Mar. 28, 1997

Spartans Wrap Up First Week of Spring Practice

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State third-year head football coach Nick Saban sent his team through a two-hour workout indoors at the Duffy Daugherty Building Friday to conclude the first week of spring practice. Heavy rain forced the Spartans indoors for the first time this spring.

"We had a productive week of practice," Saban said. "We have 35 guys back from last year's team so they know exactly what to expect -- from the kind of effort to the attention to detail. The guys have displayed toughness and responsibility. Overall, the execution has been good because of our experience. The maturity level of this team is beginning to show."

Saban's biggest concern remains the team's depth. "It's obvious that we're pretty thin at some positions," he said. "A priority this spring is to develop the second-team players so there isn't a great drop-off in the level of performance."

Saban has been pleased with the development of his young defensive linemen. "Both (DE) Robaire Smith and (DT) Pete Govens have caught my eye," he said. "They both have played some physical football."

Earlier this week, the defensive line was bolstered by the return of sophomore Devarrio Carter, who finished serving an off-season suspension. Carter played in eight games last season as a back-up defensive tackle.

Offensively, Saban has concentrated on identifying replacements for big-play receivers Derrick Mason and Nigea Carter, who combined for 201 career receptions for 3,327 yards and 18 touchdowns. Sophomore Gari Scott, who caught five passes for 89 yards and a TD in 1996, has impressed Saban.

"Gari Scott has shown promise," he said. "He had a great practice Wednesday, making big catches and big plays. We need Gari to develop into a consistent playmaker."

The Spartans made it through the first week of practice with only one major injury. Senior Dan Hackenbracht, who opened spring ball listed No. 1 on the depth chart at strong safety, will be sidelined for four-to-six months after injuring his left knee (ACL) in Wednesday's workout. He will undergo reconstructive surgery in the next two weeks. With the loss of Hackenbracht, sophomore Aric Morris moves into the starting role.

Back-up quarterback Bill Burke, who figures to take the majority of snaps with the No. 1 offense this spring while starter Todd Schultz recovers from off-season knee surgery, worked only a half day Friday to nurse a sore back.

Michigan State has practices scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week, plus its first scrimmage Saturday, April 5. MSU concludes spring drills with the annual Green-and-White intrasquad game Saturday, April 19 at 1:30 p.m. in Spartan Stadium. The Spartans open the 1997 season at home Saturday, Sept. 6 against Western Michigan.