Lippett set for double starting duty

Michigan State wide receiver to start at cornerback on Saturday, becoming the first Spartan since 1968 to do so

Whether Michigan State opens Saturday’s game against Penn State on offense or defense, Tony Lippett will be on the field for the first play.

The senior wide receiver, who now is pulling double duty as a starting cornerback, will be the first two-way starter for the Spartans since 1968.

It is a role he is embracing.

”There’s probably a lot of other players that can do the same thing as me – play both sides of the ball, but a lot of them are not,” Lippett said. “I just try to embrace that and not let either one fall, production fall.”

Last week, Lippett was set to become the first Michigan State player to start on both sides of the ball since Allen Brenner played both split end and safety 56 years ago. But a mix-up near kickoff led to him not starting and the opportunity being delayed a week.

He already had been taking reps in practice at cornerback prior to last week, coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday, and showed his “retention was a 10” since he started at the position in 2011.

”He worked there for a year, a full season,” Dantonio said. “There wasn’t a lot of change. He was in meeting rooms, so he understands the terminology and all the different things that go along with that and the techniques involved.

”He was able to make that transition easily.”

For Lippett, who has been a full-time wide receiver since the start of the 2012 season, the biggest challenge has just been finding the rhythm and balance of playing both spots.

“Just getting back in the rhythm and reading my keys, adjusting going back to playing defensive back and then going back to the offensive mentality,” he said. “…Three years ago, once I got comfortable playing corner, my technique was pretty good.

”Right now, I’m just trying to play confident and improve my technique throughout practice until we get to the game.”

He sees more confidence in himself at cornerback, even though it has been some time since he played the position. He credited that to experience on the field and learning just by being out there.

It also does not hurt the way a professional team can view him as he will be in the 2015 NFL Draft – while Dantonio maintains he sees Lippett as a wide receiver at the next level

”It definitely will make me look better,” Lippett said. “Playing both sides of the ball at the collegiate level, it’s a high level. A lot of players only play one side of the ball.

”Just to know that I can go out there and flip a switch and play hard on both sides of the ball and understand things and still know the game plan on both sides, it just shows I can be versatile out here.”

In the present, the focus for Michigan State is on improved play in the secondary. Sophomore Darian Hicks started the first 10 games at cornerback, while Demetrious Cox also has been seeing time lately and Lippett now serves to bolster that group.

And in doing so, he is just hoping to add to what already has been an impressive season – but by adding his first career interception.

“I was trying to get one last week,” he said. “I wanted one. I came close three years ago on like four or five of them but just didn’t quite make the play.”

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