Aug. 9, 2011
When selected players on offense started to fill up the roundtables for interviews at Michigan State's football media day, two players were noticeably running a little late from an earlier photo shoot.
As senior quarterback Kirk Cousins and senior left guard Joel Foreman finally entered the room, Foreman headed to Cousins' table, where a number of reporters were waiting.
Foreman then did what he always does - make his quarterback look good.
He gave Cousins the royal treatment, sliding out his chair, pretending to dust it
off before letting him sit, then pushing him forward and patting him on the back while making sure he was comfortable before 30 minutes of questioning.
"Do you want any water? Do you need anything else?" Foreman asked.
All Cousins could do was laugh as he prepared for the bright lights.
"I'm his bodyguard, on and off the field - I walked him over from the football building to make sure he didn't get mobbed," Foreman joked.
With Cousins fully in the spotlight, Foreman ducked the cameras and walked over to his table, a less crowded affair, by junior right guard Chris McDonald.
Such is life as an offensive lineman at media day.
But the group did gather a fair amount of attention, as reporters and fans alike clamor to know how the young unit is looking after losing three starters from last season's team. By all indications, the future is bright.
Just ask the guy who's entering his fourth year as a starter - a first at Michigan State since Shane Hannah (1991-94).
"We obviously are young," said Foreman. "But I think our greatest asset is that we're a strong, unified unit, and we have guys that are willing to go out there and give everything they have to be successful. I'm not worried about it. I know we have a lot of work to do, I'm not saying we don't, but I think we'll get the job done."
"We're so close - I think we're the strongest on the team (in terms of getting along)," said McDonald, who joins Foreman as the other returning starter on the line. "It's all about trust. We have to teach those younger guys how to be focused, but after the first couple of days of camp, I'm sure they're going to flow right into it."
The pieces are definitely there, from junior Blake Treadwell to red-shirt freshman Travis Jackson at center, to red-shirt freshman Skyler Burkland and junior college transfer Fou Fonoti at right tackle, to sophomore Dan France and senior Jared McGaha at left tackle. And those positions by no means are set in stone. It's just a matter of finding the right combination.
"We're a little inexperienced, but we like some guys where they're at right now," said new offensive coordinator Dan Roushar, who spent the past four seasons coaching the offensive line. "I think it's too early to really tell you exactly where we think they can be in the next 28 practices, but we have high expectations and we're going to be patient with their growth."
Additional quotes from media day from defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi and offensive coordinator Dan Roushar:
Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi
On what makes Jerel Worthy a special player...
"He has the athletic ability; he is quick, he is explosive, and he is a smart football player, he knows what is going on, he has a good feel for what those guys are doing up front. If you watch enough tape of him you will see that he is not a guy that gets in a three-point stance and waits for everything to happen, wait for the ball to get snapped. He is a guy that, sometimes I get nervous, I'm like `What's Jerel doing!' and he is on a knee, looking around, looking at the backfield set and looking to see what is that tackle looking at, what is that guard looking at. He is not only playing his position and has the athletic ability to do it, but he is a smart football player."
On the guys that will be missed and guys stepping up...
"The linebacker corps is the one you look at, losing a Greg Jones and an Eric Gordon. We will feel better at the end of August than we feel right now. Chris L. Rucker was a great corner, a lockdown guy. We have a lot of work to do before we can replace those guys. We won't ever replace those guys, we will just fill in with new guys that are hopefully as good or maybe better, who knows."
On Trenton Robinson...
"We expect Trenton to play up to his ability, and he did (last season). He was a guy that as a freshman I was after everyday and now it is to the point that I don't even talk to him at practice because he does everything right. So Trenton has come a long way and we hope he continues to get better."
Plans for the other safety position...
"Right now, Isaiah Lewis is penciled in as the starter as the right now. And we have some young guys that will push him: Kurtis Drummond, Mylan Hicks, and some of the young guys coming in, RJ Williamson looked great yesterday in one day, we will see if he can hit someone when the pads come on. Isaiah is the penciled in starter right now and I think he will do a good job."
Expectations for Anthony Rashad White...
"Rashad was a guy that struggled mentally coming in, as far as knowing what to do. It is a lot on a guy that you are trying to get to play, has the ability to play but then he is thinking. Our expectations are to have a guy similar to a Jerel Worthy, he's got the same athletic ability, he's actually gotten a lot more athletic. Coach (Ken) Mannie has gotten rid of some of his baby fat, he is about 305 pounds and running smoothly. If those two guys put on masks and ran up and down the field you wouldn't be able to tell which one Worthy is and which one White is, I think. We expect him to be an impact player, and really make people worry about him on the other side. Which might free up Worthy, or give him an opportunity to make more plays. And (Kevin) Pickelman is another guy, of our front guys, you should see what he looks like. He had a little bit of an (injury), stayed out of spring, but when you talk about having three guys that have had a lot of playing time, there is not a lot after that, as far as experience inside. Pickelman is another guy that really looks good at this point."
