Shelton "a natural" at cornerback

Michigan State sophomore wide receiver getting work at cornerback to provide depth, but is impressing in the process.

As Michigan State gets its season under way Friday night at Spartan Stadium, sophomore R.J. Shelton is primed to play on not one, but possibly two sides of the ball – three, if you count special teams.

The wide receiver and kick returner has been getting work at cornerback to provide depth, coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday.

Admittedly, the thought of playing offense and defense in college never crossed his mind. When Dantonio approached him about playing both ways, he was willing to do whatever he could to help the team.

”I have been more of an offensive utility guy, running, catching and blocking as well,” he said. “I am open to anything, whatever has to happen to get this team to where it needs to be. I am willing to do that.”

Defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett sees the ability in Shelton since he started working in the secondary.

“He’s a natural at playing defensive back, believe it or not,” Barnett said. “I think he played a little bit of it in high school and he has natural ability on how to tackle, how to cover.”

Shelton played all four years in high school on both sides of the ball. He said he has been applying that knowledge, but still is learning the technique.

”It’s being level and being in front of the guy and not being off balance,” he said. “I was just working that and trying to feel comfortable.”

Admittedly, the thought of playing offense and defense in college never crossed his mind. When Dantonio approached him about playing both ways, he was willing to do whatever he could to help the team.

”I have been more of an offensive utility guy, running, catching and blocking as well,” he said. “I am open to anything, whatever has to happen to get this team to where it needs to be. …

”I’m going to give it 100 percent on both sides of the ball.”

Dantonio said the Beaver Dam, Wisc., native is more than capable of contributing and is the fourth or fifth corner for the Spartans heading into their opener against Jacksonville State.

”My thought process is the guy has got to play more than 20 plays a game for us because he is too good of a football player,” he said. “He become a dual guy.”

It is not the first time Dantonio has utilized a player on both sides of the ball, as he did so with Chris Gamble during his tenure at Ohio State. Shelton said Dantonio has mentioned Gamble to him – and he is fine with playing a high number of snaps like he did.

“He started talking about Chris Gamble about how he played both and one time at Purdue he played like 130 plays,” Shelton said. “He was a really good player, but again, I’m just going to do whatever this team needs me to do.

”If it means playing that many snaps or playing a lot of plays to get to our goals, that’s what I’m willing to do.”


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