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April 18, 2012

Three-man party at DT

The focus is on Connor Cook as he prepares for what could be a busy April 28 and a guaranteed steak, but there are others moving into the first-team discussion. One of them is Vanderbilt transfer James Kittredge, competing right now with Tyler Hoover at nose tackle.

    "Hoover and Kittredge are battling it out right now at the 1 (technique) spot, and both of them are doing a great job right now," Pat Narduzzi said of nose tackle. "So it’d be a flip of the coin to see who would be the guy right now.”   

    Anthony Rashad White, of course, played the nose last season while Jerel Worthy caused havoc from the 3 technique position (which usually lines up between a guard and tackle). White is playing there now, though part of the reason is to get Hoover ready for the transition from the outside to the inside.

    “I think right now coach (Ted) Gill has me at the nose, I’m thinking really to push the quickness of how fast things are coming," Hoover said after Tuesday's practice. "And maybe once I go out to the 3, it will be a little slower. Not too much but I’ll be able to see it a little faster.”

    "I don’t know if it really matters, the 1 or the 3," Narduzzi said of Hoover. "Because I wanted to see, with that (rib) injury he had, I just wanted to start him off at the nose because I think it’s a little easier to do. So I want to wean him into the 3. But you know, he’ll be at both. He’s got to be able to play both. And I figured it would be good for Rashad to play the 3. Then we’ll switch it in the fall probably. I’d rather Hoover be there, but against our offense the 3 technique gets a lot of double teams, so I don’t want to beat up Hoover too quickly. I want him to get used to it before I send him to the wolves, I guess.”

    Kittredge has consistently earned mention as the third guy this spring, and it's important that MSU has a reliable one. After that, the names heard most often belong to redshirt freshmen -- Damon Knox and Brandon Clemons.

    “Damon Knox had a good scrimmage and Clemons as well," Narduzzi said. "(Mark) Scarpinato’s still trying to come back and be healthy and be the guy there, but they’re all showing improvement.”

    On redshirt freshman Matt Ramondo competing, Narduzzi said: “You know, it all depends. He’s still got to lose a couple pounds out there and he’s a little bit further behind some of those guys in there. But we’ll see. Those other guys are ahead of him right now.”

    Hoover also mentioned Kittredge, Knox and Clemons when asked about which interior reserves are impressing him.

    “You definitely see a lot of athletic (ability), they’re moving great inside," he said. "So you’ll be able to see something from them.”

    And, he says, from him.
    “It’s a learning experience but I’m definitely getting it, slowly but surely," Hoover said. "I’m just working on the short steps, the quick movements. It’s way faster inside. Way smaller (area). And being 6-6, 6-7 in that small area … I’m learning. I’ll get it.”

    On the other side of the line of scrimmage, OL coach Mark Staten was happier with his guys than you might expect after the offense lost 72-32 to the defense  in the first scrimmage. He said the No. 1 offense rushed the ball 13 times for 54 yards with no negative running plays, "so that was real promising."

    Staten said eight different players saw some time with the first unit, specifically mentioning Skyler Burkland at left tackle and Jack Allen at center and guard. But the starting unit that began the spring remains the starting unit. Burkland is "sniffing at" Dan France at left tackle, Staten said, but France is "holding down the fort."

    “Nothing’s changed," Staten said. "Burkland’s coming back from a catastrophic injury, two of them. Shoulder and a knee surgery, all within the last six months. So he’s getting there, he’s coming along.”

    Staten also said Michael Dennis is looking good at both tackles. As cited in Denny's story, Henry Conway is impressing as the No. 2 right tackle. Donavon Clark is working at left guard, Ethan Ruhland is working at left guard and center. Connor Kruse and Arthur Ray Jr. are both getting work with the second team at right guard. You forget sometimes how many capable offensive linemen MSU has.

    Also today, ESPN.com's Brian Bennett recently visited MSU and came away impressed with the Spartans. I have a feeling this Mark Dantonio quote will get heavy play on U-M message boards -- perhaps its official bulletin board.

    "We've beat Michigan the last four years. So where's the threat?"


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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter

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