April 12, 1997

Spartan Defense Dominates Second Spring Scrimmage

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State third-year head football coach Nick Saban sent his team through a two-and-a-half hour workout indoors at the Duffy Daugherty Building Saturday, including a 51-play scrimmage, to conclude the third week of spring practice. Rain and snow showers forced the Spartans indoors for the second weekend in a row.

The defense dominated the scrimmage, allowing only seven first downs and 136 total yards. The offense scored on only one of its 10 possessions. The defense recorded six sacks, including three by end Dimitrius Underwood (18 yards).

Following the "controlled" scrimmage, Coach Saban dedicated five periods to special situations (second-and-long, red zone, goal line and two-minute drill). The Spartans completed practice with a special teams period, working on kickoff returns and coverage.

"I saw a lot of good things today," Saban said. "Overall, the defense had the advantage. The offense ran the ball effectively early but the defense was dominating. The defense also won every special situation it was put in today."

Tailback Sedrick Irvin watched most of the scrimmage from the sidelines after suffering a sprained right ankle on the fifth play. Irvin broke a 23-yard run on his first carry and finished with 40 yards on four attempts. Leroy McFadden managed 37 yards on 11 rushes while Lloyd Clemons scored the only touchdown of the scrimmage on a 3-yard run.

"Sedrick Irvin started strong but got hurt during the first series," Saban said. "It's nothing serious -- just a mild sprain. It wasn't in our best interest to play him the rest of the day."

Four different walk-on quarterbacks took turns running the offense. Sam Eyde and Ralph Truitt directed four drives each with the first and second units, respectively. Matt Bitonti and Greg Wood took snaps with the third team.

"With the top three quarterbacks out, it's really difficult to evaluate the passing game," Saban said. "Those young guys have all improved but they're just so inexperienced. They have a difficult time reading blitzes and knowing when to get rid of the football."

Starting QB Todd Schultz, who underwent successful ACL reconstruction surgery on his left knee in January, has been cleared by team doctors to participate in seven-on-seven passing drills.

"Todd Schultz is way ahead of schedule in terms of his rehabilitation," Saban said. "We've held him back for two weeks because he's been chomping at the bit. The doctors have given him the go ahead for seven-on-seven drills. Todd will not take any snaps in contact work because he doesn't need any setbacks."

Coach Saban has juggled his lineup along the offensive line, moving Scott Shaw from left guard to right tackle and Dave Mudge from right tackle to left guard.

"The line is the strength of our offense," he said. "We have a unique situation on the offensive line because (OT) Flozell Adams, Scott Shaw and Dave Mudge are so experienced. I simply want to look at all combinations.

"Jason Strayhorn has done a good job at center. Casey Jensen and Shaun Mason are competing for the starting job at right guard."

Michigan State has practices scheduled for Monday and Wednesday next week before concluding spring drills with the annual Green-White intrasquad game Saturday, April 19 at 1:30 p.m. in Spartan Stadium. There is no admission charge.

The Spartans open the 1997 season at home Saturday, Sept. 6 against Western Michigan.