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August 06, 2008

Right back to football: Talking freshmen

Let's get it cranked back up, after Tuesday's basketball diversion that resulted in a relatively routine knee surgery for Delvon Roe. It's early in fall camp, but never too early to speculate about which incoming freshmen might help this season.

    First, here's our media day coverage: A look at the top five position battles in camp, a story on new No. 2 QB Kirk Cousins, and a notebook topped with one of the defensive keys for 2008, end Trevor Anderson.
    Freshmen aren't involved in media day, but we've had a chance to watch them run around for the past two days. It's been like soccer camp. More on that later. From what I've seen, MSU certainly will benefit on special teams from some of these athletes. But who will go beyond that, as Greg Jones, Mark Dell, Antonio Jeremiah, Oren Wilson and Chris L. Rucker did a year ago?
    I always eliminate offensive linemen, not that it's impossible with this group, but I wouldn't expect any true freshmen to play unless injuries hit. On the defensive line, Jerel Worthy shouldn't be discounted, although he has quality depth ahead of him.
    Tyler Hoover is a certainty to see some snaps at end. Cameron Jude also has impressed, though, so he bears watching in the next few weeks.
    In the back end, four promising prospects arrive: Johnny Adams and Trenton Robinson at corner, and Charles Burrell and Brynden Trawick at safety. I could see Adams returning some kicks/punts. I could see all helping on special teams at least.
    Offensively, Caulton Ray and Glenn Winston are running well. Winston could be a valuable power guy. But I don't know if they can leap over the veterans in front of them. I don't know that they can't, either.
    I would expect Fred Smith and Keshawn Martin both to contribute at receiver. Martin is another intriguing possibility on returns. Myles White looks like he could use a redshirt year to bulk up a bit.
    That brings us to the group that has been most impressive from a purely visual standpoint: the linebackers. MSU has four of them -- Steve Gardiner, Drew Stevens, David Rolf, Jamiihr Williams -- and they all can run and have good size for true frosh.
    Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has been impressed, in a helmets-and-shorts kind of way.
    “One day, no pads at the linebacker position is kind of like a soccer camp," Narduzzi said. "You know, everybody looks good running around, but they’ve got the shorts on.  Might as well have soccer cleats on –- and I like soccer. That’s no picking on soccer.
    "But all four of those linebackers were impressive, as far as their athletic ability. What we’re looking for is athletic ability at the linebacker position, so I don’t think we made a mistake at all, out of any of those four linebackers. That’s a bonus, without question. I don’t know if I’ve been on a staff where we brought in four linebackers and liked all four on the first day. The key is, do we like them after a year?”
    Guys like that can make a big difference on special teams as well. It'll be interesting to see how many of these newcomers MSU chooses to use in that capacity. As for bigger roles, I've got Hoover, Smith, Adams and Martin as the top candidates, with Jude, Burrell and Williams as darkhorse candidates. And you? Be bold and take a stab now, because things will probably change a lot in a couple weeks.


   

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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