The last time Spartan fans saw junior linebacker Ed Davis, he was creating havoc in the Ohio State backfield at the Big Ten Championship Game.
Davis made a name for himself last season in key third down plays, especially on the big stage, but is now set to step into a larger role this season.
Despite missing the entire spring with a shoulder injury, Davis is back in action with the task of replacing three-year starter Denicos Allen at the Sam, or outside linebacker, position this upcoming fall.
“I'm not a young guy anymore, I'm a veteran,” Davis said. “ I gotta show the younger guys how to come in and do the job just like Max (Bullough) and Denicos did for me.”
Davis is expected to fill one of the six vacant starting spots on the Spartan defense, and although he hasn’t started a single game in his career at MSU, he has seen plenty of action. In a primarily third down role, Davis recorded 17 tackles a year ago, including four sacks and four tackles for loss.
By recording 2.5 sacks against Michigan last year and wrestling Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller down in the backfield in the Big Ten Championship Game in 2013, Linebackers Coach Mike Tressel said Davis has proven he has big play ability.
However, Tressel is more focused on getting Davis to show consistency this preseason camp as he looks to step into an every-down role.
“We’ve all seen that he is a playmaker,” Tressel said. “He has made plays so the question we keep pushing on him is are you going to be a consistent player? Are you going to be an every down player? I know you can make plays, OK, but can you also do your job when it’s not your time to make a play."
He can make plays and just keep pushing through them, but hey it’s every down. Not just when you’re making plays, but every down and I think he’ll buy into that. That’s what he needs to do because he does have the tools and he does have the football instincts.”
Davis not only has the challenge of learning how to be an every down backer for the Spartans, but having to do so after missing all of spring practice. Davis had a shoulder injury that kept him off the field throughout all of spring practice, making the beginning of fall camp his first action since the Rose Bowl.
He said despite working out all summer to improve his speed and shoulder strength, the missed time in the spring has been an adjustment, especially on alignment and blitzing.
“It's been kinda hard, not hard, but just me getting back to things having not played since the Rose Bowl,” Davis said. “Getting my eyes right, getting my alignment right. … (Also) I think cutting, making moves when I blitz. I haven't been able to practice against anybody on a screen, so just learning to get all my wiggle back.”
Davis added that it’s been a big boost for his confidence knowing the coaches have faith in his ability by putting him No. 1 at the Sam position to start camp.
However, Davis isn’t sitting back just because he began preseason camp as the starter. With guys like sophomore Riley Bullough and senior Mylan Hicks at outside linebacker breathing down his neck, Davis is motivated to improve every day and create a legacy similar to the one Allen left behind.
“Be like Denicos is what a lot of coaches tell me,” Davis said. “Be like Denicos, but better.”
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