Blogs > Lions Lowdown

One thing you can count on with the Detroit Lions is that they are never, ever boring. Follow the latest news including injuries, roster moves and more here daily from Oakland Press beat writer Paula Pasche. Plus you'll find regular commentary about the team.


Kevin Smith, Rookie of the Year?

Las Vegas likes the Lions draft, or at least its new running back. has installed third-round pick Kevin Smith as one of the favorites to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Smith is a 9-to-1 favorite, trailing only Oakland's Darren McFadden (3-to-1), Carolina's Jonathan Stewart (6-to-1) and Atlanta's Matt Ryan (8-to-1). That's no big news to Smith, who ran for 2,561 yards on an NCAA-record 450 carries last year at Central Florida and said on his pre-draft blog that he "had visions of Rookie of the Year and the Pro Bowl as a rookie." He'll likely compete with Tatum Bell for the starting job next year, probably splitting carries early on.

Defensively, second-round linebacker Jordon Dizon and third-round defensive lineman Andre Fluellen and Cliff Avril are all 75-to-1 to win Defensive ROY honors. Chris Long (4-to-1) and Vernon Gholston (5-to-1) are the favorites. All three of the Lions early defensive draft picks should have an opportunity to play early.


Kiper's take on the Lions

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Lions a C-plus for their weekend haul, one of the lowest grades on his board. Still, Kiper didn't seem too down on the Lions in a conference call Monday afternoon. The call is still going on, actually, but here are Mel's thoughts on the Lions:

"It's all about running the football. It's a whole attitude change. They went from all those wide receivers with Mike Martz and that passing game and forget about the run, we're going to throw it all over the place. That didn't work. Now they're back to old school football and what Rod Marinelli wants and Jim Colletto wants is to run the football and take on a new personality."

Kiper addressed each of the Lions' nine draft picks:

"Gosder Cherilus is a right tackle who opened a lot of holes at Boston College, did a good job there. Jordon Dizon certainly fits their scheme effectively. Kevin Smith's going to start as a rookie and he's a good football player. (Andre) Fluellen was just never productive. He flashed early in his career. I thought eventually he'd be a first-round pick and follow in the footsteps of the guys who've came out of Florida State in recent years. He never developed into that kind of player. (Cliff) Avril has great physical ability but only six sacks. For a guy that athletic and that talented you expected more productivity but he's got ability. Kenny Moore's got versatility, (Jerome) Felton is not your traditional fullback but he's got some running skills. (Landon) Cohen is just a guy who plays all out and Caleb Campbell, what a great kid. I had a chance to talk to him yesterday, he's excited. Rod Marinelli said either safety or outside linebacker, special teams. Great, great story there. One of the stories of the draft was Caleb Campbell, being selected at that point. That's got to fire up everybody in Detroit.

"They've kind of had their hits and their misses and they've taken a lot of criticism for that. But I think it's a personality change out there and the draft reflected that."


Draft day blog: Analyzing the third round

Barring any big news, this'll be my last blog of the afternoon so I can get to my daily work for the paper. But I have to give the Lions high marks for their third-round choices (and maneuvers), and not just because they grabbed the top three players I had slotted for them on my board.

By adding depth at running back (Central Florida's Kevin Smith), defensive tackle (Florida State's Andre Fluellen) and defensive end (Purdue's Cliff Avril), the Lions hit the biggest remaining areas of need with players who should contribute and in Smith's case maybe even start as rookies.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli is fond of saying he steps to the draft-day plate swinging for doubles, and I think he went 3-for-3 with a couple RBI Sunday. The Lions moved up two spots at the start of the day to grab Smith, who was the best running back left on the board and the best fit for the Lions' new zone-blocking offense. He's got great vision, plays faster than his speed and will contribute on special teams.

Of the defensive picks, it's unlikely either Fluellen or Avril will start, but Fluellen should develop into a very good undertackle in the Tampa 2. He battled an elbow injury most of his senior season that affected his stock, and has first-day talent.

The Lions traded up again at the end of the third round to grab Avril, giving away fourth-round picks this year and next. A speed-rushing end, Avril may never develop into a three-down lineman, but the Lions had trouble getting off the field on third downs last year and Avril can get after quarterbacks. He had 6 1/2 sacks and caused four fumbles last year, and is a nice insurance blanket for 2008.

