Change is everywhere for new-look Spartans

Today's start of spring practice brings many changes along with it for this year's edition of the Michigan State Spartans. One of the most interesting is the switch of premier strong safety <B>Eric Smith</b> to the bandit position where playmakers shine.

EAST LANSING - When they line up for today's kickoff of Spring football practice in East Lansing today, you'll need a scorecard to find the players...and the coaches.

The Spartans will introduce three new additions to their coaching staff including Lucious Selmon as defensive line coach replacing Steve Stripling (Michigan), Ben Sirmons as running backs coach replacing Reggie Mitchell (Illinois) and recently hired Chuck Dreisbach who replaces Paul Haynes (Ohio State).

Selmon, a former Outland Trophy runner-up at Oklahoma (1973) brings a player's perspective to the coaching staff and has NFL experience after eight years with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I can't wait to get back to coaching at the collegiate level. At this point in my coaching career, I wanted to pursue an opportunity that provides happiness. The college game produces the gratest joy for me because I really enjoy working with and developing young men."

Driesbach has been a defensive coordinator the last three years at Mississippi under departed head coach David Cutcliffe. "It's a thrill to have the opportunity to coach at Michigan State. This is a prestigious academic institition with great fooball and athletic tradition," said Driesbach.

John L. Smith hopes the addition of the three new coaches adds some spice and some fire to MSU spring practices. "Maybe that will keep us fresh," said Smith of the defections to rival staffs. "We're definitely going to have to freshen up our signals."

One of the main story lines that will develop right up until the season opener on September 3rd against Kent State, is the battle for the backup quarterback position behind junior Drew Stanton. Smith expects redshirt freshman Brian Hoyer to battle true freshman Dominic Natale and redshirt sophomore Stephen Reaves for the backup.

Reaves has been in Coach Smith's doghouse for a number of reasons and at various points last year was considering transferring to another school, most notably South Carolina, where new coach Steve Spurrier takes over.

While Hoyer would appear to be the favorite, Natale has a big arm and a big presence and will eventually get playing time on the field. The main factor working against him getting playing time this fall is an opportunity to redshirt and gain a year of experience on the practice field. Redshirting would allow Natale to have three years of eligibility remaining when Stanton's eligibility expires.

However, there's plenty of opportunity for younger players to work their way into the Spartans defensive lineup with just five players returning.

One interesting change being contemplated is the move of senior strong safety Eric Smith - who wracked up a solid 115 tackles - to the bandit (weak side linebacker) position. The bandit is a feature of Smith's defenses and is a position where a playmaker can make a lot of plays.

"We're going to move 'Smitty' around and ask him to do more," Smith told the media. "That fits his menatlity a little bit, his mental makeup."

Smith's move to bandit opens up the safety position where junior Greg Cooper is the odds-on favorite the man the free position while sophomore SirDarean Adams, sophomore Michael Bell and redshirt freshman Tom Dance battle for the strong side position.

INSIDE SLANT: Linebacker Hugh D'Imperio and running back Miles Williams are not expected to take part in Spring practice after being charged with felonies for their alleged involvement in a robbery. Both appear to be longshots to return to the program.

With solid kicker Dave Rayner moving on to the pros, Smith is counting on junior college transfer John Goss to step up and solidify the kicking position. Goss is coming off a mild knee injury and his availability will be limited during Spring practice.


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