April 12, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State football team prepared for its second jersey scrimmage with its 11th spring practice on Friday afternoon inside the Duffy Daugherty Building. The Spartans will scrimmage on Saturday morning; last week, the defense edged the offense, 25-23, in the first jersey scrimmage.
Prior to practice, Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio gave an update on the team to reporters and talked about what he wanted to get out of the second scrimmage.
"We're looking for improvement as always," said Dantonio. "Like I talked about after the last scrimmage, we're looking for consistency and performance. We're looking for our guys to raise their play to another level and get better as we go.
"The goal is always to be 15 for 15 at spring practice, and I think if you're doing that, you're getting better."
"Going into the second scrimmage, we're looking for a lot of carryover," said senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who threw for three touchdowns and 187 yards in the first scrimmage last Friday. "Looking at the film from last scrimmage, there's a lot of things we can clean up - but all fixable stuff. So this week, we focused on a lot of fundamentals and a lot of getting back to the basics and details at practice. We're looking to build on the good things we did last week."
A complete report on the second scrimmage, including quotes, photos and statistics, will be available at msuspartans.com and on Twitter @msu_football.
RILEY BULLOUGH TAKING REPS AT RUNNING BACK: Dantonio announced on Thursday that red-shirt freshman linebacker Riley Bullough has been taking reps at running back and will see time in Saturday's scrimmage in the backfield. Along with playing linebacker, Bullough started 29 games at quarterback at St. Francis High School in Traverse City, Mich. In his senior year in 2011, Bullough rushed 42 times for 327 yards (7.8 avg.) and six scores in just five games before suffering a season-ending collarbone injury.
"A lot of times when we were getting ready for somebody else, we put people in those positions that sort of simulate an opposing player," remarked Dantonio. "We had Riley at tailback last year getting ready for Iowa. He was pretty impressive, so I thought let's see what he can do. He'll get some reps in the scrimmage, and we'll see how he looks."
Dantonio also mentioned the reasons why he thought Bullough could be successful carrying the ball.
"He's got good feet in the hole and he's powerful," said Dantonio. "He's 230-plus pounds, and he can move the pile. You've got to get positive yardage; that's what he's done. I think he's got a good football IQ, and that's so important, especially if you're going to play a couple of different positions. We're not going to move him from the linebacker position, but we're going to experiment with him on the offensive side of the ball."
Bullough has welcomed the challenge of trying out a new position.
"It's fun getting used to it," he said following Friday's practice. "They've all been helping me a lot. Nick Hill, every play I go back and talk to him about what's going on.
"I had a couple of big runs this week and it was exciting. It's fun to be on the other side of the ball for once. I'm definitely having fun."
One major difference for Riley has been staring across the field at the defense he's been working with for the past year - including his brother, Max, at middle linebacker.
"Our entire defense is intimidating, especially Max in the middle," said Riley. "But our offense is coming along."
"Obviously, he brings a different dimension than we've had this spring," said Warner. "We've had the big back here in the past. Putting Riley back there has changed things a little bit because he's 230 pounds, he's a downhill, physical type of guy, so it's been good so far. It's been an experiment; we'll see where it takes us. It's exciting right now to see some of the possibilities he presents."
"We've got to find a guy who can carry the ball 200-plus times," stressed Dantonio. "So we've got to find that either with our guys that are existing at that position, our incoming freshmen, or moving somebody. We've always had that, and we'll continue to have that. I was excited about the way he played the other day."
DEPTH AT DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Dantonio said that as far as players that are game ready at defensive tackle, he feels like this is the most depth he's had in his tenure at the position. He cited Tyler Hoover (6-7, 290, Gr.-6), James Kittredge (6-4, 275, Jr.), Micajah Reynolds (6-5, 308, Sr.-5) and Lawrence Thomas (6-3, 300, So.) as being the top four on the interior of the defensive line at this point in the spring.
"I think we're pretty deep at defensive tackle," said Dantonio. "Lawrence Thomas is having a good spring, he's very active. He's 300-plus pounds right now and he can move. Very athletic...but he's got to take that next step as well."
DEFENSIVE PERSONNEL UPDATE: According to Dantonio, one of the reasons that Riley Bullough can move from linebacker to running back is the depth at the position. Dantonio said that senior Kyler Elsworth has played all three linebacker positions this spring and that Jairus Jones' emergence at Star linebacker has been an added bonus as well.
"(Jairus) has done a great job," said Dantonio. "He and Taiwan Jones are pretty much playing neck and neck there (at Star linebacker). (Jairus) has made a lot of plays. He's physical, and he's a very aware football player. I think awareness is a lot of it sometimes."
Dantonio also said that red-shirt freshman Demetrious Cox is the No. 1 nickel back through 11 practices, and that first-team All-Big Ten cornerback Darqueze Dennard will remain out of contact drills for the rest of the spring (sports hernia).