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Spartans ready for Cade McNamara, Michigan offense

Spartan Nation on FanNation logo Spartan Nation on FanNation 10/27/2021 Matthew Lounsberry
a group of baseball players playing a football game © Provided by Spartan Nation on FanNation

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker, safety Xavier Henderson talk Wolverines' run game, quarterback Cade McNamara, and more

Michigan football’s offensive identity for most of the program’s history has been centered around controlling the line of scrimmage and running the football.

That certainly hasn’t changed under the direction of head coach Jim Harbaugh, and it certainly rings true concerning the 2021 team.

The Wolverines boast the top rushing attack in the Big Ten this year, and that has the attention of Michigan State coach Mel Tucker and his Spartans.

“Defensively, you have to stop the run,” Tucker said. “In the run game we have to set the edge and build a wall. We have to do a really good job with our perimeter run support, not just in the run game but in the wide receiver screen and the bubble game outside.”

MSU senior safety Xavier Henderson noted the prowess of Michigan’s run attack, and what makes the Wolverines versatile and difficult to defend.

“They’re definitely run-heavy, and for good reason,” Henderson said. “They’ve got a solid O-line and two pretty good backs back there that try to bring a little bit different things to the table. Corum’s a little shiftier, but still has got some size to him. He packs a punch. And Haskins is a bigger dude, falls forward a lot.”

Stopping the run all together is a tall task against Michigan, but if the Spartans are able to limit the effectiveness of the Wolverines’ run game, that will put pressure on Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara to make plays with his arm. That’s not something the third-year QB has done consistently in 2021.

“You would like to try to opponents one-dimensional if you can, and then effect the quarterback with rush and coverage,” Tucker said. “On third down, we have to get off the field.”

McNamara’s biggest strength is limiting mistakes and taking care of the football. He won’t ‘wow’ you with his passing yards or touchdowns, Henderson isn’t overlooking the Michigan QB as a threat.

“They’ve got a nice RPO game too,” Henderson said. “Their quarterback can throw it on a rope pretty well. They take their shots [downfield].”

Tucker agrees with his senior safety.

“I think he’s a good player,” he said of McNamara. I think he has command of the offense, and he does what they ask him to do, and he does it at a high level. Very good player.”

In addition to the starting quarterback, Michigan likes to bring true freshman backup JJ McCarthy into the game for special situations. McCarthy has mostly been used in read-option situations thus-far, and has shown good athleticism and an ability to pick up yards with his legs.

However, McCarthy’s biggest weapon is his arm, and Tucker won’t let his staff or his players be surprised by it come Saturday.

“Every player that they put out there is a good player. They have good players at every position, same thing at quarterback,” Tucker said. “So, we’ll have to see what their game plan is going to be…and what plays they’re going to run if they put another quarterback in the game. We can’t assume they’re going to just be designed runs. We can’t assume anything. We have to read and react and play our responsibility, read our keys and do our jobs on those plays. So, we do need to know who’s in the game, and we’ll identify that and communicate that to the players before the play.”

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