Practice Update: Coordinator Quotes
Sept. 14, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The No. 15 Michigan State football team continued its preparation for Saturday's game at Notre Dame with its second practice of the week on Wednesday.
In the afternoon, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi and offensive coordinator Dan Roushar briefly met with reporters to discuss the upcoming matchup against the Fighting Irish.
"The biggest concern (I have) about Notre Dame is that they're very talented," said Narduzzi. "They're strong and physical up front, they have great skill, and they have two great quarterbacks who can throw the ball around. If they don't make mistakes, they're a 2-0 football team. They're a great offense."
Notre Dame (0-2) enters the game 10th in the nation in passing offense (353.0 ypg.) and 13th in total offense (510.5 ypg.) - but dead last in turnovers (10) and turnover margin (-3.50).
"I would like to say we're going to continue to get them (turnovers) and they're going to keep making mistakes, but sooner or later you fix the mistakes," remarked Narduzzi. "You just hope they don't have a clean game, but we have to force them (turnovers). We have to make it happen."
Narduzzi said Notre Dame's receiving corps, featuring senior Michael Floyd, junior Theo Riddick and sophomore TJ Jones - is "as talented as a receiver crew as you're going to see." Floyd is the leader of the group, as he ranks second in the nation in receptions (25) and seventh in receiving yards (156.5 ypg.). Last year against the Spartans, the 6-3, 224-pounder caught six passes for 81 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown grab, while Riddick hauled in a career-high 10 receptions for 128 yards and one score.
"The big thing is to know where he is at all times," Narduzzi said of Floyd. "He's our Waldo this week. You ever read the books `(Where's) Waldo?' We have to know where he is, because he's everywhere."
While the Irish are predominantly a pass-first offense, junior running back Cierre Wood is a dangerous weapon and leads the team with 238 rushing yards (119.0 ypg.) through the first two games.
"They had 92 yards rushing a year ago," Narduzzi said. "We need to do the same thing. We have to make them one dimensional; we cannot let them get the run game started. If they get the run game started, then they can spread you out and throw it like they do, (and) we're going to have problems. So we have to stop the run."
At quarterback, although Dayne Crist completed 32-of-55 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns against MSU last season, sophomore Tommy Rees has outperformed Crist this season and will likely get the start under center for the Irish. Narduzzi likes what he sees from both quarterbacks.
"I think what you see on tape is that Tommy Rees is a gamer," said Narduzzi. "He seems like a smooth guy out there, and nothing gets him rattled. Even when he makes checks, he's smooth...But I think Crist has a stronger arm, so he scares you. I walked off that field last year saying that Crist is going to be an NFL quarterback."
Defensively, Notre Dame is led by junior linebacker Manti Te'o, who is averaging 7.0 tackles a game and had 11 tackles, including two for losses, at Spartan Stadium in last year's game.
"They're very strong and very, very physical," Roushar said of the Irish defense. "They have the ability to get into eight-man fronts by dropping safeties very quickly, so that makes it challenging. I think they have an outstanding linebacker in Manti (Te'o). That guy can run sideline to sideline and can hit you. I think they present the same challenges they did last year."
Notre Dame's pass defense has struggled this season, allowing 233.0 yards per game through the air to rank 74th nationally, but Roushar said he sees playmakers in the Irish secondary.
"I think their secondary is much better than what people think they are," commented Roushar. "They have an outstanding safety in Harrison (Smith) and I think both of those corners (Robert Blanton and Gary Gray) can make plays. If you watched them last year covering Southern Cal and other people, they do a heck of a job. They're very good."
One of the biggest question marks going into the season for Michigan State was finding a starting five on the offensive line, and Roushar is feeling that the group is getting closer to where he wants it to be. Sophomore Dan France has solidified his starting position at left tackle, and red-shirt freshman Skyler Burkland has settled in at right tackle.
"There were some positive things from week one to week two," said Roushar on the play of the offensive line. "Our fundamentals were better and assignment-wise we were better, so that was encouraging. We're starting to make some small strides."
The battle at center was neck-and-neck all preseason camp between junior Blake Treadwell and red-shirt freshman Travis Jackson; however, once Jackson suffered an ankle injury late in camp, Treadwell emerged as the starter. Jackson is starting to get back in the mix at practice, but Treadwell will remain the starter for the time being.
"I think we'll be in a situation where they will compete," said Roushar. "Travis was back on the field yesterday and looked pretty good in a limited numbers of snaps that he took. I think it will be a day-to-day evaluation, but Blake has played pretty well the first two games."
After two convincing wins at home, the 2-0 Spartans are ready to hit the road against a quality opponent on Saturday.
"I think that our football team is anxious to go on the road and have a strong test like we're going to have against a team that has their back against the wall," Roushar said. "We're going to get their very, very best. You take the 10 turnovers away and they're a 2-0 football team, there's no doubt about that."
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