Dec. 27, 2012
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - TyQuan Hammock has been itching to hit somebody all season long. So when Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio asked him to switch positions for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl he didn't waste any time making up his mind.
Hammock knew his chances of getting on the field against TCU as a linebacker were limited given MSU's abundance of depth at that position, but he figured he could be crashing into Horned Frogs all night long from the fullback position.
"I had an open mind to it," Hammock, a fourth-year junior, said Thursday at Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Media Day.
Lawrence Thomas, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound red-shirt freshman, has been getting most of the snaps at fullback since the second game of the season.
However, Thomas is being prepped to return to the defensive line at the tackle position, and while he may play both ways against TCU, Hammock expects to share the workload.
"We're a power team and we run a lot of formations with the fullback in it, so I plan on playing quite a bit," said the 6-0, 245-pound Hammock. "And whenever I do get in, I'll play hard and do whatever I can.
"The thing I like most about playing fullback is the fact I get to hit on every play."
Hammock is actually quite familiar with the position-switch drill.
He also moved over to fullback in 2010 after Josh Rouse sustained a season-ending neck injury in the opener against Western Michigan. Later in the season, Hammock's 16-yard reception set up a field goal in the 31-8 victory against Minnesota.
Hammock returned to linebacker last season and played in 13 games primarily on special teams. He has four tackles in nine games this season.
"I hope I come out with a bang and start off a new trend for me," Hammock said. "I'm just trying to help the team anyway I can. It helps having a defensive mentality because when you play fullback, you hit somebody on every snap.
"We're a power team, and we run a lot of formations with the fullback. When the coaches make a move like this it's usually a good call. Players don't always understand it at the time, but long-term it's a great move for me."
Although Hammock played tailback at Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers High School, he has no delusions of getting the ball on a handoff from quarterback Andrew Maxwell, since MSU almost never lets the fullback carry the ball.
"They've thrown the ball to me a few times in practice on an arrow (route) and little check-downs, but we haven't gotten to a handoff yet," Hammock said. "Those are one in a thousand for a fullback. But hopefully, they'll put a belly dive in for me in the future.
"If they give me the ball, I'll get a yard."
GoG Notes & Quotes: Strong safety Isaiah Lewis was walking without the immobilizing boot he wore Wednesday to protect the ankle injury he sustained Tuesday.
Defensive backfield coach Harlon Barnett has no doubt Lewis will be full speed for the bowl.
"Knowing him like I do, yes, he will play," Barnett said. "I'm not worried one bit. He's a dog, as I say. He's going to come to play. If he can't, you know he really can't."
Players often have an adverse reaction to the layoff between the last regular-season game and a bowl, but MSU receivers coach Terry Samuel hopes the break was a boon for his heavily scrutinized pass-catching corps.
"The more experience we have seeing the ball in the air and catching it helps," Samuel said. "Of course, you'd always like things to be a little more crisp. And every wide receiver coach knows you don't want to double-catch the ball, you want to catch it the first time.
"But they're not apprehensive anymore about what we're trying to do offensively and they're more aggressive. They're ready to catch the ball, make plays and have fun. I am expecting the guys to play better and faster."
The receiving corps' stock will go up considerably if they have success against TCU's Josh Boyce, a first-team All-America cornerback.
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, a huge football fan who instructs his players to "seek contact" may take exception to TCU coach Gary Patterson's portrayal of what he expects in the bowl.
"Being a running-back, play-action team, (MSU) can come at you, so you better get ready for them," Patterson said. "They play hard. I think they're similar to us. You have to get ready for a physical contest.
"We're not playing basketball; we're playing football."