Tressel Expects Linebackers to Step Forward

Michigan State special team coordinator and linebackers coach Mike Tressel talked about the top ranked Spartans defense and special teams heading into Ohio State.

The Michigan State Spartans have the top ranked defense after four games. Now, headed into their first Big Ten battle at Ohio State, the Spartans know they're in for another tough test.

How does Spartans linebacker coach Mike Tressel feel about the early season ranking of the defense?

"I think if we keep playing this way, we'll end up with a good season," said Tressel. "I really do. We have played well. I think our guys feel like we can only get better. Four games in, it doesn't mean a lot, but if we can have those types of stats at the end of the year, that means we had a good year."

Saturday brings a new challenge as Buckeyes freshman quarterback Braxton Miller has the ability to beat teams with his arm and feet. What challenges will the Spartans face against Miller?

"You can't let him make things happen in broken plays," said Tressel. "First of all, it's a challenge for the linebackers regardless of who's at quarterback because their offensive line and their fullback and their tailback, those are good football players. So the linebackers have big challenge as it is. Now, add on a guy that can make something happen on broken plays...we can't let that happen.

"We're prepared for some option stuff, but I don't think they'll make that their living. I don't think with a freshman quarterback in his second start you want to put him in too many situations where you have him making decisions like that with the ball in the air, but there might be some, and certainly if you're looking at third down and mediums or something like that, yeah, we have to be ready for that."

One area Tressel feels the Spartans are well equipped is speed at linebacker.

"You have to be able to run down whoever it is that has the ball in his hands," he continued. "Miller can run, there's no doubt about it, he can run, but I do feel like our speed is upgraded."

Going into the season many wondered how the Spartans would perform with the loss of Greg Jones and Eric Gordon. How does Tressel feel the starting linebackers have performed so far this season?

"I think we need to step it up," Tressel said. "I think it's been solid, our defense has been solid, so I think it's been pretty good. But I think this is the time right now where you say inexperience is over. (Sophomore) Max Bullough, (sophomore) Denicos Allen, inexperience is over. I expect them to step up right now for the Big Ten."

Also the Spartans special teams coordinator, Tressel knows breakdowns in this area can be critical.

"It's always a concern because special teams are critical," said Tressel. "As you get into the Big Ten year, a big play for us, or a big play against us, that could be the difference in the ballgame. I think we've stressed that to our kids, and our kids understand it. It's a matter of focus. But I have no question the focus will be there in a game like this."

Dave Berk has followed Ohio High School football recruiting since the late 90's. In 2002 he joined Scout.com covering Ohio High School sports and football recruiting before moving over to cover The University of Cincinnati in 2005. In 2010 Dave was offered a chance to cover Michigan State (SpartanDigest.com) and Notre Dame (IrishEyes.com) as a football recruiting analyst. Over the years Dave has been a guest on several radio shows and appeared on College Football Now on the NFL Network. This fall Dave appears on Fox Sports Ohio's Southwest Ohio football telecats giving recruiting insight on players in the game. You can contact or follow Dave at the following.
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