Draft day blog: Kevin Smith

The Lions made a smart move trading up two picks to grab Kevin Smith at the top of the third round. They needed a workhorse back to headline their new commitment to the run, and Smith might not have been there had they waited two picks. Smith, who rushed for 2,567 yards as a junior — 61 short of Barry Sanders' NCAA record — also appeared to be a target of the St. Louis Rams. The Rams picked 65th, one spot ahead of the Lions, who traded a sixth-round pick to Miami to move up two spots.

Smith spoke with Detroit-area reporters in a conference call Sunday morning. A sampling:

On how he answers critics who say his numbers last year came against inferior competition: "Check me out in my Detroit Lions uniform first preseason game."

On if he believes his production will translate to the NFL: "I believe I'll do exactly what I'm supposed to do in the pros, that's play football to the best of my ability and whatever that outcome is, that's what'll be shown but I can guarantee you it's going be a good one."

On how he would describe his running style: "Rare."

Why rare: "They say I don't have the speed to hit the home run but I had the most long runs in the nation against whatever competition. I believe I have the best vision in college football and on some levels better than some pros that I've watched. I just know how to play football. ... I can’t compare myself to anybody now. I can only compare myself to Kevin Smith and I haven't seen anybody run like me."

On he told other teams, including the Rams, that he saw himself playing for the Lions: "When I took my visit I felt so comfortable at the Lions. I went on other visits and told other teams, we sat down and they was like, 'So what team would you go to and why?' And I said the Lions to a few teams. Some people were telling me you don't say what team you want to go to. You're going to go to a team that you don't really want to go to. And for me to go to the Lions, man, it happened right for me."

Draft day blog: Reshuffling the board

The Lions pick third when the draft resumes today and have seven picks left total, two in the third and fifth rounds, and one each in the fourth, sixth and seventh. They still need help at both defensive end and tackle, at running back, and they'd like to add depth at cornerback.

I'm not privy to the Lions' draft board, but here's a few names they have to consider early today.

- Central Florida running back Kevin Smith. The Lions need a rusher to split time with Tatum Bell and Smith is the best on the board.

- Purdue defensive end Cliff Avril. He's undersized, but Avril could wreck havoc off the edge.

- Florida State defensive tackle Andre Fluellen. Could be an effective undertackle in the Tampa 2.

- Penn State cornerback Justin King. Most natural ability of any corner left, though Oklahoma's Reggie Smith may be better suited for the system.

- Miami linebacker Tavares Gooden. If the Lions want more depth and competition at linebacker, he's the best one left. Penn State's Dan Connor is still on the board as well.


Draft day blog: Jordon Dizon's guarantee

Just wrapped up a conference call with second-round pick, linebacker Jordon Dizon from Colorado. The Lions are done for the day have filled two of their needs and have seven picks on Day 2 of the draft Sunday, including the third pick of the second round.

Dizon is a native of Hawaii and one of the most productive tacklers in Colorado history. He'll have an opportunity to start immediately at middle linebacker next year. Here's a sampling of his talk with the media, my last blog for the night before I finish the rest of my work for tomorrow's paper.

His thoughts on joining the Lions: “Love it. I'm excited. I'm very excited. I'm a water person. You guys got the Great Lakes, so that'll be fun for me."

On how his visit with Detroit went: "They love players that can play. They don't like players who BS them or stuff like that and I came here, I told them exactly how I felt and what exactly was on my mind and I guess they liked that. They know they'll get the best out of me. Whatever happened there, it worked."

On what he said on his visit: "It's really about me. I told them, 'Hey, I'm a small guy that you'll get the best out of me every play that I play. I didn't bull— them at all and they liked that. That was nice for me."

On playing with a chip on his shoulder: "When I was in Hawaii, let's be honest I was the biggest guy there. And I came to Colorado and I was 6 feet, 190 pounds and started at linebacker every game since I've been there. Every time someone goes he's too small, he's too small to be great, he's too small to do this and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. After a while you get sick of it and you go, 'Hey, I don’t think size matters here after a while."

On if he's big enough to play middle linebacker in the NFL: "Oh yeah. I played in college and you say play middle linebacker in college is different than the NFL. I played in the Big 12. That's a pretty tough conference to play in and half the guys you play against here (on the) offensive line, maybe a quarter of them go to the NFL. I did it in college, I did it in the Big 12 and I'm pretty sure I can do it in the NFL. I'm actually guaranteeing I can do it in the NFL."

Draft day blog: Gosder quotes

Had a conference call with new Lions offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus a short while ago. He sounds like an interesting man. He grew up in Haiti, moved to the United States at 14, and spent the past five years at Boston College, where he started three seasons at right tackle and last year on the left side.

