Smith's leadership crucial to Spartans defense

The MSU Spartans briefly flirted with the idea of moving strong safety Eric Smith to the bandit position in their defensive scheme, but Coach John L. Smith realized the value Smith brings quarterbacking the secondary. Smith talked about the defense, the returning veteran players and the impact they'll make on the Spartans defense.

EAST LANSING - John L. Smith's decision to move Eric Smith back to his familar strong safety spot will benefit the Spartans defense in a number of ways that may not be clearly apparent.

Smith was the among the Spartans leaders in tackles last season with 103 and while he likely could have handled the move to the bandit position - a hybrid safety/linebacker in John L. Smith's defensive scheme, Smith is better suited as the last line of defense. He is a heady player who anticipates situations well and has a nose for the football.

Smith showed his understanding of the Spartans defensive scheme as he pointed out that the team has three returning veterans in its linebacking corps and four players from last year's playing group returning from the defensive front.

"We'll have more experience since we'll be playing the same defense as last year," said Smith. "What we need to focus on is getting to the point of attack and making the tackle."

This year Smith will be teamed with junior free safety Greg Cooper and believes that they will come together quickly to get the Spartans secondary in quick order.

"We've got Greg Cooper back there now, and we have a great relationship. We really communicate well and hopefully, we'll be able to pick up right where Jason Harmon and I left off."

While Smith will make the calls for the Spartans secondary, he will also serve as the backup at the Bandit position while Sir Darean Adams, a sophomore from Bradenton, FL will get the majority of the reps there.

"He's come a long way since he first came in. Last fall, he went back and forth between offense and defense. Now, he's strictly on the defensive side and knows what he needs to do, so he should be good to go."

But if not, Smith stands ready to step in if called upon.

"It shouldn't be a problem. Playing as a strong safety, I can go by what I do and by my instincts. From my experiences in the spring, I know what the bandit is supposed to do."

Putting Smith back at the safety position allows MSU to get a speedy athlete in Adams on the field while he gets a chance to show NFL scouts that he can play the deep zones at the high level required on Sundays. All that should help MSU reach its goal of getting back to a bowl game this winter.

You call that a win-win situation for both Smith and the Spartan program.

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