Spartan Football Coaches and Players Speak

Saturday's scrimmage brought a lot of optimism and concerns to the Spartan faithful. So what are coaches and players saying about the progress so far? GSN lets you know inside.

OKEMOS,MI-Spartan spring football is a time to sit in the stands, take in the sunshine, and get a first hand look at the veterans, and 'up and coming' newcomers.

MSU football is also once again open up for business this week as players continue to battle for jobs with another open scrimmage for fans available this Friday, with gates opening at 2:30pm.

Looking back at this past Saturday's first open scrimmage, the viewing public witnessed several impressive plays on both sides of the ball and plenty of mistakes in a two-hour long practice that ended with an impressive kicking display by Todd Boleski.

Boleski missed a field goal early, but later came back with four field goals, the last three on consecutive attempts in the controlled scrimmage.

In fact, during the last one, a 55-yard attempt, John L. Smith called the extra players over from the sideline to huddle around, and yell and distract Boleski as he attempted the kick. Boleski promptly kicked it through and showed he has some mental toughness.

"That kid has a leg, a giant leg. It's as strong a leg as I've ever seen, besides maybe Jason Hanson (Detroit Lions)," said head coach John L. Smith. "He needs a lot of kicks, and a lot of work, and we need to speed him up a little bit."

As expected, Drew Stanton and Javon Ringer saw limited action, but this gave the coaches an opportunity to view other players, most notably on offense, running back A.J. Jimmerson, wide out's Devin Thomas and T.J. Williams, and quarterback's Brian Hoyer, and Dominic Natale.

"A.J Jimmerson ran harder than he has all spring," said offensive cordinator Dave Baldwin. "We know that Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick are special, but to have three backs again this year would be very nice."

Indeed, Jimmerson was special himself gaining 63-yards on thirteen yards as Jimmerson juked and spun away from tacklers continously while showing off good speed, quickness, and toughness up the middle.

Devin Thomas was able to catch three balls, one that went for a touchdown, and showed the ability to get open down field.

"Devin Thomas has to be a big playmaker for us. It's a matter of force-feeding him the entire offense. We expect a lot out of him," added Smith.

Safety newcomer Nehemiah Warrick has already raised eyebrows and impressed the coaches this spring. He has emerged as the leading candidate for the strong safety position vacated by Eric Smith.

Known by his teammates as "Nemo", the junior college transfer made some solid tackles, and bone crushing hits that had the crowd roaring.

"I wish everybody on defense played like Nehemiah Warrick," added Smith. "He plays with an attitude and abandon. "Nemo has great range across the middle of the field and is always looking to make a hit. I hope his attitude becomes infectious."

Terry Love entertained fans with his moves on a punt return and on a reverse as well. After receiving a hand-off and running right, Love ran into a wall of defenders, and barely avoided two lunging would-be tacklers. Love then spun and changed-direction, running for the left sideline. Love then turned it upfield and nearly broke the play for a touchdown. While he ran about 50-yards for a net gain of just three yards, Love showed his open field escapability and speed.

Love also nearly broke a touchdown return of a John Goss punt before being tackled.

"Terry had a good spring, (but) I would have liked to see him make that first catch but Nemo (Nehemiah Warrick) made a great hit", said Baldwin.

"Devin Thomas had a real good day today. T.J. Williams caught a great slant and showed some things today. You put those guys into the package with the six receivers we have and you're going to feel comfortable about it," added Baldwin.

Bryan Hoyer, recently named Stanton's backup, played well in the scrimmage, while third-string quarterback Dominic Natale started slow but showed off his legs and versatility.

Said Hoyer,"I'm getting a lot more comfortable with this offense. I think the biggest key is just recognizing what the defense is giving me."

Added Hoyer, "I think I did alright, but I need to be a little more patient in the pocket. Next Friday I just want to take my time and go through my reads."

Added Coach Smith, "I like the way the quarterbacks came out to perform. I thought both Brian Hoyer and Dominic Natale did a good job. They'll both get a lot of work next Friday."

Looking at the defensive side of the ball, which dominated the scrimmage for the most part, players were more enthused with their comments.

Said linebacker David Herron, "There's always talk in the locker room before a scrimmage because guys want to come out and shut the other guys up."

Cliff Ryan also had some strong thoughts on the defense. "This team is going to go as far as we take it. We are more athletic, and we run to the ball better than we did a year ago."

"There are defensive linemen making plays downfield," continued Ryan. "We have a great safety in Warrick, two athletic corners in Williams and Cooper. David Herron has the speed and power to be one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten. This is probably the most athletic defense we've had since I've been here."

Added Smith, "I like the way we ran around on the defensive side of the ball. There were some good hits and lots of big plays, but we have to develop an attitude where we want to get to the ball and make big plays."

GSN will have more exciting Spartan football coverage in the coming days.

MSU's Sports information press release contributed to this article.

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