Here's a few thoughts from Cherilus:

On joining the Lions: "Great. Excited. Overwhelming, but I'm looking forward to it to look with Coach Marinelli and Coach Millen. I'm excited."

What does he know about the Lions: "I can't tell you I know a lot, but I do know they're owned by one of the best owners in the NFL, Mr. Ford. I know Coach Millen's been there for a while, and I know a little bit about Coach Marinelli when he was in Tampa, I know Coach Barry, great guy. I had a chance to work with him. I know some of the guys they drafted, I had a chance to go against them. I did real well and great guys so I plan on coming in and help out wherever they want me, whatever they want me to do. I want to come in and help out right away."

On if he expects to play right tackle or left tackle: "Wherever the team needs me. I belong to the Detroit Lions. If they think I was a better fit for the team at left, that’s what I do. If they think right, that's where they need me, that's what I do. I really don't care right now. I just want to come in and help out."

On how his background playing soccer helped him transition to football: "When I was doing soccer I took a lot of red cards because I was aggressive. Basketball I got fouled out. Once I came here and they introduced me to football I felt like it was the right sport for me because soccer taught me the quick feet, the good feet, and put all that together with me being so aggressive, it was the right fit to be a good offensive lineman."

Draft day blog: And the pick is Cherilus

Gosder Cherlius? That's my first reaction to the Lions' first-round pick. Yes, they filled a need — Cherilus should start at right tackle next year — but Cherilus? At 17?

Rashard Mendenhall would have been better value and Pitt's Jeff Otah, who's still on the board, may turn out to be a better tackle (another mauling right-tackle type). Deep down I have to believe the Lions could have made another trade (Baltimore just traded up to get Joe Flacco) and still landed Cherilus or a comparable talent.

We'll hear what management has to say shortly.

Draft day blog: A trade

The Lions just traded their first-round pick, No. 15 overall, to Kansas City for the 17th pick (originally owned by the Vikings), a fifth-rounder and a swap of third-round picks (the Lions move up 10 spots to No. 66, from No. 76).

It was a good move. The Lions have more holes than picks and there's no must-have on the board right now. The Chiefs used the pick on Virginia tackle Branden Albert, who would have looked nice in a Lions uniform. But there are still several offensive tackle options on the board (Jeff Otah, Gosder Cherilus), there's a chance running back Rashard Mendenhall could still be around (though I'd bet Arizona snaps him up at 16), and the Lions could always go defense with someone like Jackson or a cornerback like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Draft day blog: Now who?

With the run on defensive players taking nearly every viable option off the board, the Lions are now facing three scenarios as their first-round pick approaches.

They still need help on the offensive line and at running back and there are viable options on the board. Virginia's Branden Albert and Vanderbilt's Chris Williams are options at tackle (Albert plays guard as well), and Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall is the only mid-first back left after Carolina snapped up Oregon's Jonathan Stewart.

Expect the Bears to take one of those three options here. If the Lions keep their pick, I think they'd prefer to have an offensive lineman over Mendenhall. However, having Mendenhall still on the board would be good news for the Lions, who could find a team (the Cowboys?) willing to move up a few spots and take one of the draft's top runners. By moving down a few spots, Detroit could still get a starting tackle (Gosder Cherilus?) or defensive help (USC defensive end Lawrence Jackson) and add another early pick to help build depth.

Draft day blog: Still thinking Mayo

The draft just kicked off with Jake and Chris Long (no relation) going 1-2 to the Dolphins and Rams, as expected. The Lions' pick is still a couple hours away, and I'm sticking with Jerod Mayo, the linebacker from Tennessee.

Mayo told me yesterday he "would hope" to be a Lion if he's still on the board at 15. He visited Detroit earlier this month and made an impression with his enthusiasm after already have left a mark on film with his play.

Different teams project Mayo at different linebacker spots, but the Lions would stick him in the middle and let him run their defense for the next decade. Theoretically, he'd pair with weak-side backer Ernie Sims to give the Lions one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.

"I would love to play with Ernie Sims, fighting for tackles," Mayo said. "I love that kind of competition."

Draft day blog: Is Roy Williams on the block?

It's five hours until the draft begins and I'll be here blogging all day — or at least until the Lions make their first pick hopefully somewhere around 5 p.m. All the surprises, all the trades, and what it all means for the Lions.

