April 10, 2017 5:48:20 PM
Love doing these mailbags for you, fine reader. Any time you've got a question, holler at me on Twitter (@Brett_Hudson) or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll take it.
Andrew Miller, @bulldogblitz16, asked, "Should MSU fans be at all concerned about Fitz's poor showing, or was it just an off day + product of defensive performance?"
Short answer: No one should be worried by anything, because it is currently April and football is played in the fall.
Just speaking from memory, the first two interceptions were excusable: the first one was long 50-50 ball that the defensive back beat the wideout on, effectively an arm punt; the second was a batted ball that got redirected right to Cameron Dantzler's hands. The pick to Deion Pope was less explainable, flat out getting confused by the blitz, but all of that is beside the point: spring ball isn't about execution, it's about installation. Especially for a team breaking in a few new position coaches on both sides of the ball.
College football teams get so much done over the summer nowadays that if coaches have their spring practice schedules intent on installation and their locker rooms have good leaders, teams can transform from spring to fall. I would tell you to take away some optimism for the defense, but given the depleted nature of the wide receiving corps that day, it's hard to say that definitively.
I'll end on this example: Jalen Hurts' first play as Alabama's quarterback ended with a lost fumble; he ended up taking Alabama to the brink of a national title. It's no fun in the current day and age of Twitter to hold your tongue and withhold an errant HOT TAKE on some irrelevant activity, but I have faith in all of you to do it. (Maybe I shouldn't, but whatever.)
Justin Strawn (s/o It's Always Sunny In Starkville), @JStrawnFWtCT, asked what Johnathan Abram was thinking with his hit that was called for targeting, the final play of the Maroon & White Game.
As you can imagine, Abram was not made available to media after the game. (As a quick note for fairness, two things: first, MSU doesn't make players available until they've played in a regular season game, which Abram has not, and second, the hit happened after our time to request players came and went.) That being said, here's my theory: he wasn't thinking. He was a kid wearing the maroon and white in Davis Wade Stadium for the first time and got excited at a shot to make anything memorable happen.
Next question comes from Andrew Norwood, @Norwoodwx: "Who is the biggest X-Factor this football season based on spring practice?"
Let me give a few also-rans before I get to my No. 1 answer: wide receiver Reggie Todd, running back Nick Gibson and cornerback Cameron Dantzler, all of whom had noticeable spring games and did so at positions of note given losses in personnel or quality of play last year at their respective position groups.
My final answer: almost any JUCO defensive addition. The ones I'll highlight are safety Brian Cole, defensive end/outside linebacker Montez Sweat, safety Johnathan Abram and a trio of defensive linemen: Chauncey Rivers, Lee Autry and Deion Pope.
Cole was particularly impressive to me, to the point where I wouldn't be surprised to see him get starts early in the year alongside J.T. Gray. As for the defensive linemen, Sweat and Rivers in particular are crucial given how they'll be used to get after quarterbacks, something MSU could clearly use some help in.
I'm calling that group of guys the X-factor because -- and I'm guessing you will hear this from me many times throughout the offseason -- the defense is the clear question mark for this team. We can reasonably have optimistic expectations for the offense, given what it returns at the skill positions, but let's check the conference record of a team in the SEC West that tends to try to get in shootouts with little help from its defense: Texas A&M, having ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in total defense in each of the last four seasons, is 15-17 in conference play in that time. Real news flash here, but you need defense to win more than you lose in the SEC.
Let's end with a #hottake opportunity: "Talk about baseball game lengths and ways to speed up games." S/o the best soccer coach in America @theNathanK9.
My boy Kogut (s/o Colorado State, Go Rams) couldn't help but notice that MSU's baseball games seem to last much longer than your average baseball games do/should. Let me level with y'all: I'm far from the person clamoring to get sporting events condensed into an hour, but even I can't help but hit the 3:15 mark in a baseball game (or even a football game, for that matter) and think, yeah, this should probably be over.
I loved the idea of the pitch clock when it came about. I'm for the MLB's move to cut the four pitches required for an intentional walk, though I don't think that's a huge answer. I really like the idea floated out there in the MLB of using some system to equate mound visits to timeouts in football/basketball, meaning you only get a predetermined number of them and it's on the teams to manage their use.
Here's one that sticks out to me: pickoffs. As MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is always beating the drum for increasing game action, I can't help but notice there's no in-game activity in baseball that takes up more time while creating no action nine out of 10 times than a pickoff attempt. I need someone much smarter than me to design a way to limit pickoff attempts while not fundamentally altering the running game: for instance, I know you can't set a hard limit on pickoffs per at-bat, otherwise there's nothing keeping a runner on second base from taking a 20-foot leadoff. So dream up an educated idea for me and let's #MakeBaseballFunAgain