Spartans and Horned Frogs ready to meet in the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Notes and quotes from Michigan State's second workout in Tempe, Ariz., in preparation for Saturday's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU.
A part-time starter at fullback this season, red-shirt freshman Lawrence Thomas also expects to earn playing time at defensive tackle in Saturday's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU.
Football Media Center: TCU
MSU welcomes first-place Cornhuskers to Spartan Stadium Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
For the second consecutive year, Gill instructed a defensive line that helped the Spartans rank atop the Big Ten in total defense (274.4 ypg.), rushing defense (98.6 ypg.) and third-down defense (.305) in 2012. In addition, Michigan State ranked among the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Top 10 in eight categories, including touchdowns allowed (second with 16), total defense (fourth at 274.4 ypg.), rushing defense (eighth at 98.6 ypg.), third-down defense (eighth at .305) and scoring defense (ninth at 16.3 ppg.). MSU, Alabama and Florida State are the only FBS schools in the nation to rank among the NCAA FBS Top 10 in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense the past two seasons.
The line was instrumental in stopping the run, as the Spartans led the Big Ten and ranked eighth in the FBS in rushing defense, allowing just 98.6 yards per game, which also marked one of the top defensive efforts in Spartan history (10th-fewest allowed). Five teams (Boise State, Eastern Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Minnesota) posted their season lows in rushing against the Spartans, and MSU held eight opponents to under-100 yards rushing. MSU has finished in the top 25 nationally in rushing defense three of the past four seasons (24th in 2009; ninth in 2011; eighth in 2012). Since the beginning of 2011, Michigan State has held 15 opponents under 100 rushing yards (seven in 2011; eight in 2012), which ranks fifth most in the NCAA FBS.
Defensive end William Gholston garnered second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2012 for the second-straight year after leading the team in tackles for loss (13.0 for 49 yards), sacks (4.5 for 24 yards) and pass break-ups (10). The 10 pass break-ups were the most by any defensive lineman in the FBS last season. Gholston, who tied for seventh in the Big Ten as a sophomore in 2011 with 16 tackles for loss, finished his career with 30 tackles for loss, good for 10th most in MSU history, along with 10 career sacks.
Opposite of Gholston, sophomore Marcus Rush was an honorable mention All-Big Ten choice for the second year in a row. He collected 38 tackles, including 7.5 for losses (34 yards) and 2.0 sacks (21 yards), and broke up five passes. Rush was named the Big Ten Freshman Defensive MVP by ESPN.com and was also named a first-team Freshman All-American by Sporting News and the Football Writers Association of America in 2011.
Spartan defensive linemen have garnered All-Big Ten recognition 12 times during Gill's tenure.
Gill molded a young line in 2011 that featured only one senior to help the Spartans lead the Big Ten in rushing defense (100.5 yards per game), total defense (277.4 ypg.) and third-down defense (.337). MSU also ranked among the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Top 20 in seven statistical categories, including total defense (sixth), sacks (seventh), rushing defense (ninth), scoring defense (10th) and tackles for loss (14th). Four teams (Florida Atlantic, Central Michigan, Ohio State, Georgia) posted their season lows in rushing against the Spartans.
Junior defensive tackle Jerel Worthy earned consensus first-team All-America honors to become MSU's first All-American at the position since 1971. Worthy, whose presence in the middle was one of the main factors for MSU's stout defense, also earned first-team All-Big Ten accolades from the coaches and media. He was the second Spartan to be named an All-American under Gill (Jonal Saint-Dic: 2007).
Worthy was selected in the second round of the 2012 National Football League Draft by the Green Bay Packers, becoming the second Spartan defensive lineman to be drafted during Gill's tenure. Ervin Baldwin was a seventh-round draft choice by the Chicago Bears in 2008. In addition, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, who Gill mentored in 2007, recently finished his fourth season playing in the NFL.
During Michigan State's Big Ten Championship season in 2010, Gill's defensive line helped the Spartans rank among the national leaders in several categories during the regular season, including scoring defense (No. 26 allowing 20.1 ppg.) and total defense (No. 31 allowing 337.8 ypg.). The Spartans ranked third in the Big Ten and 21st nationally in the regular season by giving up just 121.9 rushing yards a game. In addition, MSU allowed only one 100-yard rusher all season (Game 11 against Purdue, Keith Carlos: six rushes for 103 yards and one touchdown).
Worthy earned All-Big Ten honorable mention honors after leading the line with 40 tackles and four sacks. A Freshman All-American in 2009, Worthy also ranked third on the team with eight tackles for loss.
Senior defensive end Colin Neely had a career year in his final season under Gill, ranking first on the team with 10 tackles for loss while compiling a career-high 34 tackles.
The 2009 Spartan defensive line featured two new starters and a steady mix of underclassmen in the rotation, but the unit still managed to help the defense rank third in the Big Ten and 17th nationally in sacks. The Spartans were also fourth in the Big Ten and 24th nationally by allowing just 113.2 rushing yards a game, and limited their opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards in six games.
Veteran end Trevor Anderson led the line with 45 tackles (7.5 for loss) and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. Anderson, who also played under Gill at Cincinnati, amassed 39.5 tackles for loss and 22 sacks in his career.
Worthy was named a Freshman All-American after ranking second on the team in tackles for loss (9 for 34 yards) and sacks (4.5 for 23 yards).
