Veteran linebacking core prepares to lead young Spartans
The youth movement is in full effect for the MSU football team.
After numerous players left the team following their 3-9 season, the Spartans are entering their Sept. 2 season opener against Bowling Green with a roster brimming with youthfulness, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
For a defense that lost several key players, the underclassmen on this year’s team are being tasked with helping to fill the void left by the departing players.
Although the defense is fairly young, the linebacker corps has plenty of experienced upperclassmen who will help mentor the younger and less experienced players.
“I feel like even just being a senior, you got to be able to help the young guys out,” redshirt senior Shane Jones said. “In regards to (linebackers), we got to help our young guys out. We got to make sure that they’re able to play and play fast. For me, it’s just being vocal, trying to help them out as much as I can, being there for them and that’s what a senior is supposed to be. They’re supposed to be there for the younger guys and help them out.”
There are five upperclassmen and nine underclassmen linebackers on this year’s roster. The depth at the position is a factor in Jones’ confidence in the unit entering the regular season.
“As a group, I feel really good about our guys,” Jones said. “We got a lot of depth. We got a lot of guys that can play really good football, too. It’s just about going out every day and competing and getting ready for the season and making sure we can stick to our gameplan and make sure we can make our reads and stuff like that. So getting into the season, we just got to make sure we bring our young guys along and make sure — even as older guys — that we continue to take the right steps going into the season.”
Similar to Jones, junior linebacker Andrew Dowell feels the linebackers are in a good position entering this season.
“We’re definitely in a good state,” he said. “We’re in a growing state. We have some established guys on our defense. We have some established guys on our offense and it’s just about improving the guy next to you. A Spartan’s greatest strength is the warrior standing next to him and so that’s the mindset we take each day at practice.”
For senior Chris Frey, the concept of having the younger guys step up at an earlier rate helps them develop quicker.
“I definitely (think it helps them develop quicker),” Frey said. “I feel like those guys, they come in and they see, ‘Oh, well, I didn’t know as much as that guy did, so I have to learn to get to that level.’ But I think it’s easier for them to get to that point because they not only have coaches that are coaching them, they have guys on the team that are pushing them to be better, they have guys on the team that they can come in and watch film with and learn from and that’s one of the things that we’ve really been working on this offseason.”
With just under a month until the Spartans’ kickoff against Bowling Green, Frey and the rest of the linebackers are eager to begin the season.
“We’re ready to go,” Frey said. “We’re chomping at the bit for this game and we’re ready to show everybody that (the) ‘Spartan Dawg’ mentality is back, that we’re not here to play any games, we’re here to win. And we’re going to come into every single game with that mentality and take it day by day and really push each other to do great things.”