, but at the end of it, you want to be in the end zone, you want to score. Bollman always says it’s the verge of rage and that’s what we always talk about, you can’t be out of your mind mad and angry, you have to be almost there, that way you can think and move and use technique.”
Heading towards the fall, Michigan State has high hopes for the 2018 campaign and Staten said that the offensive line, as well as the entire team, has to be prepared to have a target on its back once again after impressively bouncing back from a 3-9 season in 2016 to a 10-3 2017 season.
“We just have to stay healthy and just keep working forward because we’re now the hunted again,” he said. “Last year, we were the hunters because no one expected anything, here are these freshman and young guys, the second youngest team in the nation and nobody expected it. Now, the target is on our back and how are we going to produce with a target on our back?”
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