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Spring in the air means time for football

John L. tinkering with depth chart as players battle for starting positions come fall season

March 24, 2006
MSU head coach John L. Smith shows some emotion after his team falls behind to Northwestern in the second quarter of the game on Oct. 22 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans went on to loose 49-14.

Spring is about change and that is what the MSU football team will be undergoing as it enters spring practice today.

A number of changes grace the depth chart, led by junior Sir Darean Adams moving from bandit to backup free safety and junior Cole Corey moving into the starting bandit position.

"I'm really excited about the competition we're going to have at most of the positions," MSU head coach John L. Smith said. "Of course, there's going to be some first-team spots available, and people are going to be fighting for those spots."

The Spartans had an up-and-down 2005 season. They started 4-0, then had a three-game winless streak and finished 5-6 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten.

Smith, who's entering his fourth season as head coach, said he's most impressed with what the team has accomplished in the weight room, and now the challenge is getting those results to translate to the playing field.

Offense

Senior Drew Stanton is firmly entrenched at quarterback, but the group of men protecting him — the offensive line — are up in the air after losing three starters.

Junior Mike Gyetvai will move from right tackle to left tackle, and junior John Masters will replace Chris Morris at center and sophomore Roland Martin takes over at right guard. Sophomore Jesse Miller will move in at right tackle.

"I think they will be able to gel because of the job coach (Jeff) Stoutland does with those guys," Stanton said. "It's just a matter of time before they all get on the same level."

Running back will be a toss up between junior Jehuu Caulcrick, sophomore Javon Ringer and redshirt freshman A.J. Jimmerson. Ringer earned most of the carries last season as a true freshman.

"Last year, it was a learning experience," Ringer said. "This year, now that I'm comfortable with the plays and playing at this level, I should do a lot better."

Seniors Matt Trannon and Jerramy Scott and junior Terry Love are expected to start at wide receiver.

Defense

The defensive line will be overhauled, with senior Clifton Ryan the only returning starter. Sophomores Brandon Long and Justin Kershaw and senior David Stanton are projected to start.

"Brandon Long has great quickness, great explosion," Smith said.

Senior David Herron Jr. and junior Kaleb Thornhill will join Corey in the linebacking corps.

The defensive backfield also will be overhauled, with sophomore Ross Weaver projected as the starter at one cornerback spot while senior Greg Cooper, the starting free safety last season, will compete with incumbent Demond Williams for the other spot.

"Don't just take that at face value that that's where he's going to be," Smith said of Cooper. "Again, this is an attempt to get your best guys on the field. We're going to take a look. He's got feet, he's got speed, he's played and he's got some confidence, so moving him is probably easier than moving somebody else."

Sophomore Otis Wiley is projected to take over at free safety, and junior Mike Bell is listed as the starter at strong safety. Adams will back up Wiley.

"Michael Bell seems to be real hungry this year," Ryan said. "I'm looking forward to Mike Bell doing some good things. He's maturing and he looks a whole lot quicker."

Special teams

It still remains to be seen if senior John Goss will return to the team. Goss' eligibility clock was altered because of a switch in his scholarship status sometime during his tenure at MSU.

"We're not sure on John yet," Smith said. "We have to apply for his year back. We're going to let him compete, let him work, assuming he gets that year back, but it hasn't happened yet."

Sophomore Matt Haughey remains listed as the starter, and men's soccer player Greg Doster is listed as the third option.

Senior Brandon Fields will continue to handle the punting duties while Todd Boleski will continue to kick off.

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