News and Notes from Michigan State Spartan Football…

Hondo S. Carpenter

News and Notes from Spartan Football…

The hardest thing for new players to get is the intensity in which the Spartans play. They go all out and hard.

Tony Lippett is getting a look as the holder for field goals. They are looking at Sadler and the QBs, but Lippett brings a level of athleticism that can amaze. He is so fast and so athletic. You may remember that he has played Dennard Robinson for the scout team the last two years and both years, the Spartan D has said facing him in practice is more difficult than actually playing against Shoelaces. He is a former HS QB and with his talent and trick plays, he could make a head coach who isn’t afraid to be a riverboat gambler like Dantonio giddy.

Long time readers, viewers, and listeners of Spartan Nation are not shocked to hear the name Macgarrett Kings getting a lot of attention. Dantonio said that he is, “Exciting to watch after he catches the football.” It is WAY too early to even guess how someone will do, but he will be in the mix. He is a playmaker.

Everyone knows that this freshman class is loaded at WR, perhaps the best in the nation for the 2012 recruiting class. So when a walk on (Tres Barksdale, Solon, OH) can step in and put the coaches and players on their toes that is a shock. Dantonio said about Tres, “(He has) made some very good plays catching the ball down the field, high pointing the ball.” Backup QB Connor Cook went out of his way to praise him. “One freshman that has really stood out to me is Tres Barksdale. I have only seen him drop one ball and he has caught a lot of them.”

Everyone wants answers about red shirts and two deep, but that is still a ways off. The Spartans will scrimmage twice before even deciding who is going to be where on the depth chart as far as red shirts. Right now set players are known. They are evenly giving out the reps just to watch.

Imagine how a young man like Lawrence Thomas feels. A stud. A star. One of the most highly decorated and recruited players in the nation as a MIKE LB for the 2011 class. He gets injured and now rests as the 3rd string DE. Dantonio said of him that he is, “Athletic enough to ply LB… right now have to try and figure out how he is going to get on the field at DE and in nickel situation.” Think about that one statement. “Have to figure out how he is going to get on the field,” and you know exactly that this isn’t the program Mark Dantonio inherited. DEPTH!

Shilique Calhoun is another young man whose game is directly impacted with the depth the Spartans now have. He is a great player. He is a young man that would have started at MSU in Mark Dantonio’s first three years. Now, he is a backup. His head coach raved about his talent saying, “He is active against the run…he closes… he is going to play a lot”

I asked Calhoun about his role and the humble young man said, “I just want to play. This is my team and when I am called upon I just want to make plays. I am really excited to be a part of this defense and can’t wait to see what we can do and accomplish.”

Another name that Spartan Nation readers, viewers, and listeners are not shocked to hear about coming into this grind of summer is Demetrious Cox. You have heard me talk so much about him, but now that he is here on campus so is Dantonio. He said, “He’s got skills! Very attentive. Great ball skills.”  As we first reported months ago, Dantonio confirmed that he is “Definitely” in the mix to be one of those rare Dantonio freshman players.

He went on to point out of his young star Cox that he likes his, “Focus, level of play…adjustments…moving…talking.” Adding, “Understands conceptually what we are doing a little bit more than a normal freshman.”                                                                           

I talked with Cox and asked him about how he feels he is performing. “I am just trying to learn as much as I can. I feel like I am doing good, just giving extra effort.” He put some licks in on his teammates in the first day of pads, but the humble youngster refused to tell me who he lit up. 

I have called Tyler O’Connor the best high school QB I ever saw. Not that he is on campus he has done NOTHING to refute that. Even with only five practices under his belt, Dantonio who is not one to waste praise has used words like, “Poised, focused, command in the huddle,” to describe his play. I can’t recall ever seeing a freshman QB who has those attributes this early. He will be VERY special.

Deciding if a guy redshirts now, as we reported earlier in this article, is not an easy task especially looking at some players. There are guys (OL) that you know are going to get it. Others may need that extra year with Ken Mannie, in fact most do. There are others that just look the part from day one. Ideally, Dantonio would red shirt every player every year. The list of who may play early, and this is really early and nothing is set in stone are the above mentioned Demetrious Cox, Riley Bullough, and Jamal Lyles. All three of them are ready NOW.