Quickly to get things started, I still think it's a long shot the Lions move Roy Williams today, but you can bet teams will inquire about the Pro Bowl receiver throughout the afternoon. The Eagles, Cowboys and Redskins are all looking to upgrade that position, and despite the insistence of Rod Marinelli and Matt Millen otherwise, there is some feeling Williams still could be had.

Bottom line is no one's untouchable, but it would take a great package to pry Williams away. He's entering the last year of his contract, which actually gives the Lions leverage. First, they're trying to win now and Marinelli correctly believes pairing Williams with last year's No. 1 pick, Calvin Johnson, gives the offense a danger factor you can't ignore. Second, while the Lions don't want to pay Williams franchise money next year, they can always franchise him with the idea they'll work a trade like what Kansas City (with Jared Allen) and Green Bay (with Corey Williams) did this year.

Now, the Lions do have a surplus of receivers and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Millen deal one (Shaun McDonald?) this afternoon. But at the end of the day, I say Williams remains a Lion.


And the Lions take ...

I put together four draft scenarios for the paper the Lions could find themselves in this weekend and had to follow up with more analysis here. I'm working off the assumption the Lions have four main positions of need — defensive line, linebacker, running back and offensive tackle — they'll try to address in the first three rounds.

The most realistic of these scenarios, I believe, is No. 2 (there's a hint who I'll have at 15 in my mock draft tomorrow). All things being equal, the Lions want to upgrade their defensive front seven early and I don't see Derrick Harvey lasting past the Panthers at 13. If I was the Lions, the scenario I'd want most to play out is No. 1. Harvey would give the team the pass rusher it desperately needs, Bell is athletic enough to play middle linebacker in the Tampa 2, and Johnson and Collins can both be NFL starters down the road. Johnson also would help in the return game.

Scenarios three and four are very much in play if the Lions don't believe Mayo is worth the 15th pick. They may find better value addressing an offensive hole first — running back Jonathan Stewart, who I'm not convinced the Lions like better than Rashard Mendenhall, and tackle/guard Branden Albert also are possibilities — then concentrating on the defense. In No. 4, I didn't see a lineman worth taking late in the third round and the Lions will draft a cornerback at some point for depth. Thomas is a system guy who would fit the bill.

Which of these scenarios do you want for your Lions?

Scenario 1
First round (No. 15 overall): DE Derrick Harvey, Florida
Second round (No. 45 overall): RB Chris Johnson, East Carolina
Third round (No. 76 overall): OT Anthony Collins, Kansas
Third round (No. 87 overall): LB Beau Bell, UNLV

Scenario 2
First round: LB Jarod Mayo, Tennessee
Second round: DT Trevor Laws, Notre Dame
Third round: OT Oniel Cousins, UTEP
Third round: RB Matt Forte, Tulane

Scenario 3
First round: OT Chris Williams, Vanderbilt
Second round: LB Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma
Third round: DT Andre Fluellen, Florida State
Third round: RB Kevin Smith, Central Florida

Scenario 4
First round: RB Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois
Second round: DE Cliff Avril, Purdue
Third round: LB Jordon Dizon, Colorado
Third round: CB Terrell Thomas, USC


Draft digest: Derrick Harvey

Carolina Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker announced his retirement Thursday. That's bad news for the Lions, who were hoping to land Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey with the 15th pick overall. The Panthers choose two spots earlier and now need to find a starter at that position in the draft.

The top ends — Virginia's Chris Long and Ohio State's Vernon Gholston — are probable top-six picks, with Harvey the next best on the board. When I first sat down to do my mock draft last week, I had Harvey slipping past the Panthers, who ranked 31st in the NFL in sacks last year. It was debatable at the time, but Rucker said two months ago he hoped to play one more season and Carolina has other pressing needs on the offensive line.

The Ravens at No. 8 and Bengals at nine also need help at end, though they'd find better value elsewhere. Regardless, it looks like the Lions will have to trade up if they want Harvey, who would help fill their pass-rushing void. With an extra third-round pick from the Shaun Rogers trade, they have the ammo to move. In fact, according to the draft value chart, that's all it would take to get to No. 12, where the Broncos could be willing trade partners.

Still, I don't see it happening. Not for Harvey at least. If you're looking for a potential trade scenario, the spot to watch is No. 7, where the Patriots want out and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis — the real apple of Rod Marinelli's eye — might be available. Ellis is a ferocious penetrator who would thrive in the Tampa 2 defense. Moving up that high might be rich too rich for the Lions, both in terms of the money it'd take to pay Ellis and the booty they'd have to pay New England (probably a second- and third-rounders, one this year and one next), but that's the move to make if they want an impact lineman and one of the top talents in the draft.


