News and Notes From Michigan State Football Part 1....

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News and Notes from Spartan Football…

If you had to name one player who has made the biggest move this camp there is NO DOUBT that player is S Jairus Jones. He is a red shirt Junior, been in the program four years, and frankly has had a snake bitten and disappointing career prior to this camp for mostly reasons beyond his control. Fully healthy, the young man from Tampa, Florida, is set for a big campaign.

As deep as the Spartans are, it is only made clearer with the continued emergence of more and more players.

Future NFL S Isaiah Lewis is as rock solid as anyone on this team. The battle for that other safety spot is the most competitive on the roster. A week from Monday we will get the depth chart for the first game and I can’t wait to see it.

Jones has made six interceptions this camp and is a playmaker. Dantonio loves that in Lewis and Jones has shown flashes of it. Even Narduzzi can’t stop bragging about his ability to run and his high football IQ.

The bad news for Jones, Kurtis Drummond, and R.J. Williamson is that true freshman S Demetrious Cox has all the tools. I will be shocked, but pleasantly pleased, if he isn’t the starter before the end of the year. He may be a true freshman in age, but in stature he is a rare find. This future pro is the real deal and why any conversation with coaches or players, his name constantly comes up.

You have heard me talk about depth being the key ingredient with this team since the moment last year ended with the Outback Bowl. MSU DC Pat Narduzzi expressed it perfectly recently reflecting on how things used to be by saying, “If a guy goes down…yuck…stop practice…let’s come back tomorrow and see if that guys back.”

The biggest learning curve for young people is the line between being injured and hurt. It is impossible to play the game of football at this level and, if you are doing

it right, not get hurt. Learning to play hurt is a struggle many players have. They have to be tough and fight through.

Javon Ringer once told me, “I hurt every single day. After the season, during the season, but it’s all good. Nothing can keep me off the field.”

The Spartans have been very fortunate (if there are any additional injuries from the scrimmage those are not public) with injuries this year. Even Narduzzi recently

admitted this saying, “We have had that many (guys in yellow jerseys acknowledging injury) but I wish we had none.”

Narduzzi in his usual style reflected on when he was a player and said, “If someone gave me a yellow jersey I would take it off.”

Now before the politically correct idiots who want to destroy this glorious game take him out of context, he acknowledged that, “Sometimes you don’t want to take it off,” referring to the yellow jersey. I know of one NFL GM who told me when he cut a player, “He is a pro bowl player, but will never make it because he is always hurt, but never injured and he has no toughness.” That is the big lesson players have to learn.

Players come into college with no idea what their bodies, talent, and mind can do. When the present staff showed up, they didn’t have the depth they do today. Now, these guys acknowledge that they have to be out there fighting every day and every rep. This staff is fond of telling players, “You’re not staying the same. You are either getting better or worse and if you’re sitting on the sideline you’re getting worse.”

I heard one assistant tell his group recently, “If you guys want to have any hope of getting to the NFL and the next level you better learn to keep playing and not missing reps or a practice because something hurts. At the next level they just cut you and say, next.” I asked Niko Palazeti about that and he told me, “We hear that every day.”

One thing that Mark Dantonio has done really well is recruit competitors. Tough guys. Benny McGowan is one of many in this 2012 class that exemplify that. Last year Jack Allen could have played and played at a high level for the Spartans. He was a true freshman and Dantonio would rather cut his own leg off than play a true freshman OL. We see now as he is a starter at LT how much respect he has earned. McGowan has the same. He is a real deal star. He could play this year and would in many programs. They don’t need him this year, but they will get him for the next four and that is great news. I am singling him out and that isn’t fair,

but he is one of MANY from this 2012 class.

Taiwan Jones played so well last camp that he was the only scholarship member of the original 2011 class to play as a true freshman. He was outplayed this spring

by fellow 2011 class member Darien Harris. He has once again outplayed Harris in fall camp. That isn’t a downer on Harris who has played hard, but it has brought Jones, who is caught in a crowded two and three deep LB group, to the front.

There has been talk amongst the defensive staff and Dantonio that they could utilize Taiwan in certain situations from the down position as a DE. When pressed about whether or not that is still an option Narduzzi made a great point about how far the young man has come around. He said, “We are going to get our best guys in on third down.” He went on to add that Taiwan has been playing so well up as a LB that you don’t have to, “Force the issue to stay at LB, because if he’s figuring it out at LB you don’t have to put him down.”

Red shirt freshman LB Ed Davis’s coordinator Pat Narduzzi is not one to give praise. If you read the feature article we did on him in a past Spartan Nation Magazine

you know he gets that from his father who was also a highly successful coach. So when he said of Ed, “Ed Davis has had a great camp for us. He’s physical, great blitzer off the edge, slasher. (He’s been) the biggest strides out of any player.”

Narduzzi could hardly contain his excitement when talking of Davis and his physicality. “He will pop ya, a lot like Greg Jones kinda.”

