Michigan State has not needed to have many freshmen contributors in recent years, but with the high level of talent the Spartans recruited in the 2014 class, some are making their way onto the field.
Six true freshmen saw action for in Michigan State’s season-opening 45-7 win on Friday night against Jacksonville State.
The Spartans played offensive lineman Brian Allen, defensive tackle Craig Evans, linebacker Chris Frey, defensive tackle Malik McDowell, defensive back Montae Nicholson and defensive end Montez Sweat. Coach Mark Dantonio said it was an “active decision” to play all six.
”Those guys have earned the right to play and put themselves in that position,” he said. “We felt that they deserved that opportunity. They are good football players and need game experience.
”This is the time to find out and let them play. They will improve with their opportunities to play. These guys can play at this level.”
The first to see the field were Montae Nicholson and Chris Frey, as both started on special teams. Nicholson came down the field and made the first tackle of the game, bringing down JSU’s Troymaine Pope on the 12-yard line. It was a stop defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said he could see coming before the game.
”He had a big smile on his face,” Narduzzi said. “On the opening kickoff I think he made that hit, I said watch Monte he is going to go out and make a play and he did.”
Nicholson recorded two tackles and Frey three tackles. But the best statistical showing came from Sweat, who had four tackles, including a half-sack for a loss of two yards. He was one of three of the freshmen to play on the defensive line.
Junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun said he talked with Evans, McDowell and Sweat and gave them pointers before their first game.
”I just told them if you make a mistake, make it fast,” he said. “That’s how our defense plays, we play fast, so try to get your job done, but if there is a mistake, just play fast, that’s the biggest thing.
”I also said to them a quote from Ray Lewis: ‘Wins and losses come a dime a dozen, but effort, no one can judge you.’ So when you go out there give as much effort as you can.”