Draft digest: Keith Rivers

I don't know if Keith Rivers can play middle linebacker — I don't know if the Lions know if Rivers can play middle linebacker — but I do know if Rivers is there at 15 in Saturday's NFL draft and the Lions take him, there's a good chance they'll do so with an eye on converting him to middle one day.

Rivers is widely considered the top linebacker in the draft. He played on the weak side all four years at USC, starting the last three and doubling as a back-up rush end as a freshman. He played some middle backer at the Senior Bowl with mixed reviews. He's a beast with a 42-inch vertical jump and a 4.51-second 40-yard dash.

But the Lions are set for the foreseeable future at Rivers' natural WILL linebacker position with future Pro Bowler Ernie Sims. The strong-side linebacker position doesn't serve as big a purpose in the Tampa 2 defense, and Lions coach Rod Marinelli ready admits it's generally not worth a first-round pick.

From Monday's pre-draft press conference: "Usually the SAM position is not generally a guy you'd want to take in the first round, but you might see more into the guy, a way to get him on the field early, too."

There's two things about that. First, a few weeks ago Marinelli and president Matt Millen offered contrasting comments about whether a rookie can start immediately at middle linebacker. The answer is yes, of course, but Marinelli said it would be difficult and indicated he'd prefer his rookie to learn the SAM position first. Was he talking with Rivers (or Tennessee's Jerod Mayo, another prospect who projects both inside and outside depending on who you believe) in the back of his mind? It's possible.

Second, Marinelli believes firmly in the power of doubles. He doesn't necessarily expect to hit a home run with his first-round pick, but he needs that player to be an above-average contributor for a decade in the NFL. Rivers will be that, we just don't know at what position.

This may be moot. Most projections have Rivers coming off the board before the Lions draft. But Rivers blogged about his trip to Detroit last week, said he was "really impressed," and I'm quite sure he's Marinelli's type of player. If he slips to 15, I bet he ends up a Lion.


April prediction: 8 wins

I don't see the Lions as a playoff team next year. Not yet, at least. It's April and that could change, but at first glance the NFL schedule leaves me thinking 8-8. They have four very winnable games to start, but this is the NFL and almost no one goes 4-0. Similarly, they close with a rugged second half that includes December road trips to Indianapolis and Green Bay. But with four of their final six at home, I wouldn't expect another late-season slide.

How do I see things shaking out? Let's go game-by-game:

Sept. 7 at Atlanta — The Falcons have a first-year coach and plenty of problems. Win.

Sept. 14 Green Bay — Packers struggle early without Favre. Win.

Sept. 21 at San Francisco — Lions will be amped to beat Mike Martz, but the 49ers are better than last year. Loss.

Oct. 5 Chicago — Back home after the bye and back on track. Win.

Oct. 12 at Minnesota — Can't stop Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. Loss.

Oct. 19 at Houston — Texas might be a playoff team. Loss.

Oct. 26 Washington — It's not in D.C., so Lions have a chance. Win.

Nov. 2 at Chicago — Lions won't sweep series again. Loss.

Nov. 9 Jacksonville — Jags are one of AFC's top teams. Loss.

Nov. 16 at Carolina — Three straight losses would be tough to swallow. Loss.

Nov. 23 Tampa Bay — Must-need victory or season sinks again. Win.

Nov. 27 Tennessee — Vince Young gobbled up on Thanksgiving. Win.

Dec. 7 Minnesota — Three straight the other way. Win.

Dec. 14 at Indianapolis — Colts could be fighting for homefield throughout. Loss.

Dec. 21 New Orleans — Still playoff dreamin'. Win.

Dec. 28 at Green Bay — And the streak continues. Loss.


Two preseason dates set

The Lions have not announced the dates of their preseason games yet, but their two road games are officially set.

According to the web sites of their opponents, the Lions will visit Cincinnati in Week 2 of the preseason at 7:35 p.m. Aug. 17. In Week 4, they close exhibition play Aug. 28 at 6:30 p.m. against Buffalo. Previously, those games were set for sometime Aug. 14-18 and Aug. 28 or 29. The Lions also host the Colts in their preseason opener (Aug. 7-11) and host Cleveland in the all-important Week 3 game (Aug. 21-25).

