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MSU Mailbag: National title shots, scholarships and one song forever




Because I got myself up at 5 a.m. to write this so I can get it out there before writing a couple of stories for the Friday paper, I have no energy to come up with a creative open. Let's dive right in. 


- Let's touch on the lone baseball question before we get into football and random stuff. @MsStBaseballFan: Biggest takeaway from Cannizaro's news conference? 


No doubt, it's the experiment of Elijah MacNamee at first base. That's big, and here's why. 


Set aside the fact that Brent Rooker produced at the level he did, that move was also big because it opened up a spot in the outfield. MSU doing that moved its best hitter to a spot on the field where it wasn't getting much offense before (sorry, Cole Gordon) and opened up a spot where it had the potential to get plenty -- as it did down the stretch with Elijah MacNamee and Hunter Vansau, among others. That's exactly what Cannizaro is trying to do with this move. (Even in the 99.9 percent likelihood that MacNamee's numbers aren't as good as Rooker's.) 


If MacNamee adapts well to first base and the move sticks, assuming Jake Mangum holds down center field and Vansau stays in right like he did in the postseason last year, that opens up left field for all kinds of young bats with potential: Jordan Anderson, Josh Hatcher and Owen Lovell being the most prevalent examples. If one of them steps up immediately in February and March, you're looking at a team with proven bats at first, second or short (wherever Hunter Stovall ends up), center and right, with bats that are supposedly up-and-coming at third or short (wherever Luke Alexander ends up) and left. Not too much to exploit there.  


Plus, it takes a lot of pressure off of Alex Pener, the incoming first base prospect. He can develop at a more natural pace, take this year and play something like 15 games, for example, and possibly step in next year in a true starting capacity. 


- Actually, this one encompasses several sports, so let's take it, too. Friend of the Mailbag @gridirondawg: Which sport does MSU have a realistic shot at winning a national title in out of men's basketball, baseball and football, and why? 


Baseball, all day. I don't think it's even close. 


I made the following point in a blog post earlier this fall and kind of got bashed for it, but it's true: MSU football doesn't recruit on a national championship level, and frankly doesn't try to for reasons that are well known. The schools to win it all recently -- Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Florida State -- have habitually recruited at a top 15 level of late, which suggests to us that the modern era requires it to win at that level. Even in basketball, take a gander at the list of schools to do it over the last couple of decades -- North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Villanova, UConn, Michigan State, Syracuse -- and almost all of them recruit at an elite level, which MSU does not do, even after it's improved in recent years. 


Baseball, however, doesn't necessarily require that level of recruiting (hi, Coastal Carolina), but it sure does help and there's no denying MSU is doing it right now. The talent that's lined up to come into that program over the next two years is just ridiculous. I'll even take this further: assuming Cannizaro stays and everything continues on the path it is currently on, I think there's a part of me that would be surprised if, seven years from now, MSU hasn't won it all in baseball. 


- Now let's get to football with @dg7258, who has a good one: Why don't we see more stacked sets of WRs with some of the tight ends out wide for blocking? He says it seems like MSU stays stacked in the middle too often. 


First of all, I think he's right: MSU does keep a tight end on the field pretty often and that tight end is in the box almost all the time. It did split the tight end out into a trips set on the first play of the Auburn game, but on the very next play that tight end was brought back to the box. Splitting a tight end out wide is not something MSU never does, but it's far from a staple of the system. 


I think this is rooted in the run-pass option game and the fact that it benefits most from a tight end in the box. Think of it like this: most run-pass options are designed to throw only if the offense has a numbers advantage outside and can get the ball to a speedy playmaker in space relatively quickly. The need for a tight end out there to block, in the event it's a screen, over the blocking ability of a wide receiver isn't all that important when, in theory, the design of the play is what's creating the opening.  


Sure, having a tight end on the perimeter is useful when you're running a designed screen, and MSU has both done that and used the obvious set up that comes from that. But I don't think MSU runs that kind of stuff all that often: it obviously likes running the ball and there's so much that an in-the-box tight end/H-Back can do for you in that respect. 


- Them dudes at @121village helping a brotha out. They ask how many scholarship seniors are on this team and, more importantly, will Jace Christmann be on scholarship next year after he wins the Heisman? (#JaceChristmannForHeisman) 


My understanding is there are 11: wide receivers Gabe Myles and Donald Gray, left tackle Martinas Rankin, tight end Jordan Thomas, linebackers Traver Jung and Dez Harris, defensive backs Tolando Cleveland, J.T. Gray and Lashard Durr, punter Logan Cooke and long snapper Hunter Bradley. Two walk-on seniors are Kareem Vance Jr. and Bennie Braswell III. It's a massive junior class with a whole bunch of scholarships -- which makes sense when you think about how JUCO heavy MSU went in the last class. 


You know, I was thinking about the whole Christmann scholarship thing the other day, and I was wondering how easy it will be to get him one. You've already got Tucker Day on scholarship and there's an offer out to kicker commit Evan McPherson (who most of you know from the 60-yarder he made last week). I don't know of many programs willing to eat three scholarships on kickers. 


Now, that being said, here's a pretty easy way for Christmann to get one (assuming he keeps performing at this obvious Heisman level) -- next year, Day moves to full-time punter to replace Cooke and McPherson doesn't end up at MSU (there is a sect that thinks Miami will steal him). Then you've got one scholarship spent on your entire specialists group and a kicker that just balled out a year ago; give the kid the scholarship, it's a no-brainer. 


- Rob Montgomery (@10RobertWilliam), probably getting close to filing the Mailbag as a secondary address: Is there anything about BYU that could give State a scare? 




I want to leave it at that for dramatic effect, but I'll be nice and add on just to give you your click's worth, Rob. 


As I wrote about in the 4 Downs post on the blog earlier this week, this offense has been putrid in almost every way possible. The one thing this defense has done with relative consistency is bottle up big plays, but when you have teams like LSU, Wisconsin, Portland State, Boise State and Utah State as the teams you've done that to, you're not going to impress me in that respect. I'd be more impressed if you got out of that with good third-down defense, which it has not: BYU ranks 93rd in the nation in 3rd down defense, allowing a conversion rate of 41.76 percent. 


I don't have my final score yet, but I'm going to pick MSU to cover. 


As always, my man Jace Leachman (@jaceleachman15) comes through with a thinker: He wants to know if I could only listen to one song for the rest of my life, what would it be? 


Knuck If You Buck, obviously. (I'm kidding.) 


This is particularly difficult for me because I have a pretty wide taste in music: I'm just as likely to listen to Kendrick Lamar as I am to James Morrison; you've got just as good of odds catching me on Skrillex as you do catching me on John Mayer. 


The true answer is I would never be able to survive in this environment, but I'm going to attack this as trying to find one song that can satisfy both of my primary musical sweet spots of bangin' rap and anything with a softer flow to it. The final answer: Neighbors by J Cole. That album (4 Your Eyes Only) is far from his best work (Born Sinner and 2014 Forest Hills Drive are two of the best rap albums of this decade, come at me), but that song is undeniable fire. 


Watch, I'm going to go listen to that song 10 times today and get sick of it.



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