On the competition at defensive end...
"There is a lot of competition out there, right now you have Tyler Hoover who has played there for a couple of years, you have William Gholston, you have Denzel Drone, those three guys are all starters at this point and we are going to figure out who makes more plays. Then you have Marcus Rush, and Corey Freeman, and (Taylor) Calero, and some of the young guys coming in. There is a lot of depth there and a lot of guys that can play. We have to figure out who are the top tier guys, and who are the guys that are going to be backups. There is a lot of competition, maybe more competition at that position than any other spot on the field right now."
On Denicos Allen...
"After one day, the same thing I saw last spring, he is a very athletic guy that is going to be a good player for us, who just has to continue to mentally and physically prepare himself for a big season, because we are going to need a lot out of him this year."
Offensive Coordinator Dan Roushar
On the flexibility at the tight end position...
"Those guys (Garrett Celek, Brian Linthicum, Dion Sims) bring an awful lot to the table. If you look at the tight end position, we have guys that have played a lot of football there as well. So we are very, very fortunate right now as we approach this season to have experience and depth. There certainly is another level for us to improve at, but I think that is a big asset for us on offense right now."
On the battles taking place at offensive line...
"I think in the offensive line right now we have two guys who have started an awful lot of football for us. Joel Foreman, he is going to be a four-year starter, and he brings a lot to the table, from the leadership standpoint, from the experience standpoint, to understanding what it takes to play on Saturdays, and the preparation it takes. I think he will bring those guys along quickly. And Chris McDonald was starting every game last year when he was healthy. So we have two inside guys that were inexperienced and are in better positions to feel like there is some talent there. We have recognized that we are not playing a game tomorrow; the opener is not for roughly four weeks. So we have time to continue to develop continuity and a consistency in there. Great competition, the best players will emerge. So we are excited about where it can go."
Flexibility at the offensive line...
"I think we have a lot of flexibility in there. We have guys that are playing center that can move to guard, we have guards that can move back in to center, we have guards that can kick out to tackle, and I think we have a couple of tackles that in a pinch could move back inside. So there is a lot of flexibility and adaptability. And I think that is a great thing because at the end of the day you really want to get your best five on the field, and develop the consistency and continuity with one another. Hopefully we gel and thrive."
On the decision-making process with him as offensive coordinator and Mark Staten now coaching the offensive line...
"Not unlike anything we have ever done, as a staff we visit all positions and we are open to all opinions of each of us as coaches and I like that, we like that. It brings a different perspective. In doing so, Mark (Staten) and I have worked very closely together for many years now, he is an outstanding coach and I am leaning on him with his thoughts. We talk about things but at the end of the day he is working with those guys everyday and he has a great feel for what he wants it to look like and how we would like it to play. We are excited about doing it together.
On the depth and weapons on the offensive side...
"Very excited, it makes things so much easier for us. Yesterday was our first day of installation, we are inexperienced on the offensive line but we put a lot on the skill guys and there was great retention from last spring, through the summer, to this fall. That comes with experience and that comes with focus. We have wide receivers that have played at a very high level in big ball games for us. Our quarterback, our tight ends, our running backs, we're blessed to go into the season with experience and we hope we can continue to improve on those areas."
On a balanced attack...
"I have always defined balance this way: when we have to run the football and everyone in the stadium knows it, it is a short-yardage situation or a drive to finish the game, you have the ability to do it and do it well successfully. And I think also in terms of this, being able to throw the football. Again, when it is obvious to a lot of people, that the type of play is being called, that you can protect it and you can execute it at a high level in critical situations. You go back to countless times last year, where we were able to run the ball to finish or for example the Northwestern game where we abandoned the run very early and threw the ball very consistently. That to me is the definition of balance."
On the young guys to look out for...
"One of those guys that I look at right now, that I consider still young, is Le'Veon Bell. You know this will be his second year he has been with us, he had a phenomenal start to last season and quite clearly as we looked at his growth through spring and the efforts I think he put forth this summer, I think we already see a different guy. He is very powerful, he has a great football IQ, high knowledge, and I think we can expect very good things from him. Larry Caper is now in his third season so I guess you can safely say he is a veteran, but missed a lot of valuable time last year due to injury. So we are excited right there, they all are going to be pushing right on Edwin's heels, so we are excited about those guys."