Spartans thankful for positional depth
All eyes have been on the running back rotation for MSU, and rightfully so.
It’s easy to see how tailbacks LJ Scott, Gerald Holmes and Madre London impact the game, one way or another. Beat writers are constantly tweeting about who’s on the field. The Spartans have also run some sets with a pair of them on at the same time.
Holmes started against Western Michigan last week, a start head coach Mark Dantonio called “warranted.”
But it was Scott who led the way, bouncing back from his fumbling issues against Bowling Green. He had a pair of touchdowns — one receiving, one rushing — and totaled 86 yards rushing on 18 attempts.
“I think we have a system and a thought process to this, it’s not random,” Dantonio said on his running back rotation. “We’re trying to give everybody touches to allow them to prove themselves.”
However, just like any good football team, the Spartans rely on their depth. And that means plenty of players see the field. Dantonio estimated a total of 48 Spartans on the gridiron — split evenly between the offense and defense, 24 players each, excluding special teams.
It’s an easy assumption that Spartans on the two-deep get game action. After all, starters can’t go for the entire game, they’re not superhuman.
There hasn’t been much separation in talent level either, according to Dantonio. It’s partially the reason why the rotations are bound to continue among a number of positions, not just running back.
“(Rotating) keeps guys fresh and maybe as much as anything, it keeps everybody energized and focused on the task at hand throughout the week,” Dantonio said. “They bring emotion to the game and I think that’s good for everybody.”
The Spartans are used to a myriad of players coming in and out of the game on the fly. MSU runs the same sets in practice, and that’s smoothed out the rotation.
“We do the same thing in practice, we have the same rotations,” linebacker Joe Bachie said. “So we’re used to those guys, coming in, rolling in those deep rotations. So they’re staying fresh and it’s helping us.”
The true sophomore — who starts as the MIKE linebacker for Dantonio — has earned the lion’s share of tackles for the Spartan defense. He has 21 tackles on the season, the next closest teammate has 12, fellow linebacker Chris Frey.
Bachie’s part of a linebacking core that Dantonio said is a little more clear on who plays.
Elsewhere on the defense, though, there’s a bit more movement. At defensive end, there’s a three-deep rotation. Even at cornerback, Dantonio praised his quartet of Josiah Scott, Justin Layne, Josh Butler and Tyson Smith all as improved talents.
The Spartans now enter the bye week following a hot start to 2-0. Notre Dame looms not too far ahead, but first, the break.
“We’re playing a lot of people,” Dantonio said. “I think we have some special guys on the edge a little bit. We’ve done some different things, remains to be seen how we play the next opportunities we have.”