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August 08, 2011

MSU football media day central

The morning sessions with the offense and defense are finished, and now so is Mark Dantonio's presser. Here are a few notes:

    * On the offensive line, it's Skyler Burkland vs. Fou Fonoti at right tackle, and Dan France and Jared McGaha at left tackle. Mark Staten and Dan Roushar both said Fonoti could go to the other side, but he has been a right tackle his entire career. And the possibility of Chris McDonald sliding out to right tackle is very real, too. This isn't just a competition for certain positions, it's a competition for the best five -- in other words, if Travis Jackson is better at center than Burkland is at right tackle, you may see Jackson at center, Blake Treadwell at right guard and McDonald at right tackle. Plenty of possibilities, and Roushar said the seventh practice and first scrimmage on Saturday will tell a lot.

    * Speaking of Burkland, he changed his name from Schofner because it is his father's last name. He started building a relationship with his father at age 15 and decided in the spring to take his name. Burkland missed the spring game with a concussion. He's fine now and said it was the only concussion he's ever had.

    * Jerel Worthy got a lot of attention today, particularly the massive tattoo on his left arm of a Spartan crushing a wolverine. The wolverine (it's actually the animal, I can't tell you if it's anatomically correct) has a helmet with a block "M" on it. Worthy also explained some of his tweets this summer, saying he meant no disrespect to Russell Wilson. And asked about his draft prospects, Worthy said he's focusing on the team, though he has noticed the mock drafts that put him in the top 10 for 2012.

    * There are at least two people who don't expect Lawrence Thomas to end up on the defensive line -- Pat Narduzzi and Mike Tressel.

    "From what I saw out there yesterday, he's staying there," Narduzzi said.

    "Do I think he'll be a defensive lineman? No," Tressel said.

    Thomas is around 260, Narduzzi said, and MSU believes his ideal weight for middle linebacker is around 250. If he does stay with the linebackers, I would think he'd redshirt in 2011.

    * Ted Gill on Will Gholston, who is carrying 280 pounds without a hint of excess: "He's a freak."

    * Dave Warner likes what he saw from Connor Cook on the first day, particularly the way he took command in the huddle. One thing Cook brings is the ability to scramble and make plays with his feet.

    "He's a little bit more athletic than we've had," Warner said. "He can move."

    Some items from Mark Dantonio's presser:

    * On the No. 1 concern, the offensive line: "Enough guys know our system that we'll be able to advance pretty quickly."

    * On the program in its fifth season: "I do think this program is moving forward, maybe more rapidly than people would have thought. But as I've said, you've got to play 2011 to see how it shapes up."

    * Asked about Kirk Cousins' speech at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon, Dantonio called it "business as usual" for those who see Cousins in action on a daily basis. "Not surprised at all," Dantonio said. "Very proud of him."

    * On the running back situation: "As far as I'm concerned, we really have three No. 1 running backs."

    * The health of Brian Linthicum came up, after Dantonio saw him run Sunday. Linthicum was limited for most of last season after 2010 offseason knee surgery.

    "He looks completely healthy to me," Dantonio said. "Brian Linthicum is back to running very, very well. There’s no limp, there’s no issue with his gait, so that’s very positive."

    * So where is that Big Ten championship ring? It's in Dantonio's "great room" or "living room type thing" in a case that reflects light on it when opened. He takes it out to show it to people, including recruits, on occasion, but he's mostly keeping it tucked away now that the season is near.

    * There was a lot of talk about confidence vs. swagger today, and Worthy's name naturally came up.

    "I was just talking to him," Dantonio said with a smile. "I said, 'I bet I get a question about you, Jerel.'"

    Here's more on that.

    UPDATE: Practice was shorts and helmets again, but I still spent the entirety of our available time watching the offensive linemen work. I come away with this impression: Wow, MSU has a lot of big, athletic guys. Does that mean MSU will have a good, cohesive offensive line in 2011? No, but it has options.

    The guy who perhaps earned as much praise as anyone for his work in drills was redshirt freshman tackle Michael Dennis, a 6-7, 307-pound guy who has not received as much attention as others but who looks like a player. Certainly, Skyler Burkland is an imposing force as well. Fou Fonoti looks smaller than most of the other tackles (he's listed at 6-4) but the thing that stands out with him is quick feet.

    Two freshmen, Donavon Clark and Jack Allen, don't look like freshmen. Clark appears to be very athletic and Allen has arms the size of tree trunks. He is perhaps the center of the future. Also at that position, Nate Klatt looked healthy and ready to go. Travis Jackson obviously has put on weight and is listed at 275.

    Arthur Ray Jr. took part in drills and really looked powerful a few times. His upper body is all the way there. And Henry Conway, well, he just stands out with that size and strength. MSU is going to proceed with extreme caution here, but if he stays injury free I have to think he'll be a factor in the future. The next open media practice is Thursday, which is also the first day in pads.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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