The standout from Southfield, Mich., has worked his way into the rotation immediately on the defensive line.
”He has been stout in there and he has got a knack for getting off of blocks and running and he can control the gap,” coach Mark Dantonio said in his weekly teleconference Sunday night.
Through his first three games as a Spartan as four tackles with a half-sack for a loss of three yards, which he recorded at Oregon. While he is not making his way into the starting lineup as Michigan State utilizes juniors Joel Heath and Lawrence Thomas as starters, there is no doubt for the Spartans that McDowell is going to play in every game.
”I think you have to include him as one of those one-and-a-halves right now as a guy that you know is going to play every game and you know he is going to make some plays,” Dantonio said.
McDowell was one of many younger players to get reps in Michigan State’s 73-14 win against Eastern Michigan on Saturday. At one point, six of the front seven on the defensive line and linebackers consisted of freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
”I think that bodes well for the future,” Dantonio said. “Some of the guys that I thought played very, very well, I thought Malik McDowell played well. We had limited reps with Craig Evans in there, about 13-15 reps. I thought he played pretty well.
”Montae Nicholson is a guy that continues to make his way and prove that he can play. I think he’s a guy that is coming faster and faster. Jon Reschke had a nice game as a redshirt freshman. Chris Frey is in there playing.
”We’ve got a lot of guys in there playing. Demetrius Cooper is in there playing. It’s sort of tough to pick them all out.”
Linebackers grade out well
Michigan State has seen plenty of strong linebacker play in recent seasons, but with a lot of newer faces in the playing group this season, the Spartans have seen pretty good play so far.
Dantonio praised Taiwan Jones for his play against Eastern Michigan, while saying the whole playing group performed well.
”When you look at them collectively, they are in the right place a lot of the time, most of the time they are in the right place,” he said. “They had a couple blows because there is nothing that’s perfect.”
Dantonio said the group graded out at a “low winning” to a “high winning” level Saturday due to holding the Eagles to 20 rushing yards on 19 attempts, but the Spartans remain looking for more.
”We are trying to chase excellence and chase perfection,” he said. “We are sort of nit picking at times in gap controls and exact responsibilities.”