The defense ended up dominating the offense, 42-26 in the Spring Game, but what stood out was the depth of an inexperienced second and third team defense against the first and second team offense.
This year's goal: to have 22 starters on the defensive side, and the Spartans are definitely heading in that direction.
“We tried to see some young guys play,” senior linebacker Joe Bachie said. “When our young guys were out there, we got some turnovers, it’s a great thing to see.”
The green team did rotate frequently, allowing the younger, inexperienced players to get some reps in, something that defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said was the goal of spring ball this year.
Some of the upperclassmen in that second and third group have taken advantage of the spring to show their skill at their positions.
Senior linebacker Tyriq Thompson has gained the confidence of both himself and his teammates as a linebacker and will most likely be a starter in the fall.
“He’s our starter,” Bachie said about Thompson in the linebacker position. “Everyone knows that.”
Thompson had several tackles against starters including junior wide receiver Cody White.
Junior cornerback Dominique Long had an impressive day as well. Long had several tackles and pass break-ups that resulted in several turnovers for the offense.
Thompson was impressed by the versatility of the underclassmen.
“I was impressed with a lot of the young guys just being able to play fast, have fun and fly around. A lot of young guys were making plays, it’s just fun to see.”
Sophomore defensive back Emmanuel Flowers was also in on the action, getting several tackles against the first team offense.
Freshman defensive end Zach Slade surprised many with his fourth quarter pick off of a Rocky Lombardi pass.
“I thought I had a slow start, but as I kept going, obviously the pick (was) kind of turned around the whole defense,” Slade said. “I thought we had a pretty slow start as a defense, but in the end we definitely came out on top.”
Slade couldn’t recall the last time he caught an interception and was excited that he was able to execute on the field as a Spartan. Slade also had a fourth quarter fumble recovery.
Slade looks up to starting defensive tackle, senior Mike Panasiuk, and his brother, junior defensive tackle Jacub Panasiuk, who both played an impact during last season.
“We’d like to become the next Panasiuks, me and Jacob,” Slade said about his aspirations for him and his twin brother Jacob, a freshman defensive lineman, during their time at Michigan State.
The defense halted both Lombardi and fifth year senior Brian Lewerke, several times during the scrimmage, showing their athleticism and talent. Tressel said earlier this week that they have a lot of talent, but not a lot of experience.
Freshman defensive lineman J.D. Duplain, an early enrollee, was able to force a fumble that was picked up by sophomore safety Jack Mandryk and award the defense with three more points late in the fourth quarter.
One thing was sure, the defensive depth that Tressel has put together and trained has impressed fans for a reason over the past several years.