In 2008, three Spartans on the defensive line earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors, including seniors Justin Kershaw and Brandon Long, who both recorded career highs in tackles for loss and sacks. Anderson, in his first year as a Spartan after transferring from Cincinnati, collected a career high and team-leading eight sacks, which ranked sixth in the Big Ten. Anderson was one of 35 players in the nation named to the midseason watch list for the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award.
Michigan State's defensive line saw a dramatic improvement in Gill's first season. Defensive ends Jonal Saint-Dic and Ervin Baldwin enjoyed breakout seasons, while Kershaw and Nwagbuo also had their most productive years wearing the Green and White. Saint-Dic, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, set a Big Ten record and led the nation with eight forced fumbles. The senior ranked fourth in the conference and 16th in the NCAA in sacks with 10, marking the sixth-best total on MSU's single-season chart. For his efforts, Saint-Dic was named a second-team Walter Camp All-American and was one of eight finalists for the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award. Baldwin, a seventh-round draft choice by the Chicago Bears, led the team and ranked third in the Big Ten with 18.5 tackles for loss, which was the second-highest total in school history. Kershaw and Nwagbuo each recorded career highs with 30 and 28 tackles, respectively.
Gill arrived in East Lansing with 32 years of coaching experience, including four seasons as the defensive line coach at Cincinnati (2003-06).
During the 2006 regular season, the Bearcats ranked among the NCAA leaders in rushing defense (No. 27 at 107.5 yards per game), total defense (No. 31 at 304.3 ypg.) and scoring defense (No. 34 at 19.3 points per game). Cincinnati also held seven of its 12 regular-season opponents to less than 100 yards rushing. In 2006, Gill tutored defensive tackle Terrill Byrd, who earned first-team All-BIG EAST honors after producing 8.5 tackles for losses (31 yards) including three sacks (18). He also coached Anderson, who was named the team's outstanding defensive lineman after leading the Bearcats in sacks (6 for 32) and finishing second in tackles for losses (13 for 50).
In 2005, defensive end Adam Roberts was selected UC's outstanding defensive lineman after leading the Bearcats in tackles for losses (12.5 for 57) and sacks (6 for 38). Shortly after Gill's arrival in Cincinnati in 2003, the Bearcat defensive linemen began rewriting the school's record book. He helped send three defensive linemen from the 2004 team to the NFL ranks: Trent Cole (Philadelphia Eagles), Andre Frazier (Cincinnati Bengals) and Mike Wright (New England Patriots). Cole ranks second on UC's all-time list in career tackles for losses (48) while Frazier stands second in career sacks (22.5).
Gill's resume includes stops at almost every level of football. He coached in the professional ranks with the NFL's Carolina Panthers (1996-98), XFL's Los Angeles Extreme (2001) and CFL's Montreal Alouettes (2002).
Prior to spending the 1995 season as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, Gill worked for five years as an assistant coach under Hayden Fry at Iowa (1990-94) where he coached the defensive line and linebackers, helping the Hawkeyes earn three bowl appearances (1991 Rose, 1991 Holiday and 1993 Alamo). In 1991, defensive end Leroy Smith earned first-team All-America and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors after registering a school-record 18 sacks. During his tenure in Iowa City, Gill instructed five first-team All-Big Ten selections, including Jim Johnson (1990), Matt Ruhland (1990), Ron Geater (1991), Smith (1991) and Mike Wells (1992-93).
His previous full-time coaching credits include stints at Utah (1974-76), New Mexico State (1977), Ball State (1978-81), Cornell (1982), Army (1983), North Carolina (1984-87) and Rice (1988-89). As the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Ball State, Gill built a unit that led the nation in scoring defense in 1978 while helping the Cardinals to the Mid-American Conference championship and a 10-1 overall record.
Gill won two letters as a linebacker and nose tackle at Idaho State from 1968-69. He earned his bachelor's degree in education from Idaho State in 1973.
He and his wife Pamela have six children: Libby, Nikki, Seneca, John, Erica and Tracy.
THE GILL FILE
YEARS AT MICHIGAN STATE: Seventh. Joined staff on Nov. 30, 2006, from Cincinnati.
PREVIOUS COACHING EXPERIENCE: College - Graduate assistant coach at Idaho State (1971-73); offensive line coach at Utah (1974-76); defensive line coach at New Mexico State (1977); defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Ball State (1978-81); defensive coordinator at Cornell (1982); defensive line and linebackers coach at Army (1983); defensive line and linebackers coach at North Carolina (1984-87); defensive line coach at Rice (1988-89); defensive line and linebackers coach at Iowa (1990-94); defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State (1995); defensive line coach at Cincinnati (2003-06). Professional - Defensive line coach at NFL's Carolina Panthers (1996-98); defensive line coach at XFL's Los Angeles Extreme (2001); defensive coordinator at CFL's Montreal Alouettes (2002).
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in education from Idaho State in 1973.
PLAYING EXPERIENCE: College - Two-year letterwinner as a linebacker and nose tackle at Idaho State (1968-69).
POSTSEASON EXPERIENCE: Coach - 1986 Aloha Bowl, 1991 Rose Bowl, 1991 Holiday Bowl, 1993 Alamo Bowl, 2004 Fort Worth Bowl, 2007 Champs Sports Bowl, 2009 Capital One Bowl, 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl, 2011 Capital One Bowl, 2012 Outback Bowl, 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.