Opportunistic Tiger to play LB

When the Tigers take the field this season, many fans will see plenty of familiar faces in the starting lineups. But one face fans might be surprised to see belongs to Jason Spadoni.

Spadoni enters the 2005 season as the starting outside linebacker, a position he has never before played.

Spadoni started spring camp playing tailback, but a loaded backfield combined with the loss of Lionel Turner at middle linebacker forced him to move to defense. He was named a starting linebacker after an injury to E.J. Kuale forced him to miss the entire season.

Spadoni and Kenneth Hollis now occupy the outside linebacker roles while Cameron Vaughn is in the middle.

Although Tiger fans may have felt surprised at Miles decision to use Spadoni, the senior from John Curtis wants to prove himself.

"It's a big opportunity to get in there and show them that I want to play," Spadoni said.

The switch from tailback to linebacker does not seem to faze him. He welcomes the new position and new responsibility.

"I'll pretty much do what they ask me to do," he said, "and try to do it to the best of my ability."

Last season, Spadoni accumulated 15 yards on 14 carries, eight of those yards coming against Mississippi State while the other seven were against Arkansas State. He also had two tackles while playing special teams. But this season, he looks to see a lot more playing time.

Spadoni moved to middle linebacker two weeks into spring training, and was listed as backup to Kuale. Despite being a relative newcomer to the position, Spadoni has learned to play the position quickly.

He said the only trouble he still faces is being able to see the whole play, but he assured it will not be a problem.

"I'm getting better everyday and I keep working on it," he said.

Spadoni appears ready to play, but admits that lately his mind has been elsewhere. He and his family have a house in north Kenner, just one of many areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina last week.

Spadoni said his parents evacuated to Texas before the storm hit, but believes his house was flooded.

"The main thing to me is that my family is safe," he said. "You can replace all the things inside of your house, but you can't replace a life."

Spadoni applauded the decision by the Athletic Department last week to postpone the season opener against North Texas because of the impact the storm has had on many of his teammates.

"I think it was the right decision to postpone the game because we've got a lot people from that area that was hit hard and I think a lot of players had a lot of that on their mind," he said.

He also added that postponing the game allowed for players to accept last week's events and raise their morale.

"There's nothing you can do about it. It's an act of God," he said. "You've just got to push through it and be strong and you'll get through it."

For Spadoni, the knowledge of his family's safety has helped ease his concerns.

"You got to keep high hopes that everything's going to be okay," he said. "As long as my family's alright, I'm alright."

As for the other members of his team, Spadoni thinks they are handling the situation well, and believes football has a lot to do with it.

"We're faced with a lot of adversity as football players. It's just another thing that we have to deal with, but I think we're dealing with it well," he said.

One thing that Spadoni and the rest of the Tiger defense will have to deal with is an Arizona State offense that put up 63 points on Temple last Saturday.

In that game, the Sun Devils offense put up 300 yards rushing and 259 yards passing.

For the Tigers defense to be successful Saturday, they will have to put the past behind them for a few hours and concentrate on the task at hand. However, difficult this may seem, Spadoni knows his team can do it.

"I think everybody knows there's nothing anybody can really do about it. It's just something that happens," he said. "You've just got to roll with it."

The Tigers will roll out of Tiger Stadium and into Tempe for their "home" game against the Sun Devils.

But one thing is for sure, with his journey this year from the back of offensive depth chart to a defensive starter, Spadoni has proven that a change in scenery does him good.

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