Young players don’t like it, but when they are going head to head with older players for playing time, it is their job to earn. If they are merely tied, the player with game reps gets the job. A tie will go to a younger play if neither has played, but they have to earn it. That is why a roster like the Spartans have

is such a great environment for young players.

If you go to a school that isn’t deep they don’t hit and compete like the Spartans can and do now every day. When this staff arrived they only dreamed of the type of practices they have today.

At the Big Ten media days in Chicago Mark Dantonio made this comment to the media. “I think the story of this camp that a lot of you are missing is Tyler Hoover.” I

couldn’t agree more. I like him personally and as a player, but let me tell you this. When Hoover plays with some spunk and attitude he is unstoppable. That is no joke. He is a gentle young man off the field and one of the biggest hearted young people you will ever meet. Somehow, someway he has to learn his “Unhappy

Place” (Thank you Happy Gilmore) and if he can play from that place he could play himself into the NFL.

The Spartans are so deep and have so many great players that they are literally like a kid in the candy factory looking at their roster. Think of all the quality people

that can play only at DE:Â William Gholston, Marcus Rush, Denzel Drone, Taiwan Jones, Jeremy Gainer, Lawrence Thomas, Shilique Calhoun, Joel Heath!

All of those young men are good players.

A lot of teams have bodies, MSU has depth. Think about that Spartan Nation.

Mark Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi get the opportunity to sit up in the office complex high above the floor of the Duffy and dream of ways like mad scientists to punish people this year. Narduzzi admitted as much saying, “We are going to find a way to get our best players out there on money down. That’s what we call third down.” YIKES!

I mentioned in a previous article that Pat Narduzzi bragged on Micajah Reynolds last year at the bowl game hoping Georgia would read it and have to add some extra game planning for a guy he was not going to use. In fact, Narduzzi admitted the truth about what he was really feeling at the Outback Bowl saying, “I was ready

to ship him back to the offense.”

Reynolds had struggled to find a home on the DL/OL line because of having to be moved back and forth because of team needs. What others don’t know is that he also fought a sleeping disorder. He didn’t know he had it, but the constantly being tired wasn’t because this gentle giant was lazy, it was because he had a medical condition. They found it and addressed it. He told me prior to camp, “I am more ready than I have ever been. Write it down. I am ready to go off.” He was right and is not only playing, but dominating.

Narduzzi admits that Reynolds has played himself into the starting rotation at DT and has, “Really had a great camp.” The emergence of Reynolds could be one of the best feel good stories of this camp.

After Saturday’s most important scrimmage of camp, the season now changes. A depth chart begins to emerge, some players who had hoped to make the two deep now move over to scout team while others see the reward of their effort.

Dantonio addressed as much in a press release sent out from MSU football after the scrimmage saying, “We’re still in camp mode next week, so we’ll focus on the task at hand while looking forward a little. Some guys need to transition into becoming scout team players while understanding their role is just as important as being a first- or second-team guy. We also need to expose our first-year players to what the game-week practices look like, so they can become acclimated. It’s also

important that our players get their legs back underneath them, so we’ll begin to tail things off toward the end of the week.”

I asked Narduzzi about the importance of that most important scrimmage from yesterday and he said, “It sure is.” It’s a final statement because now, “Really

focus on Boise.”

I would personally love to see every player red shirt. Certainly if they can be a major contributor you use them, but to me with the depth this squad has it

would be critical in my opinion that they be big contributors. Riley Bullough is a young man that has such an upside, that if he won’t crack the two deep at LB, I would hate to see him lose a red shirt just for special teams like Taiwan Jones did last year.

His play has been impressive. Narduzzi said of his play that he is “Athletic, makes plays,” most of all doesn’t look “Awkward” out there trying to play. Another Bullough is of course his brother Max. He is the, “All around leader, the whole boat.” Max is not only one of the best players in the nation, but he brings so much more to the table. He practices every day like it is the national championship game. His energy and intensity shows younger players what is expected and he leads from a position of respect. I will be STUNNED if he isn’t voted a captain on Thursday. In fact, you can write it down that it is almost a certainty he will be one.

We started this article with a discussion of depth. We end it with that. Narduzzi had to act as if he doesn’t agree with the assertion, but remember he also told us how great Micajah looked in the bowl game.  He said of all the talk about his team’s depth, “We will find out how deep we are. They’re not good until they have proven it on the field.”

Lastly, I want to talk about long snapper Taybor Pepper. He has FAR exceeded their hopes, but the youngster has to gain weight. A lot of it. Like thirty or forty pounds. He reminds me a lot of former LB Jon Misch. Pepper is well liked by his teammates and is ready to go. Now get the kids a plate full of carbs and

when he isn’t snapping a football just make him eat, eat, and eat some more. I would hate to have his grocery bill, but he has to get big quick.