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Linebackers to be more aggressive

April 14, 2003

The MSU football team hopes a new defensive setup will result in more aggressive and productive linebackers this fall.

The new schemes allow them to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

And they're just chomping at the bit to get started.

"The way the defense is set up now, it allows us to be more free," junior linebacker Ronald Stanley said. "It's an aggressive style of defense that allows everyone to bring out their individual skills and showcase their abilities."

A new position has been added this season as well. The "bandit" will perform much of the same duties as a free safety.

Senior Monquiz Wedlow is set to play the position in the fall, and redshirt freshman Steve Kielp is No. 2 on the depth chart.

Stanley said the bandit can just run and make plays. He also doesn't have to cover as much, similar to the role of a rover.

Head coach John L. Smith said the group has made steady progress all spring, and the unit has shown signs it could perform well once the season starts.

"There's enough depth that we can bounce guys around, and they'll be able to back each other up," he said. "I think they're smart guys and that makes it easier for them to play."

Smith said senior Mike Labinjo, who weighs 270 pounds, needs to drop some weight to be effective.

Stanley is set to anchor the group after he posted 99 tackles last season - second on the team. Stanley also had nine tackles for loss and two sacks in 2002.

In the team's third scrimmage on Saturday in Spartan Stadium, Stanley recorded a team-high seven tackles, including one for a 5-yard loss.

Sophomore linebacker Seth Mitchell was nagged by a knee injury throughout last season - when he played in only six contests, posting 29 tackles - but has healed nicely and is set to make an impact in the fall.

"This year, he's just trying to play through it and put it out of his mind," Stanley said. "I can see he's maturing into a good football player, and he's gonna be a big-time player for us next year."

Mitchell also played well on Saturday, tallying four tackles, one of which was a 6-yard sack.

The players opposite the defense are feeling the affects of the new level of intensity being exhibited by the linebackers.

"We know the linebackers are out there," sophomore wide receiver Agim Shabaj said. "When we run those underneath routes, we're always looking to make sure we don't get popped.

"I got popped by them a couple of times and it doesn't feel good at all."


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