MSU preview section (plus a few words from Tony Banks)
This year, the focus of our mainbar is the other side of Kirk Cousins -- the tangibles -- and his work to be even better as a fifth-year senior.
Predictions? Barry Kiel and I both went 9-3, here are our picks and explanations.
Here's the Big Ten preview.
Position by position previews:
* And finally, special teams
One last thing, it's not a big deal but worth clarifying. After some phone tag for a couple weeks I finally connected with Tony Banks and asked him about these comments, among other things. He gladly elaborated.
“I like the way (Cousins) handled it, he’s a very mature young man," Banks said. "What am I supposed to say, that he’s the best quarterback in the country and has nothing to work on? I’m probably gonna be a little harder in evaluating Michigan State, but I evaluate quarterbacks on whether they can play at the next level, and if he can be a little less skittish in the pocket, he can play at the next level.”
Banks made clear he wasn’t questioning Kirk Cousins’ overall toughness or courage.
“Toughness in taking a hit while running with the ball and toughness in the pocket are two totally different things," he said. "They’re not even close to the same. I’m not calling him a wimp, I’m not calling him soft. You can’t start 30 games (at that level) and be soft. But it is a different kind of toughness to be able to stand in there and step into throws when you know someone is about to hit you in the mouth. And in game situations he appears to be skittish at times in the pocket. The person saying these things played on a lot of bad teams (in the NFL) and developed some bad habits, so I know what I’m talking about. I’m not gonna retract my statement and like I said, I love the way he handled it – he even gave me a couple props in there.”
Banks also told an interesting story about his own development into an NFL quarterback. He said the arrival of Nick Saban and an NFL approach to the passing game for his senior season was the key. In his first meeting with offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill, Tranquill asked Banks what he looks at first when he comes to the line of scrimmage. Banks said his favorite receiver, Derrick Mason.
“I couldn’t have been more wrong," Banks said. "He said, ‘No, the first thing you’ve got to see is the safeties.’ From that point on, everything changed for me.”
Banks likes a guy like Cousins, with the pre-snap awareness and experience in a pro offense, to make it in the league more than bigger, faster guys who play in spread attacks.
“You see a guy who’s 6-5, 235 and he can run, you can’t help but be a little intrigued," Banks said. "But quarterback is the one position in the NFL where athleticism can actually hurt you.”