EAST LANSING– “Thanks for believing in the dream.”
That’s the first thing Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said about the Rose Bowl celebration during halftime of MSU’s Green-White Spring Game. There had just been a long video montage of MSU’s rise to the Rose Bowl, starting in 2010, leading all the way up to the New Year’s Day victory in Pasadena. All the departing seniors were honored one by one (Max Bullough, Darqueze Dennard and Kyler Elsworth got the biggest applause) to the joy of 35,000 fans.
Saturday’s Green-White game was a tight match-up that featured a few explosive plays from the Spartan veterans, but that wasn’t the best part of the Spring Game. The day had two themes: the past and the future.
The past was a huge part of the game. The video montage during halftime started in 2010, which was the beginning of the rise of the Spartans and longer than the tenure of almost every current Spartan. One Spartan has been here for that part of the past– tailback Nick Hill, who has been at Michigan State since the 2010-2011 season where the team had 11 wins for two years straight for the first time in school history. “When I was growing up, the image of Michigan State was that they were an OK team, but not really contenders,” said Hill.
Now, the culture is changing.
“We played with a target on our back in 2011 and in 2012, and you know what? We like being out front,” said Hill, “we like being the team to chase.”
Along with Hill, former MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins was of the key players in ushering in the new era of MSU football. And in a pregame press conference, Cousins gave some advice to the players coming off their big Rose Bowl win. “The Bible says a man isn’t measured by how he faces adversity, but how he handles success.”
In Saturday’s game, as well, MSU fans, players and coaches got a good look at the future of this squad. Although they’re fresh off a Rose Bowl berth, that’s not what they’re thinking about. “We wanted to go to the Rose Bowl and win the Rose Bowl, and that’s what we did,” said Hill, “we’re coming into this season like that didn’t happen and we still have something to prove.”
Here’s a list of some young players that made an impact at the spring game on Saturday:
DeAnthony Arnett- Arnett had really, really high expectations coming into today’s spring game. Dantonio explicity said during one of the early spring practices that he was moving up the depth chart. Unfortunately, he really didn’t play well Saturday. He had one catch for 10 yards for the white team, and honestly, I only saw Cook even look his way a couple of times.
Monty Madaris- Madaris had two grabs for 37 yards on Saturday, including one incredible catch over Darian Hicks that probably would have been called defensive pass interference in a regular game.
Darian Hicks- Hicks played in all 14 games last year, but primarily on special teams. This year, he’s going to get a significant amount of playing time at cornerback regardless of whether he wins the number two job over Ezra Robinson or not. He performed way past his expectations on Saturday, racking up six tackles and snagging an interception.
Riley Bullough- Bullough’s return to linebacker after his stint with the offense blew away the expectations of everyone involved– according to coaches, it’s almost like Bullough hasn’t missed a beat. That’s good, because there are a couple questions on this team, and the linebacker position is one of them.
Demetrious Cox- The redshirt sophomore played all of last season on special teams, despite coaches and scouts noting his huge potential. This spring, he’s fighting for a starting safety role with Jalyn Powell and RJ Williamson. His spring game started off very slow, as he left a huge gap in the defense for Aaron Burbridge to exploit for a touchdown. After that, though, his play was excellent, cutting off most deep throws. Whether he wins the starting job or not– which he has a good chance of winning– he’ll be seeing a lot of time in this Spartans defense, and that’s exciting.