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Michigan State football: Making a case for Ethan Boyd, young OL to start

These guys deserve a shot.

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Michigan State football
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

After two games, it seems apparent that Michigan State football could benefit from some young guys starting up front.

The offensive line entered the 2023 Michigan State football season the same way it left the 2022 season: with question marks, and hesitation. Put simply, I don’t think they have been good enough through two games, and it’s worrisome that some of the older, more experienced linemen haven’t been meeting expectations. Penalties and lack of push in the run game are my citations to this. 

I’ve focused on some younger guys, who I believe not only deserve but have earned starting spots and some more time in big games. Jumping right into it, Ethan Boyd, Kevin Wigenton II, and Kristian Phillips are the names to keep an eye on.

For most of the first half, the offensive line lined up with Spencer Brown at right tackle, Geno VanDeMark at right guard, Nick Samac at center, J.D. Duplain at left guard, and Brandon Baldwin at left tackle.

The pass protection was okay, outside of a few holding penalties. As for the run game, it’s been a different story through the first two weeks. Fifth-year center Nick Samac was actually quite effective, but Brown and Duplain struggled a bit. Nate Carter’s talent does not require massive holes, but when your offensive line gets limited push against a low-level Richmond team, it sets up for concern against teams like Penn State and Michigan. 

Let’s make a case for some of the young guys to play more.

Ethan Boyd

Truthfully, I’ve been excited about Ethan Boyd since before he stepped onto campus. Being a local kid, and a 2021 commit, the 6-foot-7, 320-pound tackle, it was easy for me to buy stock early. Just a redshirt sophomore, when Ethan Boyd entered the game for Spencer Brown at right tackle I immediately saw a difference. Carter covered a lot of mistakes at right tackle in the first half, and he was able to run more freely in the second. That, and a few costly holding penalties, one of which took away a Maliq Carr touchdown and stalled a few drives was cleaned up once Boyd entered for Brown. 

Kristian Phillips

Kristian Phillips should be an option to start at guard as well. An early commit in 2020, and a big target for Chris Kapilovic, the redshirt freshman already looks the part on a Big Ten offensive line. He moves well, and the big body was able to get the push that was lacking at times in the first half. 

Kevin Wigenton

Another option at guard and another redshirt sophomore who made an instant impact when brought in was Kevin Wigenton. The big 6-foot-5, 320-pound guard was effective in the run game right away as well. Another big Kapilovic recruit, who was more effective than Duplain, after coming in for an injured VanDeMark on the right side next to Boyd. He was key in creating big holes, which are highlighted below.  

First drive, second half: Touchdown

The Spartan offense opened the second half with Boyd at right tackle. Michigan State was effective both in the air and on the ground during the drive, and so was Boyd at the right tackle spot. During the drive, they ran a pitch that took Montorie Foster to the right side of the field. Boyd got upfield, made a key block and Foster ended with a big gain.

The following play, with fellow redshirt sophomore Kevin Wigenton in for an injured Geno VanDeMark, MSU ran Nathan Carter to the right side again. Both Boyd and Wigenton got the push they needed and Carter moved the ball inside the five. The drive was capped off with a Carter touchdown, and again the two young linemen got the push Carter needed.

That drive was enough for me to say, “Ethan Boyd is a starter.”

Second drive, second half: Touchdown

In the second drive of the second half, Michigan State football plugged in redshirt freshman Kristian Phillips for Duplain, and once again, it was a successful drive all around. No negative plays, and consistent push. Major credit to Wigenton with a key block that opened up a hole for Carter to reach the endzone. 

Third drive, second half: Touchdown

Jumping ahead, to Michigan State’s third drive of the third quarter they found themselves on the 17-yard line. Boyd at right tackle, Phillips at right guard, and Wigenton at left guard, it was the latter and redshirt junior Brandon Baldwin who opened a massive hole on the left side for Carter. Like clockwork, the young offensive line got the job done upfront, and Carter, with some dancing around, found his way back into the endzone. 

What needs to happen

My takeaway? Ethan Boyd getting starter snaps should be an easy decision for Chris Kapilovic to make. Also, as the run game coordinator, Kapilivoc needs to look at Phillips and Wigenton who deserve to split the time at the other guard position until one emerges. VanDeMark is probably your best starting guard but for that other spot.

These are your linemen of the future. To me, the proof is in those three drives. With those successful drives with Ethan Boyd, Kevin Wignenton, and Kristian Phillips in, MSU not only scored and rained the ball well but overall dominated the line-of-scrimmage battle. A major contrast to the first half, which was even pointed out by the broadcast team.

I’m not going to pretend I know more than Kapilovic, or that I am an offensive line guru, but just rewatching and watching the game live, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast. If you can’t dominate the line against Richmond, how will you fare against Big Ten defenses?

I’d like to see how these young guys do against Washington on Saturday, and I truly believe it gives Michigan State football the best chance possible to compete in the trenches.

Writer for Spartan Shadows since 2022. Articles focusing on Michigan State Basketball, Football, soccer, and general experience. Die hard Michigan State fan, with a passion for creating engaging content.

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