It has been a while since Brandon Clemons has played on both sides of the ball in the same game. The last time he can remember was in his high school career at Milford (Pa.) Delaware Valley, where he also worked on special teams.
On Saturday in Michigan State’s 73-14 win against Eastern Michigan, Clemons got the chance to do that again as he worked at both offensive guard and defensive tackle. It is a role Clemons said is crucial to providing depth on both the offensive and defensive lines.
“It shows me how much trust Coach D has in me and the coaches have in me,” he said. “Right now, it’s just me doing the best I can to do what I can to improve my craft as both an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman.”
The move to being a two-way player became necessary when Michigan State lost offensive guard Connor Kruse to a leg injury during preseason camp. At that point, Clemons was in the rotation on the defensive line, but the coaches asked more of him.
”We moved him over to provide some depth at camp and he is back and forth which is tough on him,” offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. “To his credit he does a great job. So it is good for him, it is good for us to have that flexibility.”
Clemons said he was fine with the move, as he was just looking to get on the field and help the team in any way he could.
Initially, it was slightly overwhelming for the junior as he worked in two rooms, but he found he could rely on the fact that the coaches at Michigan State would not put him in a position to fail.
”They wouldn’t have put me in a position if they didn’t know I could do it,” he said. “I just have belief in myself and belief in the coaches and I will be alright.”
Clemons now is tasked with preparing for an opposing offense and an opposing defense each week, while trying to learn the offense, which he had yet to play in his Michigan State career before Saturday. He realized quickly how much faster being on offense is at the college level compared the last time he played in a game back in high school.
“I never realized how critical it is for me to know what I’m doing (on offense),” he said. “On defense, if I make a mistake, I have the linebackers to correct me. On offense, if I make a mistake, the whole play is messed up, a linebacker is coming through and it’s just chaos.”
He has had a person to turn to through the transition to being a two-way player, as former Spartan Micajah Reynolds spent much of his career flipping between the offensive and defensive lines before setting in as a defensive tackle.
“I have talked to him and he was just like you’ve gotta work on this and just be confident in yourself and make sure you know what you’re doing,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”
Even as Michigan State is set to get Kruse back next week for its game against Wyoming, Clemons said he is open to the idea of continuing to play both ways.
”If it happens for the rest of the year, I’ll be fine with it because I feel like every week I’m getting better in knowing what I’m supposed to be doing on offense,” he said. “On defense, it’s just different schemes of the offense that we are playing, but for the most part we have already seen anything we will see all year.”