Following a strong 2015-2016 season in which Mark Dantonio led an experienced Spartan team to the College Football Playoff, Michigan State took a couple steps back in a disappointing season. Having started 2-0 with a win against Notre Dame in a highly touted game featured on national television, the team lost 9 of its last 10 games, lacking the quality it played with on its run to the playoff. Maybe the lone takeaway from the 2016 season was the development of younger players, who gained valuable experience over the course of the season.
Following up on an impressive freshman season, LJ Scott had a solid sophomore campaign rushing for 994 yards at an average of 5.4 yards per carry. He led the trio of spartan running backs also including senior Gerald Holmes and junior Madre London. As MSU looks to rebuild, Scott seems primed to lead the offense as they try to overcome a poor 2016 season. This offseason, he did not participate in the Spring game and was out for a couple months with a shoulder injury, as he underwent a couple shoulder surgeries. He has returned healthy for preseason camp and gave a warning to the rest of the nation – “I’m back. I’m back and I’m better.”
Scott’s shoulder however was not the only distraction for MSU this offseason, as much of the offseason was plagued by chatter about charges of sexual assault to three Michigan State football players who were dismissed from the program. One of those players was Donnie Corley, a highly touted recruit from Detroit who showed great potential his freshman season on both sides of the ball. Corley would’ve been the number 1 or 2 option in the passing game, and his loss was a blow to the Spartan offense.
Dave Warner, Offensive Coordinator, struggled to create an identity for a young Michigan State offense missing Connor Cook, yet a run-heavy offense centered around LJ Scott appears to be the direction the team needs to go in for future success. Brian Lewerke is shaping up to start at QB this year for the Spartans, but he may take some time to develop. He showed flashes of potential in the games he played and appeared to improve throughout the season, but he can’t be counted on if the Spartans want to go to a bowl this year. Scott is skilled enough to be the workhorse of this Spartan offense and he drew national attention last year which has garnered a lot of preseason hype around him. His impressive individual performances last year against Michigan and Ohio State stand out to fans as an indication of what is to come. In the Michigan game, Scott rushed for 139 yards against a stellar Michigan defense, becoming the first opponent RB to record a 100-yard rushing game against the Wolverines in 2016, helping the much less talented team nearly beat a top 10 team. In the Ohio State game, Scott scored two touchdowns and gained 236 all purpose yards. He wowed people by hurdling Ohio State defenders as Michigan State nearly beat Ohio State in a close game that went down to the wire. As the season comes closer, expect LJ Scott to do more of the same. He isn’t as fast as the other two MSU running backs, but he demonstrated how effective he was last year and is poised to turn heads and prove people wrong about MSU this season. He has the ability to be the center of a Spartan offense drastically improved from last season, and with his leadership, bigger things can be expected from MSU this year.