In Michigan State’s season opener last Friday, the Spartans played 10 defensive linemen and seven linebackers.
As they head to Oregon this Saturday, getting a solid rotation and utilizing depth will be part of the recipe for trying to slow down the Ducks’ no-huddle, up-tempo offensive attack.
Senior linebacker Taiwan Jones said getting a good rotation and substitution pattern will be important for the Spartans to come out on top against the Ducks.
“I feel like we are very lucky in that aspect because we’ve got a lot of guys that can step in and play if somebody needs a blow,” Jones said.
It is likely that there will be need for players to get a few snaps off to stay fresh into the fourth quarter at Autzen Stadium, especially given Oregon will be rotating players in and out with great depth.
”With any fast paced offense, they have depth on their offense to be able to run a fast-paced offense, so if you don’t have depth on your defense, you’re going to have a long day,” senior safety Kurtis Drummond said.
Fortunately for the Spartans, the depth has been built on the defense as they built a solid rotation after a 2012 while featured limited snaps for backups due to many close games. With last year’s success, players like linebackers Darien Harris and Ed Davis have plenty of experience, as do players like defensive ends Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush up front.
”I feel like they run a face-paced offense so it will be difficult for our defensive line and our safeties but that’s what we go out and practice each and every day to prepare for that,” Calhoun said.
Behind the starters, much of the depth and players that will factor into the rotation is built on youth. Players including defensive end Demetrious Cooper, linebacker Riley Bullough and defensive tackles Malik McDowell and Craig Evans should play roles against Oregon and throughout the rest of the year.
“With our team, that’s how we play,” Calhoun said. “We like to have our young guys understand what we need to do so if we do need them for a snap they’re able to come in and be productive also.”
But with the challenge of the Oregon offense on tap, the Pat Narduzzi-led defense knows it will have its work cut out for it, so having the confidence in a second group of players goes a long way.
“For us having depth on our defense and really having the confidence in our backups to be able to come in and not miss a beat,” Drummond said, “I guess it just really adds more confidence to our first team being able to fly around even harder knowing that your backup can come in and do the same thing.”