Knox shaking off rust for Saturday

Spartans defense tackle expected to make season debut against Nebraska

Michigan State's starting defensive line figures to look the same this Saturday against Nebraska, but the depth is looking to get a little bit better.

Junior Damon Knox returned the depth chart Tuesday and defensive line coach Ron Burton said he expects him to have a chance to play.

The junior will bring an added veteran presence to the group after factoring heavily into the rotation last year.

”It means experience on the defensive line that’s played in the games, number one,” Burton said. “He’s shown some experience by being on the sideline and helping us out, too.

”Having him back on the field gives us that extra guy to understand what we have to get done against Nebraska, that’s for sure.”

While Knox is expected to play against the Huskers, senior James Kittredge is a little less certain. The defensive tackle has not played since the Spartans’ season opener.

“At this point, we shall see,” Burton said. “We’ve still got two days of practice. He started out a little slow yesterday, but felt more comfortable as the practice went on.”

Knox missed most of preseason camp after going down early with an undisclosed injury. Burton said he has been progressing in practice.

”He’s rusty but he’s made some improvement,” he said. “That’s based on anyone who’s coming back from an injury and want to get back in game ready shape.”

Juniors Lawrence Thomas and Joel Heath are expected to remain the starters, while Brandon Clemons, Craig Evans and Malik McDowell have been in the rotation. McDowell has entrenched himself in the rotation and Burton wants to continue to see more of him.

”He’s averaging about 20 reps a game right now and we like what he’s doing,” Burton said. “We’d like to see him on the field more.”

With Knox back in the mix, he presumably makes a four-man rotation with Thomas, Heath and McDowell. Evans likely is the fifth, while Kittredge’s return could make him the fifth.

For now, Burton is just happy to have more depth back in the middle of the trenches.

”Those guys have fought back to get into position to play and they’re still a work in progress right now but it’s good to have them back on the field,” he said.

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