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Defensive depth a huge strength for Narduzzi, Spartans this season

August 29, 2012
Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi instructs a player during practice, Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 at the Duffy Daugherty Football Building. The Spartan football team is gearing up for the 2012 season, opening Aug. 31 with a home game against Boise State. Adam Toolin/The State News
Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi instructs a player during practice, Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 at the Duffy Daugherty Football Building. The Spartan football team is gearing up for the 2012 season, opening Aug. 31 with a home game against Boise State. Adam Toolin/The State News —
Photo by Adam Toolin | and Adam Toolin The State News

With just one day before the season opener, the No. 13 MSU football team’s highly hyped defense still has a few questions left to answer.

The predominant question throughout summer and fall camp for a defense that returns 27 of 32 players from a year ago is who will be replacing defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and safety Trenton Robinson, who were both selected in April’s NFL Draft.

Yet with the season inching closer, players fighting for the open safety spot haven’t been able to separate themselves from the pack.

Although some might find this concerning, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said the defense’s depth will help offset the uncertainty in the depth chart.

“We’ve got guys who, if he’s not getting it done, this other guy will, (and) if he’s not getting it done, we’ve got another guy to go to,” Narduzzi said. “There’s going to be a lot of competition and … when we get into the Big Ten season, we’ll find out who our starters are.”

Sophomore Kurtis Drummond and junior Jairus Jones appear to be leading the pack, but head coach Mark Dantonio said the competition could extend to four players, with freshman Demetrious Cox and redshirt freshman RJ Williamson still in the mix.

“I think it all depends on how they play as we move forward,” Dantonio said. “They’re all good. It’s a good situation to have.”

The two cornerbacks slated to play alongside the new safety — junior Darqueze Dennard and senior Johnny Adams — have said that through playing with all of the candidates in practice, it’s clear there’s talent throughout the depth chart.

Adams said the competition among the players has not only made the safeties better, but the defense as a whole.

“It’s nothing in particular where one guy’s pulling away from another guy. They’re doing what they need to do, and it’s competitive,” Adams said. “Everybody’s playing pretty neck and neck, and I don’t really know who’s going to be out there, but whoever’s going to be out there is going to do just fine.”

Dennard said with all four players playing at a high level, it won’t matter which one steps onto the field with the first-string defense Friday night.

“They’re all great athletes, they all know what to do and they’re smart, and I feel like, come Friday night and later on in the season, it really doesn’t matter which safety is back there because every one of them can make plays,” Dennard said.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be the coaches’ decision, and today we’re not afraid to put any one of the guys out there, and they’re all going to go out there Friday night and perform. It’s (still) too close to call.”

However, Narduzzi said the best decisions don’t come from the coaches, but from the players, and the first step toward reaching a conclusion might come this weekend.

“What I don’t want to do is have to make the decision of who’s going to sit on that depth chart. I want the kids to make that decision,” Narduzzi said.

“They should walk out of that locker room on Thursday night going, ‘That guy deserves it; he needs to start,’ and they don’t have to see it on a depth chart. The ones you have to see on the depth chart that we have to make — I don’t like making those chart moves. I like the kids making it. They decide who plays, not me. So they haven’t really decided yet. Game day’s going to have to decide it.”

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