MSU sees wideouts making strides

EAST LANSING — If there’s an aspect of Michigan State’s offense that looks better now than it did in September, it would have to be the receiving corps.

In September, MSU’s receivers were guilty of everything but the housing crisis. Things only could get better after a three-game stretch involving 18 dropped Andrew Maxwell passes.

Still, some consistency is starting to emerge, starting with Bennie Fowler — the expected No. 1 receiver this season before early-season struggles, a brief benching and a steady surge from there.

“He’s gotten much more confident,” coach Mark Dantonio said of Fowler after he had seven catches for 101 yards in a 26-10 win at Minnesota. “He’s had some big plays for us.”

As Fowler has come on, freshman Aaron Burbridge has fallen off — perhaps after hitting the fabled “freshman wall.”

Burbridge had 19 catches for 274 yards in a three-game stretch against Indiana, Iowa and Michigan. In four games since, he has five catches for 54 yards, none against Minnesota.

MSU’s top three are the same as when the season started — Fowler (41 catches, 524 yards, four TDs), Keith Mumphery (41, 511, one TD) and Tony Lippett (35, 380, two TDs). Burbridge has 26 catches for 342 yards and a TD.

“I think we’ve all grown and improved this season,” Fowler said.

Burbridge still looks like a future standout, and bowl practices that begin Saturday will allow coaches to get more of a look at players such as freshman Macgarrett Kings Jr. and sophomore DeAnthony Arnett.

But it’s game action that matters most.

“I think all of our guys have talent,” Dantonio said of his receivers. “I’ve said it all again. There’s not an absence of talent at our wide receiver position. We’ve got good players there. We just have to catch the ball more consistently.

“Part of it is, (the opponents) have players, too; they have guys on scholarship, too. But it’s experience as much as anything. Playing in big games. … The experience in games is what carries you through.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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