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Recruits impressive early on

March 27, 2006

Three coaches and seven new recruits made their debuts Friday as the MSU football team opened the spring season with its first practice — a session head coach John L. Smith called the best first day he's had in his four years.

During the two-hour practice, receivers coach Blaine Bennett, quarterbacks coach Dan Enos and defensive line coach Derrick Jackson led MSU players through drills for the first time.

"Part of today was watching the new coaches and watching them coach, so that was exciting for me," Smith said. "They're moving all the time and coaching all the time. That's what you want to see as a head coach."

Joining the three coaches in making their first official appearance were seven recruits who enrolled a semester early in hopes of gaining an advantage on the field and with the team.

"Instead of coming in the summer, kind of behind on the plays and everything, coming in the spring gives me a great opportunity to learn the system and gel with the team," said junior safety Nehemiah Warrick, one of the seven early enrolled recruits.

Warrick is listed on the depth chart as the backup strong safety behind junior Mike Bell, but Smith has already seen an energy from Warrick to fight for the starting position.

"He brings an excitement to the defensive backfield," Smith said. "He's not a kid that's going to come in and say, 'OK, I want to be the second-team guy.'"

Two wide receiver recruits, freshman T.J. Williams and junior Devin Thomas, join Warrick for spring ball. Both stand at least 6-foot-2 and have the speed to stretch the field in MSU's aerial attack.

On the defensive side of the ball, junior defensive tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo came to MSU a semester early from Southwestern College in San Diego, Calif., to get a leg up on high school recruits who won't begin college football until the summer.

"You get in, learn the plays and get in the weight room, so that just gives you a bump on them," Nwagbuo said. "They're coming straight out of high school, you know — they were sitting on the couch eating pizza and playing Madden, so that gives me an advantage over all the guys coming in."

Rounding out the list of recruits in for spring practice are freshman linebackers Eric Gordon and Josh Rouse and freshman offensive lineman Jason Diehl, who cannot fully participate in spring practice because of a knee injury.

One player who is familiar with enrolling early to participate in spring practice is redshirt freshman quarterback Domenic Natale, who graduated high school a semester early to enroll at MSU for spring last year. The start of this year's practices kicks off a battle between Natale and sophomore Brian Hoyer for the position of backup to senior Drew Stanton.

In 2005, Hoyer took 23 snaps under center while Natale sat out with a redshirt. One will need to emerge and grab the backup quarterback job as security for Stanton.

"We're just going to come out here and push each other," Hoyer said of the competition between himself and Natale. "I feel like pushing each other is going to make you progress more."

One Spartan missing from practice was junior Sir Darean Adams, who is listed on the depth chart as a the backup free safety after recording 60 tackles and three interceptions as bandit last season.

Adams was away from the team attending the funeral of his cousin, Smith said.

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