The NFL is expected to release the regular-season schedule this week, perhaps as early as Monday, and the Lions will reveal the rest of their exhibition slate at that time. In the regular season, they play:

Home: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Washington

Road: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Atlanta, Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis and San Francisco


Drafting linebackers and where to play Lenon

The Lions are going to select a linebacker sometime early in this month's NFL draft, possibly even the first round. All indications are they'd like to upgrade middle linebacker and move Paris Lenon to the strong side. They brought free agents Al Wilson and Dan Morgan in for visits this winter, and tried to trade for Jonathan Vilma.

USC's Keith Rivers is the draft's top-rated linebacker, though he projects to play outside (more specifically on the weak side, where budding star Ernie Sims already is entrenched). Still, he might be the Lions' best option if he's available at 15 (he would likely play strong side). Top middle linebacker prospects Jarod Mayo of Tennessee and Dan Connor of Penn State would be reaches at 15, and Lions coach Rod Marinelli has hinted he wants a veteran in the middle (though a rookie's learning curve no doubt would be helped by new NFL rules that allow two defensive players to wear communication systems in their helmet).

One other thing to consider. Sims said Monday he "learned a lot" playing beside Lenon and hopes Lenon stays at middle linebacker next year. Lenon, at the end of last season, shared the same sentiment.

"I feel like right now he has a good grasp of the whole defense," Sims said of Lenon. "Last year, he did a pretty good job of getting in all the calls, making all the checks, there wasn't a lot of busts on the field. So I would feel real comfortable having him inside me."


Wrapping up MSU's season

Time to put a bow on MSU's season and take a quick look ahead to next year before I refocus my attention on the Lions and the upcoming NFL draft.

All things considered — the talent on MSU's roster, the preseason expectations and end results, the performances of Drew Neitzel, Raymar Morgan, Kalin Lucas, etc. — it's fair to say the Spartans underachieved this year. They don't belong in the Final Four. They're not as good a team as North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, UCLA or a couple other teams, but to not contend for a Big Ten title and to lose in such inglorious fashion in the Sweet 16 cannot be ignored.

In the coming weeks we'll find out who's turning pro early and how those decisions will shape the future of college basketball. My guess is enough big names from big teams will go that MSU will be a favorite to win the Big Ten (ahead of Purdue) and reach the Final Four. You'll see a different look Spartan team out there, one that won't be so perimeter-oriented without Neitzel but will rely on Lucas' creativity in the open court and the inside presence of Goran Suton, Delvon Roe and even Morgan.

At his season wrap-up press conference this week, MSU coach Tom Izzo said next year's team will have "a lot more length, a lot more athleticism. I mean a lot, lot more."

"And I think more depth," Izzo said. "More depth, more quality depth and more experienced depth and then a potential star coming in and the other two guys really can play, too."

It's far too early to pick a starting five, but I would expect Lucas, Chris Allen, Morgan, Suton and the freshman Roe, assuming he's recovered from microfracture knee surgery, to start by the end of the year. All five are capable of averaging double figures in scoring. Off the bench, Durrell Summers, freshmen Korie Lucious and Draymond Green, Marquise Gray, Idong Ibok and Travis Walton all could contribute.

Considering the fan-friendly tournament road they could travel — Dayton, Ohio, or Minneapolis in the first round; Indianapolis for the second weekend and Ford Field for the finals — there's reason to believe MSU could win it all in 2009.


Crean to Indiana (so long, MSU)

Now that Tom Crean has left Marquette to become Indiana's new basketball coach, you can scratch his name off the list as a potential replacement for Tom Izzo.

Crean, who went 190-96 in nine seasons with the Eagles and led Marquette to the 2003 Final Four, was widely considered the frontrunner to be Michigan State's next coach, whenever that is. He spent four seasons on the bench under Izzo, was associate head coach during MSU's 1999 Final Four run, and had great success rebuilding Marquette into a Big East power.

But now that Crean's landed the most storied job in the Big Ten, you won't convince me he'll leave to fill Izzo's big shoes. When is Izzo retiring? I have no idea. If he wins a championship next year, I could see him walking away from the college game. Of course, with the recruits he has coming in, I could just as easily see him coaching well into next decade.

Since there's no timetable on Izzo's retirement, it's impossible to tell who the hot coaching commodities will be then. Of course, Jim Boylen, Izzo's close friend and former assistant, will be in the mix (assuming he has success at Utah), and Dayton's Brian Gregory, another former Izzo assistant, would be a candidate as well.

But Crean will not. He has a little bit of a rebuilding project ahead of him at Indiana, but a long, successful future in store there, too.