Report cards aren’t necessarily the worst things in the world. Keep in mind a progress report is simply a sign of what one has done right and where one can improve.

When going back and studying the tape, Michigan State football could find positives in multiple instances. And outside of a few things here or there, the Spartans could be trending in the right direction following their bye week.

Their biggest concern? Consistency. One drive ends in 7 points with the offense seemingly looking as if it’s turned the corner. For the next 3 drives: punts, 3-and-outs, pain.

It’s 7 games into the season, and Michigan State is looking for its identity. Offensively, it’s a flashed-based operation. Defensively, it’s 1 more blown coverage away from being 1 of the nation’s worst secondaries.

Let’s take a closer look at each position group and assign a midseason grade.

Quarterback: C

Payton Thorne admitted prior to facing Wisconsin that he’d been playing hurt since Week 1. Sure, bumps and bruises are bound to crop up along the way of a 13-game season, but Thorne’s inability to use his legs as a runner has hampered his overall production.

Last season, Thorne finished 2nd on the roster behind All-American Kenneth Walker III in carries (80) and rushing touchdowns (4) while finishing 3rd in rushing yards (181). This season, his 0.4 rushing yards per attempt ranks dead-last on the team while his 13 total rushing yards are tied for 4th-most with backup QB Katin Houser. The difference? Thorne has 35 carries. Houser has 1.

Turnovers have been a massive concern for Thorne this season. In 5 of his 7 starts, he’s thrown at least 1 interception. In the same games, he’s finished twice with zero passing touchdowns. At least his 65.5% completion percentage is decent. The same maybe could be said about his 11:7 touchdown to interception ratio.

When Thorne is hot, he can be an asset who fires strikes. When he’s cold, he’s rigid and a nightmare to watch.

Running backs: D-

Walker set the bar high for transfers entering East Lansing. One season after being an afterthought for Wake Forest, the Doak Walker winner took the B1G by storm, leading the conference in rushing yards (1,636), attempts per game (21.3), and yards per game (136.3).

Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard saw Mel Tucker’s offense as a place to flourish. Instead, both have floundered through 7 games. Berger’s 367 yards and 4.5 yards per carry are manageable. So are his 5 touchdowns. Broussard, however, has fallen off compared to his time at Colorado. So far, he’s averaging 6.2 carries and only 27.3 yards per outing.

The biggest concern remains the consistency element. Since Week 3, Berger has rushed for just 140 yards and 1 touchdown. Broussard’s totaled 56 yards during the same span and hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 2.

Next up? One of the top run defenses in the nation in Michigan. After that? The No. 3 run defense in Illinois. Sometimes situations need to get worse before they can improve.

Wide receivers: A-

Michigan State’s receivers have made a splash when the ball is in their hands. And after last week’s thrilling double-overtime victory against Wisconsin, maybe they’ll be one of the nation’s better units?

Jayden Reed remains a constant go-to for Thorne as the team’s No. 1 weapon. He leads MSU in receptions (23) and yards per game (62.2). Close behind, however, is Keon Coleman, who might have just supplanted Reed as the team’s new No. 1 following his performance against Wisconsin. His 5 catches for 79 yards and 2 TDs were the difference in ending a 4-game losing streak.

Other receivers such as Trey Mosley and Germie Bernard have filled in well as the “last resort” options. And while they aren’t elite by any means, it’s clear they can be options when Reed and Coleman are double-covered or need a blow. The only major knock against the unit so far has been their inability to help in run-blocking. Other than that, they’ve been MSU’s best unit.

Tight ends: C

As receivers, the trio of Maliq Carr, Tyler Hunt and Daniel Barker have managed to put up quality numbers. Barker leads the way in receiving yards (130) and touchdowns (1), and he and Hunt both have 12 receptions. Carr offers the most in terms of explosive plays, averaging a whopping 20.5 yards on his 6 catches.

The biggest concern comes in run blocking. MSU ranks 116th nationally in rushing offense and 13th in the B1G. This isn’t to say the tight ends are the reason for minimal success on the ground, but they aren’t helping to move the chains. For as much as they offer in the receiving game, that same impact isn’t replicated on the ground.

