Answering Your Michigan State Football Emails and Questions Part Two!

Hondo S. Carpenter

Answering your Michigan State Football Questions…


Would you provide some information about the special designations for positions—“Star,” etc. and why those names were chosen? Bill Kerans

SAM is a player that can play in short areas, such as the flat area from the outside shoulder of the TE to the sideline, and out 10-15 yards. They will often get “sent” on blitzes more than the STAR and will usually get more sacks, but fewer interceptions because they blitz more in the Spartan scheme than they practice pass coverage. They watch with great attention the C gap. That is the gap between the T and TE.  The SAM will usually line up on the TE side. When the run comes at him, he watches the C gap and when the run is away from him he takes the A gap (space between the C and G) protecting against the cutback of the run.Â


STAR is the name the Spartans use for their “Speed” backer who can play in space. That is why Darien Harris was recruited specifically for this spot. He is lightning quick and plays with amazing field awareness. They often will have the best speed of the three LBs in the 4-3 and you will see them usually lined up on the wider side of the field. The STAR is strong in run support, but has great versatility. They will line up on the side without the TE and will do more pass coverage often taking the 2nd or 3rd WR outside the TE. With more of an eye on passing, that is why they often have fewer sacks. Chris Norman is a STAR and you notice Denicos had significantly more sacks. Narduzzi loves to send the STAR, but often will use the WILL. While the team blitzes the STAR is protecting for a hot read (player preselected by the QB to throw to quick in case of a blitz) or a RB.


 MIKE is another name for a middle LB. He is the QB of the defense. He calls the plays, and calls out the adjustments prior to the snap as the offense moves in motion and moves around. He can be a head smashing blitzer, a dominant run-stopper, and most of all able to drop back and cover
the middle. He requires great lateral movement as they often play sideline to sideline, but must have tremendous vision. Not as much speed is needed because he rests in the middle where a majority of the plays get going from. He must have almost gymnast ability, because he has to keep his eyes up to read the play, while grown gigantic men are diving at his feet and legs. He must be fearless. Similar to the QB in another way is that the MIKE is the only person on his side of the ball the other team is targeting on every play. When you see the C lineup and point, they are letting their team know where the MIKE is. The MIKE is essentially the cleanup man. If a lead blocker is coming toward either of the other OLB, their assignment is to take on the lead blocker and “spill” the runner to the MIKE.


I know that is kind of bookish, but I tried to make it as simple as possible.

Hey Hondo, the Middle Linebacker position, and simply put -who is it after Max - and hopefully that won't matter for the next two seasons but at that time there will be a lot of lost players from the LB ranks. Kulkman

Great question and you have ZERO reason to fear. Max very well could go pro after the year. Not saying he will, but he has the scouts’ attention. We have a super stud freshman in Jamal Lyles who is a true freshman this year. Pat Narduzzi has mentioned to me before that Taiwan Jones or Ed Davis from last year’s freshmen class could get a look and we already have two studs committed for 2013 with the skills in Jon Reschke & Shane Jones who both have top tier talent. Reschke is more the pure MLB, but Jones certainly has the ability. I can tell you this. At NO position on this team is MSU more stacked for the future than all three LB spots. The Spartan Nation is in good shape brother and you mentioned Hammock is back next year.  All of those players are in the mix IF Bullough doesn’t come back.


Hondo, I have always routed for Hank Conway and hoping for him to make an impact. At 330# he is a monster of a man. First, do you see him being a #1 next year? Second, with his injury do you (can he) expect him to petition for the 6th year? Ray

He certainly could petition and I am sure that is a viable option. Do I see him being a #1 is a tough question and here is why. After a major injury it is very difficult for players to play with the same reckless abandon as before. Not because they aren’t healed, but because of the mental hurdle. Conway was supposed to be a starter for this team when he was recruited. He is one of my favorite people and is a superior person. Can he be a #1? Yes.
Will he? That remains to be seen. When players suffer a major injury doctors often say the question of getting back to where they were before is
more mental than physical. Either way I am rooting for him.

Hondo, you spoke in last weeks column when someone asked about cosmetic improvements on the stadium. Spekaing of on-campus cosmetic "improvements", has anyone seen a more inappropriate structure than the new Broad Art Museum? "I don't know much about art, but . . . " Rick

I agree, it is ugly and doesn’t fit on campus. It also was a source of great conflict among the higher ups in the MSU administration that didn’t like how it was handled from beginning until now. Like it or not, it is there, so we move on to what we can control.


The wide receiver concerns for this season. I see depth and year over year improvements at all positions so it’s not like this staff can’t recruit but if we have just 1 experienced-- "go to" receiver to start off the season, Michigan State is a legit National Championship contender. Knowing that players get injured, transfer and de-commit, etc. what happened (or didn't happen) over the past few years that has us in the position to have no leadership and experience at wide receiver coming into the 2012/13 season? Thanks, Ryan

Well, Bennie Fowler’s injury really hurt from having the experience back. As far as other players, we have Mumphery and Lippett back. Neither brings back a vast amount of experience, but in this situational and certainly not negligence. B.J. Cunningham, Keith Nichol, and Keshawn Martin took so many of the reps along with two great TEs. Mumphery was originally slotted to get a lot of reps last year when recruited, and Keith Nichol wasn’t looked as a great WR which he became.


Hey Hondo, You have talked a lot about the development of leadership being important to this year's team. My sense from you is that you like the leadership from Fou and McDonald on this strong 2012 OL and taking over from Foreman has been a fairly smooth transition. But my question is who do you see becoming more of a vocal leader
throughout the year to kind of take over when those two graduate in the spring?  Is Jackson most likely due to his position? Treadwell due to his pedigree as a coach's son? Or France due to his won't-be-denied attitude? Thanks. J Adam Briggs

Super question Adam and no easy answer.  If you would has asked most of the people who cover MSU basketball and are around it all the time no one saw Day-Day becoming what he turned out to be. Leadership is funny. I think Travis Jackson, Dan France, and Blake Treadwell could, but that remains to be seen who grows into it. Chris McDonald grew into that last year. Another name is Jack Allen who will push everyone for playing time. If I had to pick a most likely of those you mentioned it would be Travis.


There you go everyone. Another week of your MSU Football Q and A in the books. Make sure to send in your questions for next week. Simply email
them to and put weekly Q and AFootball in the subject line.

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