August 14, 2012

Six positioned for playing time at WR

EAST LANSING - Terrence Samuel is pleased with the progress that was made by his young wide receivers during the first week of training camp.

But coming out of Sunday's 120-play jersey scrimmage the second-year Michigan State position coach had several teaching points.

"Right now I am really trying to focus on the guys being assignment sound," said Samuel. "We made mistakes and we have a lot to work on. We just need to continue to grind and get better in our understanding of the offense. We have the athletes. We just have get them in the right place at the right time for Andrew."

First-year starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell completed 16-of-29 passes for 162 yards in the scrimmage.

Bennie Fowler led Spartan wide receivers with five catches for 55 yards in the scrimmage. The two-year letter winner has separated himself from pack and established himself as a reliable playmaker whom Maxwell trusts.

Samuel liked what he saw from Fowler. He was also pleased with the play of Tony Lippett, who had three catches for 34 yards in the scrimmage.

"I learned that Bennie is going to be okay and Tony is going to be okay," said Samuel. "For the most part, the wide receiver corps as a whole we need more reps. But we have guys that can make some plays."

Fowler, Lippett, Keith Mumphery, and Andre Sims have shown a thorough understanding of the offense and the ability to make plays. Converted running back Jeremy Langford and Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett are also positioned for playing time this fall.

"I know we are going to get to the point where we are going to play the best three guys,"
Samuel said. "We are going to be in a good rotation, with three guys getting the majority of the reps. But it is hard to say when because you do have to find out what guys can make plays and the best combinations. We are still fiddling with where guys are going to end up."

The competitive environment at wide receiver is not unlike the position linebacker last fall as several talented underclassmen vied for playing time following the departure of seniors Greg Jones (New York Giants) and Eric Gordon.

"When you start to have a good program there is going to be competition and these guys understand that," Samuel said. "They understand that what I am going to put in front of them as far as their grades, it's true to form. This is where you are. The guys that make plays, they will play. They can feel comfortable with that."

Langford has taken reps at running back, defensive back, and wide receiver during his first two years in the Michigan State program. As a sophomore, the former Westland (Mich.) John Glenn star appears to have found a home at wide receiver.

Langford caught a pair of passes for 60 yards in first scrimmage. He was the recipient of a 38-yard touchdown pass from redshirt freshman Connor Cook on the final play of the scrimmage.

"He definitely looked good enough to where he has earned some time," Samuel said. "He still has to get himself a little bit more comfortable with the offense, but he is coming and he is eager. And on every rep, he does learn from his mistakes."

Listed as a wide receiver/running back on the Spartan roster, Langford has worked exclusively with the wide receivers thus far during training camp.

Sims turned heads as the program's most consistent and durable wide receiver during spring practice. The redshirt freshman from Georgia is at it again during training camp.

"He is still making plays, he doesn't drop the ball, he is running good routes and his understanding of the offense has been really good," Samuel said. "The top four from Bennie to Keith, Tony and Andre have been pretty solid with the offense. They just have to continue to make plays."

While Arnett is still learning the Michigan State offense, the Tennessee transfer is well ahead of where he was when he made his Spartan debut in the spring.

"He showed me some things with the offense as far as his interpretation of where he needed to be as far as assignments," said Samuel. "He is not a freshman and we expect him to make plays for us this year. You have to have patience. We went through the spring and allowed him to get comfortable with the offense, as we should. Right now, we are putting his feet up under the fire a little bit to make sure that he is making plays because he has the ability to help us this year."

Walk-on wide receiver Tres Barksdale caught the eye of Maxwell during summer workouts. The freshman from Ohio has continued to turn heads during training camp. Barksdale, a product of Solon High in the Cleveland area, caught a touchdown from fellow Ohioan Tyler O'Connor during the first half of Sunday's scrimmage.

"He is very intelligent," Samuel said. "The kid picks things up very well. He asks questions and the questions he asks he applies once he gets out on the field. So I am not surprised, You are surprised that he is catching the ball and making plays, but him being in the right place, that was the biggest thing for me. That he is in the right doing the right thing so early."

Click below for an interview with Samuel on Monday.

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