Offensive line: D

It would be one thing if this was a young unit still learning how to adjust from high school to the college level. It isn’t. Of the starting 5, 4 are seniors. Right tackle Spencer Brown, a redshirt junior, might be the best of the bunch in large part due to his pass blocking. Then again, the bar isn’t high.

The Spartans have rushed for 50 yards are fewer on 3 occasions. Without a stable run game, MSU is forced to trust the passing attack, and the pass protection has been acceptable. But penalties have hindered growth in the trenches.

Defensive line: B-

Jacoby Windmon made a name for himself to begin the season when playing on the defensive line. Against Western Michigan in the season-opener, he registered 4 sacks. A week later, he added another 1.5. And in the past 4 weeks, Windmon has forced a pair of turnovers, one of them being a factor in the double-overtime win over Wisconsin last week.

Health has been an issue. Jeff Pietrowski has missed 3 games due to a knee injury. Khris Bogle hasn’t played since Week 4 against Minnesota. Jacob Slade, a preseason All-B1G selection, missed over a month and struggled in his return against the Badgers.

While other ends such as Maverick Hansen, Dashaun Mallory and Zion Young have played well, they don’t provide the same impact as Bogle and Pietrowski. At least Simeon Barrow and Derrick Harmon have excelled defending the run up the middle.

Linebackers: C

Last week, Windmon moved back to linebacker for the 1st time this season and played well off the edge. He logged 11 tackles, an interception and caused the fumble that led to the game-winning touchdown. And the expectation is for him to play from the standing edge moving forward.

As a unit, the front 7 ranks 11th in B1G play in rushing yards allowed (140.2) and yards per attempt (4.0). The biggest concern has been meeting running backs in the open field. Most of the tackles are past the line of scrimmage, meaning teams are still moving the ball and keeping drives alive with their legs. Cal Haladay leads in the team in tackles (58), but his 4 tackles for loss are 5.5 fewer than Windmon.

Basically, if tackles are being made, they’re just stopping touchdowns instead of ending drives. MSU has allowed over 100 rushing yards in all but 1 outing this season. At this point, so long as the linebackers aren’t letting running backs torch them in space, it is what it is.

Secondary: F

Wow. Yeah, it’s bad. It’s really bad and it isn’t getting any better, either.

Every team this season has had its way against the Spartans’ secondary. MSU has allowed over 200 yards in 5 appearances. It nearly was 6, but a late turnover on downs against Western Michigan in Week 1 keep the Mustangs at 193. The Spartans have also allowed at least 1 passing touchdown since Week 3 against Washington. They’ve allowed 3 or more scores through the air on 3 occasions as well.

Currently, MSU ranks 107th nationally in passing defense and 122nd in team pass efficiency defense. And while allowing 6 TDs to FBS top-scoring Ohio State might be considered understandable, allowing Minnesota to throw for over 250 yards isn’t.

Could the numbers improve against run-heavy teams like Michigan and Illinois up next? Perhaps. Should anyone be surprised if the Spartans still struggle? At this point, nope.

Coaching: D

It’s too soon to give up on Mel Tucker. His 60% win rate in the B1G is manageable given the fact that his first season was during a pandemic and his 2nd ended with a Peach Bowl victory in Atlanta. Tucker also is 2-0 against in-state rival Michigan, so he’s winning the “big game” when it counts.

The problem has not only been play-calling, but also clock management. And this isn’t a first-time head coach, either. Tucker struggled with the same issues during his lone season at Colorado, and it’s translated over to East Lansing. Like seriously, trying to kick a field goal after running a play instead of spiking the ball?

Are you trying to get your kicker killed?

Tucker’s $9.5 million salary places him top 10 of the highest-paid coaches. He’s 1 of 2 in that group (Hello, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher) without a winning record at the midway point. And while the talent has regressed, so has his coaching.

He’s not going anywhere, though. Tucker has to make some drastic renovations to the program before the start of the 2023 season. After that, boosters might not care how much the buyout would be.