Pat Narduzzi and his early defensive impressions
Michigan State's spring game was over a week ago, and it is the last good indicator of where most of the players are in terms of grasping their respective systems and making one last good impression before the fall season begins.
But for defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, the fun of gauging talent and evaluating his defense never really stops. Actually, it's just beginning.
â€œThe biggest thing is that we come out of that scrimmage healthy and we did," said Narduzzi, who has been the Spartans' defensive coordinator since Mark Dantonio came to town. "We had some guys on offense make some great plays today, whether itâ€™s Dion Sims or Keith Nichol. â€¦ Kirk Cousins played a tremendous game, and the defense made some stops when we needed to.â€
His words about nobody being injured is important, because even as the team possesses a larger amount of depth when compared to past seasons, a multitude of players are already ailing and a freak injury is something nobody wants to suffer through â€” even if the summer is around the corner.
It is also means a lot for a defensive unit that has undergone some transition in terms of testing out younger players and trying to fill voids left by outstanding seniors, most notably Greg Jones, Eric Gordon and Chris L. Rucker. But for Narduzzi, being able to point out three individuals who have excelled is almost as difficult as having to choose his favorite child at home.
â€œI really canâ€™t (pick only three guys who have impressed me)," Narduzzi said. "Thereâ€™s been 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 (players). It takes 11 and if weâ€™ve only got three guys, we stink. It takes 11 and if youâ€™ve only got 10 you lose. Just pull out the green roster, the white roster, thereâ€™s a lot of great players on there and we just gotta continue to coach them up.â€
Whether Narduzzi is saying this not to boost anyone's confidence or if he flat out means it is anybody's interpretation. He was asked about certain players and position battles and gave some insight as to what has gone in since spring camp started and concluded.
He said good things about "big dudes" William Gholston and Tyler Hoover, who are two players who are expected to take their games to the next level and help carry the defense on the edges.
He talked about Anthony Rashad White and the possible impact he can have on the defensive line, too.
â€œRashadâ€™s had a great spring for us,â€ Narduzzi said. â€œHeâ€™s played real well and I think you guys will be happy when you see it next fall when him and (Jerel) Worthy and (Kevin) Pickelman line up next to each other at the same time. Theyâ€™re gonna be three special guys in there.â€
Narduzzi was also inquired about Tony Lippett and whether the freak athlete can really be a force on both sides of the ball. Lippett, of course, has been largely talked about as being a dual-threat performer on both offense and defense, having a knack for getting the ball as a wide receiver and attacking it in the defensive secondary.
The only problem is that Lippett has not had enough time to showcase his potential skills with the defensive unit.
â€œHeâ€™s raw, you can see heâ€™s an exceptional athlete, heâ€™ll be able to do whatever he wants to do if he puts his mind to it and coach Dantonioâ€™s gotta put him where he needs to be,â€ Narduzzi said. â€œIf you give me Tony Lippett for three plays a week, weâ€™ll make the best of those three plays. If (Dantonio) gives him to us for three days thatâ€™d be great.
â€œHeâ€™s a great athlete and can do a lot of different things, and Iâ€™ll go back and watch the tape to see how far heâ€™s come with his fundamentals because itâ€™s gonna come back to fundamentals.â€
Fundamentals are the first step to carry along a healthy mix of youngsters and veterans on Narduzziâ€™s defensive unit.