Thursday, December 9, 2021

Safety gaining experience, improvemnt with gridder defense

November 1, 2000
MSU sophomore safety Thomas Wright tries to tackle Purdue tight end Tim Stratton at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind., last season. The Spartans were blown out by the Boilermakers 52-28. —

If it weren’t for the wrong jersey, Thomas Wright could’ve been a wide receiver rather than a safety right now.

On his first day of practice with MSU, Wright donned a white jersey that the offense wears instead of the defense’s green.

Despite being an all-region wide receiver in Florida at Lake Wales High School, Wright said he was intent on playing safety. However, he quickly realized he was giving the coaching staff the wrong impression as coaches greeted him by asking, “You were recruited as a wide receiver, weren’t you?”

Wright said he was confused until he saw the offense and defense split to separate parts of the field.

“I was like, ‘I don’t want to play wide receiver,’ so I went in and changed jerseys and played defense,” Wright said.

It’s a good thing Wright, a sophomore, made the change because MSU would be missing out on the talent he brings to the defense.

Through eight games, Wright is second on the team with 76 tackles, including 51 solo stops. The starting safety since the Sept. 16 Missouri game, Wright had a career-high 18 tackles against Illinois Saturday. He had a season total of 22 tackles his freshman year.

“Personally, I think I’m doing good but I could do better,” he said. “I was just expecting to come in and do my part for the team.”

Wright, a Lake Wales, Fla. native, said he was recruited out of high school by the likes of Florida and Miami, but chose MSU because of the opportunity to play safety.

“They wanted me to play different positions and I didn’t want to do that,” he said.

Wright played outside linebacker until his senior year of high school, when he switched to safety. Earning all-state honors that year, Wright said he quickly fell in love the position.

“I just sit right there and cover people and have free hits on running backs,” he said. “You just run free.”

Secondary coach Mark Dantonio said Wright has progressively shown he can play winning football.

“Thomas is an excellent tackler, has excellent ball skills, has good range, good size and good change of direction,” Dantonio said. “He has all the physical attributes that make up a good defensive back and now he’s getting the mental part of things. As far as knowing the system, he’s doing very well operating that.”

Senior cornerback Renaldo Hill said Wright improves every time he plays in a game.

“As he gets more game experience, his play picks up,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time until he emerges as a playmaker.

“He’s definitely a good guy to have in pass and run situations and he’s definitely a good guy to have in the back end.”

One of the highlights of Wright’s freshman year was MSU’s 37-34 victory over Florida in the Florida Citrus Bowl. Of the 62,011 people in attendance, Wright said a number of family and friends watched him record a career-high two sacks.

“That (the Citrus Bowl in Orlando) is 30 minutes from my house and all of my people came to the game,” he said. “It was like a homecoming for me.”

Although the 4-4 Spartans’ bowl chances are slim, Wright said he’d like to conclude the season close to home in Florida.

“I’d love to get back there,” Wright said.

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