Defensive end Montez Sweat in a preseason practice Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch
August 24, 2018 7:02:00 AM
Every day from 99 days out (May 25) until kickoff, I'll put up a post telling you how many days until kickoff and breaking down something about the upcoming season related to that number.
Today, since we are 8 days away from kickoff, we take a look at: Predicting who will lead MSU in eight statistical categories.
Rushing: This one is really tricky because it's hard to guess what Moorhead is going to do here. He recently admitted (as the numbers suggest) that he prefers a clear No. 1 running back getting the bulk of the carries, but he also pointed out one year in his UConn days where he rotated guys pretty evenly because he thought it was best for the team. I'm going to go against my initial instinct and go with Kylin Hill here: if he and Aeris Williams end up breaking the Moorhead norm and sharing carries, I think Hill has a little more explosive play potential in him and that will ultimately decide this.
Receiving: Austin Williams. I was taken by something Moorhead said a couple days ago about how the rotation at wide receiver will ultimately be decided by how close the second-string guy at each position is to the first-string guy. It made me wonder if the competition for the outside receiver spots is really tight and there is going to be more split time than what's normal for the Moorhead system. But I think Williams is clearly a top three option in this corps and if he goes from the slot, that's a particularly dangerous place in this offense.
Tackles: Johnathan Abram. I usually go with linebackers here -- which would've worked out last year as I believe Dez Harris would've done this if he were healthy -- but I see the time split among Erroll Thompson, Willie Gay, Leo Lewis and Sh'mar Kilby-Lane playing a factor. Also, my biggest fear in this prediction is targeting. Abram has shown an affinity for getting himself in that position; if he stays on the field, he's got a shot.
Tackles for a loss: Jeffery Simmons. You can't run away from the man forever and, in theory, he won't be playing with an injured shoulder this season.
Sacks: Montez Sweat. Does this really need explaining?
Interceptions: This is where I'm going to go off-board and take a flyer on someone: Cameron Dantzler. I'll be writing soon about how cornerbacks are expected to be in better INT situations in the Shoop system, and Dantzler is a quick, long guy with an offensive background. It bears repeating that this was a really tight race last season before Mark McLaurin had the game of his life and picked three in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Why not go with someone off the radar?
Punt return yards: This is probably the toughest one to answer before we see a depth chart. The number of guys competing for this job was so big, it's not like there's a small group to pick a personal favorite from. I'm going to go Deddrick Thomas, but don't ask me to defend it because frankly, I can't.
Scoring: Jace Christmann. Nick Fitzgerald won this crown on 14 rushing touchdowns and the fact that Christmann didn't get the entire kicking workload, but because the Moorhead system tends to spread touchdowns more and Christmann could be the kicker from start to finish, it seems like the placekicker is the best bet. Christmann does have to fend Jordan Lawless away from this job to make a run at the scoring crown, though.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson