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August 18, 2009

Things getting clearer ... or not

Quick note for those of you in mid-Michigan: The MSU football team will be at Meridian Mall from 5:45 to 7:15 p.m. tonight (Tuesday) for autographs and pictures. Remember, 12 and under!

    Now on to business. A lot of it today. First burning question: How much can we read into the fact that Keith Nichol (17 of 26, 241 yards, three scores, no picks) had significantly better numbers than Kirk Cousins (13 of 30, 127 yards, two scores, one pick) in the team's first scrimmage on Monday?
    "I don't think you can read anything into those things," Mark Dantonio said. "We had a couple drops, throwing to all different receivers. They're working with the 1s, they're working with the 2s, that type of thing. But I thought the both played well. We're sending different pressures at them. They're active..."
    And by active, that means both took some hits. Three apiece, Dantonio figures. Sometimes the whistle doesn't quite blow in time.
    QB coach Dave Warner, of course, is charting every sneeze from these guys.
    "Do they mean something? Yeah," he said of the statistics. "But it's still an ongoing process."
    And, he said, still a dead heat overall.
    "We see it going down to the end," he said. "Not because we want it to."  
    * At running back, the freshmen weren't included in the stats, but that's partially because MSU did a freshman-only scrimmage Monday morning. The first-year running backs did play some with the whole team, as did Dion Sims and Chris Norman and a couple others.
    Ashton Leggett impressed with his 63-yard jaunt, but at this point the race remains publicly wide open. It appears that Caper, Leggett, Ray and Baker are the top four. Leggett and Ray, remember, shared the No. 1 spot entering camp, and the freshmen have done nothing but impress.
    "There's not a mistake in the bunch," Enos said of the running backs. "They're making it hard on us right now."
    * At center, Joel Nitchman has been slowed by an undisclosed injury. True freshman Nate Klatt is working in there, but right now Ethan Ruhland and John Stipek are sharing No. 2. Dantonio said Klatt could compete for that No. 2 job if he keeps improving rapidly.
    * Too many unforced penalties in the scrimmage. Dantonio wasn't happy with that, but he was most pleased with the way the players responded to running 18 sprints to pay for it.
    "The fact that we did that and did that as hard as we did it, that was as impressive to me (as anything), because that was adversity," Dantonio said. "They thought they were going in, they'd worked hard. I've never run them here at the end of a scrimmage since I've been here, and they responded. That was as impressive to me. I think that showed attitude."
    * Glenn Winston has passed his conditioning test, which Dantonio said is the first hurdle on the way back to the field. For now, Winston is down the list in the seven-man RB race.
    * Pat Narduzzi is a great source of info during camp because he isn't afraid to say good and bad things about players, and when he brings up a guy without being asked specifically about that guy, you know that guy is standing out.
    Today Narduzzi mentioned Dan Fortener because "that guy's not making any mistakes." He also talked about Adam Decker, who's clearly making a senior-year push to get on the field. And he said Antonio Jeremiah "is really coming on."
    Jeremiah's still too heavy, Narduzzi said, but he's playing well and "he could play at 350 if he was in great shape." The big thing is, Jeremiah seems to have a different attitude. So add another capable body to what is shaping up as a strong inside group on the line.
    Narduzzi said the CB competition is looking more like a top three, but he wouldn't name names. Although the defense lost the jersey scrimmage (meaning they'll continue to wear the white jerseys in practice), he said there were seven mistakes (such as a late hit out of bounds) that prevented what would have otherwise been "almost a perfect game" from the defense.
    * MSU's new players lounge is quite a sight, and Dantonio said MSU bought the game "Rock Band" for the lounge. He tried drums once but was booed off the stage by the game before he could finish. Speaking of which, I can now do "Won't Get Fooled Again" at medium difficulty on drums, no small feat if you ask me.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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