Connor Cook has grown both physically and mentally, bigger. Dantonio said, “More established, throws the ball great moving very well.” Last year it was a whirlwind for him. Now don’t take that as a criticism because it is for 99% of freshman QBs. Then he spent the entire season running the opposing teams offense for the scout team. Now that he had a highly successful spring, he truly looks comfortable in his own skin and relaxed.

I talked with him yesterday and about facing this two deep Connor took it in an entirely different direction that will excite the Spartan Nation.  “Our third string; you can’t not talk about them. They look awesome. This is a great recruiting class.”

A guest that got more email than any other recruit last year was Jamal Lyles. He is a complete gentleman and a very special young man. A Tasmanian devil on the field, Lyles told Spartan Nation he wants to study nursing and become a nurse because, “I have seen so much hurt in my life, I want to spend it comforting people.” 

This young man is an inflictor of pain on the field, and listen to how Dantonio describes him. “Jamal Lyles extremely quick in pads, disruptive, power, shock.”

Nick Tompkins is another great recruit for the 2012 class. With three quality RBs ahead of him, hopefully MSU can get and keep a redshirt on him. Dantonio gives us a glimpse at the star from Georgia when he describes his play as, “Quick, great burst, accelerates.” Nice things to hear about a true freshman that will push those ahead of him. Riley Bullough told me about Tompkins, “That kid can play. He is so fast and quick. He is amazing.”

Riley Bullough has a super relationship with Max. They are truly a testament to being raised right. Their relationship is remarkable. When most freshmen struggle with plays and their body and learning verbiage, not only does Riley have a leg up because of his pedigree and genes, but because of that relationship with Max. He explained it to me like this, “I spent so much time at his apartment, learning things, he was great to me in just teaching and being around him.” How excited is Dantonio to have him? He said of Riley, “(He)will be outstanding for us.”

Bennie Fowler is 100%. I must confess how much I respect and like Fowler. He is just a class act young man and a great player. If he can stay healthy, he will play the Keshawn Martin role very effectively. He also, prior to his injury, was a significantly better pass catcher than KMart.

Dantonio is really harping on his team about not being comfortable, about getting the idea that there is unfinished business. He is incessantly reminding them that it is, “Easy to lead when things are going well.” I am not concerned about this team.

Micajah Reynolds is a name often overlooked by some in the fan base. He shouldn’t be. He is a redshirt junior and at 6’5” and over 320# he is a big young man and talented. Early in his career he battled a sleeping disorder he didn’t even know he had. Then he was moved like a human piñata from offensive line to defensive line back and forth because of the team needs. He is settled at DT and more importantly inside himself. He is on a mission. He will play and Dantonio praised him by saying “He has had a nice camp.” The assistant coaches are the ones talking to him. So many times people hold their breath waiting for the head coach to speak. With 105 players and with them being broken into small groups he can’t see everything or close to it. In a close tight knit group like this staff with a head coach that trusts them, listening to assistants is the smart thing. Dantonio does and they are talking about the young man called, "Caj.”

Anthony Rashad White according to Dantonio has been, “Very very solid, disruptive.” White told me recently, “I think this is my time. I need to lead. I think guys learn more by watching how us older players practice and play than what we say.” He isn’t loud. He doesn’t command attention, but White does things the right way. He will have a big year.

With two freshman TEs that are as talented as Josiah Price and Evan “BULLDOZER” Jones, there are a lot of people watching closely. The Spartans are very young at TE and love to run two and three sets. Dantonio explained what the key is going to be to get on the field when he talked about how they run. “A lot of formations, concepts, (they) run well, block well, can they block the edge.” If Jones, Price, or any of the young TEs want reps in a game that edge block, it is their best friend.

Just remember this name: Jack Allen! I said he could be the best player when all is said in done for the 2011 class and stand by that. Dantonio red shirts all freshmen OL and he traveled to every game and they almost played him. Dantonio loves this kid and said, “I feel like he is a starter for us.” He hasn’t cracked the starting unit yet, but he will play and play a lot. I will make this prediction. If he gets significant reps, he won’t give up that spot once he gets it.

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