The spread offense has proved frustrating to Michigan State’s defense in a pair of games this year. For the defensive line in particular, facing a team that gets the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly and seeks to spread a defense out can prove especially frustrating.
“It can be because it feels like you won’t make the play, but you know if you do your job it will only benefit the defense,” defensive tackle Joel Heath said.
The Spartans saw the challenge early in the season of facing Oregon quarterback and Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, who managed to elude multiple sack attempts in what proved to be the difference in the second half.
Against Baylor and Bryce Petty, the front four knows it will need to get to the quarterback with consistency. Defensive tackle Lawrence Thomas said it will have to be taken just one play at a time to avoid the frustration and stay focused on the task.
If we get to him, it can slow everything down,” Thomas said. “That’s where our focus is: Get off the ball fast so we can slow things down and get in tune.”
Heath seconded Thomas’ emphasis on finding ways to get pressure – and quickly – in order to have an impact against a quick, spread Baylor attack.
“I think you impact by getting vertical, getting upfield,” he said. “I think that the most important thing is to break the line of scrimmage and get beyond the line of scrimmage so that any plays on the outside coming out, they have to make more of a decision to get it out there or potentially go inside and that helps the linebackers out.”
If they do that, they figure the defense will fall into place to make plays as a unit and slow down the Bears’ top-ranked offense.
“I think in some ways the way our defense is set up, it’s always been that way,” Heath said. “We know that typically the linebackers are going to make more plays than the defensive linemen, but it’s just more a selfish kind of thing. We understand that. We have been that way for quite some time.”