After losing key veterans to the NFL Draft in Kendell Brooks, Ronald Williams and Xavier Henderson, all eyes are on the younger members of Michigan State football’s secondary to step up and make plays.
While injuries to leaders like Henderson allowed sophomore defensive back Jaden Mangham to get some on field experience, there is still a lot to be learned in order to truly grasp that the veterans of last year are leaving. Mangham mentioned that while for his sake getting in the weight room will be key for his individual growth next season, proper communication will also be vital for him and his peers to have a smooth transition on the field when the fall comes around.
“Younger players have thought of coming together,” Mangham said. “So we work on our chemistry, our communication every day. Outside of football, we always talk to each other because we know communication is definitely a key. A key for our position. You have to be able to talk and communicate. And with all of that it makes it so much easier to play together. And I definitely feel that's been a good thing.”
After also being thrown into the fire last year due to injuries at his position group, as well as struggling to find the right position, sophomore defensive back Dillon Tatum is finally settling into a role after flipping from nickel to safety and finally to cornerback. While Tatum said it took him a while to learn how to make plays in his new spot, the knowledge he gained from last season has helped him adjust better than without that experience.
“It helps a lot,” Tatum said. “Especially coming from the safety position. You have a safety mindset because really what our safeties do is control the corners. When you put a safety at corner, he knows he has got to check what's gonna happen on this play, how does it affect that linebacker or defensive end and many different types of sets. So it’s just being versatile. Being versatile is gonna take you much further in life than the guy that can just play one position.”
Last season, cornerback play was not up to par even with head coach Mel Tucker taking more time to work with them. Because of this, former Buffalo Bills coach Jim Salgado was hired to oversee the position. Salgado was only hired two weeks ago, but does not want to hear about how last season went. He just wants to be able to evaluate his players from his own perspective.
“I came in with a fresh slate on all these guys and I told all our players that as well,” Salgado said. “So I told coach that I don't want to know anything about the players. I will assess them as we move forward and I will get to know them, not only on the practice field but with guys coming in to meet with me one on one, so I can get to know them.”
Fans will get a glimpse of what’s to come next season as the team’s Spring Football Kickoff will be held at Spartan Stadium on April 15.