Today’s scrimmage (postponed until today due to Saturday’s inclement weather) will go a long way in determining many starting positions for the Michigan State football team in 2011.  All over the field there are some fierce battles and Mark Dantonio puts major value on how young men play in these pressure situations.

 

Dan France having locked up the LT spot is truly an amazing story.  He started playing the spot during the bowl practices.  He followed up a strong spring showing with good summer workouts building on his experience.  Many schools recruited him to play on the OL.  He had all the tools physically and mentally to play the position coming out of high school.   The toughest thing to evaluate when recruiting a football prospect is his desire to get better.  France has shown that he has the passion and toughness to be a starting left tackle in the Big Ten.

 

Currently Steve Gardiner is your starting SAM linebacker.  He is a great example of the depth on this football team.  Ideally, you want to redshirt every incoming freshman.  It allows a young man a chance to grow and mature physically and mentally.  When Gardiner came to MSU, Dantonio cited A.J. Hawk (former OSU and current Green Bay Packer LB ) as the player he most reminded him of.  After fighting injury, Gardiner is finally healthy and he just makes plays.  He understands the game, is technically sound, and does his job.  Gardiner has a lot of talented young men fighting him for that job, but he won’t go away easily.

 

FB Todd Anderson is one of the most interesting stories on this 2011 Spartan team.  He recently said he would, “Do anything to make it to Pasadena” (the location of the Rose Bowl), and he has shown it in his leadership as well as the weight room and on the field.

 

It was great on Friday to see S Jairus Jones walking through the Skandalaris Center.  You never know with an Achilles how someone will recover.  He was in line to make a lot of noise prior to his injury, but the young man sure has worked hard battling back.

 

Jerel Worthy and Anthony Rashad White are getting a lot of publicity and they should.  One name that isn’t getting enough is Kevin Pickelman.  He has been a monster in practice.  It is hard to believe that he is a fifth year senior already.  As much as I expect a great season from Worthy and White I feel just as strongly about Big Pick.

 

During bowl game practice last year it raised some eyebrows and criticism when I stated that the middle linebacker position this year would likely be better.  Well, Coach Narduzzi and the team can’t stop talking about young Max Bullough.  In fact, some have called them giddy.  Greg Jones was a star on and off the field, but Bullough is a true MLB (Jones was an OLB/DE hybrid) and is a workout/film/practice rat.  I meant that as a compliment.  He just loves the game and works at it everyday.  His 2011 performance will make me look smarter than I am.  Thanks Max!

 

Edwin ROCK Baker has earned his star status.  He is a super back, so are Larry Caper and LeVeon Bell and this unit sure intrigues me.  When you are dealing with athletes at this level, it isn’t hard to find egos.  The amazing thing is that those three young men are selfless.  Don’t get me wrong, all three want to compete and play, but are also the biggest fan of the other two.  If 2011 goes down as a special season, one not need look far to find examples of why.  This RB group is leading the way on and off the field.

 

Benny Fowler, has been in the shadow of Keshawn KMART Martin since his arrival.  After a couple of breakout games last season, it appears that it is Benny’s time.  The best compliment you can give the modest Fowler is that he just makes plays.  There are so many weapons on this MSU team that you can’t really talk about everyone.  That includes Fowler whose penchant for making plays sets him apart as a special young man and player.  No doubt he will electrify the Spartan Nation several times this season.

 

Lastly, let’s talk about Nick Hill.  You want to talk about victims of depth who just make plays, than you can’t have that conversation without mentioning Hill.  His teammates on both offense and defense praise his abilities.  The MSU coaches have taken notice as well.  The biggest problem for this team is that they only play the game with one ball.   The MSU staff is going to have to to manufacture ways to get him the ball.  When they do, keep an eye on #20 because he can do amazing things with the football in his hands.