The move of former free safety Greg Cooper to the corner position has been a huge success. Cooper has shown the ability to run with wide receivers and make plays something he did not do at the free safety position where he appeared tentative and at times took poor angles to the ball. Cooper will team with holdover Demond Williams to man the two corner positions for Michigan State with sophomore Ross Weaver as the nickle.
The move of SirDarean Adams to safety was less successful and Adams has been moved back to his starting bandit position, but the experiment was a success nonetheless. That is because MSU discovered Nehemiah Warrick, a hitter deluxe who also has shown some solid tackling ability has claimed the strong safety spot.
Warrick looks early on to be a solid replacement to the departed Eric Smith, who manned the strong safety position for MSU the last three seasons. The junior college transfer will team with sophomore Otis Wiley, who appears to have claimed the free safety position left open by the moves of both Cooper and Adams.
The linebacking corps suffered a bit of a setback when senior returnee Seth Mitchell announced he was giving up the game. Mitchell said in a statement that he could not live up to his expectations on the field.
Still senior David Herron, Jr. will man the whip position and is expected to be the main cog in a group that should give MSU solid production. The returning Adams is still the most athletic of the group at the bandit and could turn in a 90-100 tackle season at the position he is most suited for.
Junior Kaleb Thornhill should only get better at the "Mike" linebacker position giving the group three solid starters. Redshirt freshman Andrew Hawken, senior Steven Juarez, junior Cole Corey and sophomore Tom Dance give the team some decent depth.
Even the defensive line which was among the worst in Division IA a season ago has added some potential playmakers. Brandon Long will likely team with junior college transfer Ervin Baldwin from Reedley CC as the starting ends. MSU expects Baldwin to be an instant contributor as he recorded 13 sacks a season ago at the JUCO level.
State has moved Clifton Ryan inside to take over one of the tackles spots and is letting JC transfer Ogedmi Nwagbuo fight it out with senior David Stanton, a transfer from a season ago who Smith fought to keep in school after he was initially declared academically ineligible. Transfer Bobby Jones is also in the mix for playing time.
The "X" factor in the mix for MSU is the formerly highly regarded end out of Cassopolis, MI Derrick Outlaw. Outlaw took a circuitous route to Michigan State, quitting football at first and then trying out for the basketball team at Lake Michigan College and using up a year of precious eligibility. Outlaw walked back on to MSU used a redshirt and now, as a junior has only two years left to make an impact.
Not to be forgotten is Brandon Fields, a player who's shown he can rank among the nation's best when he's healthy. If MSU can get Fields to return to the form he showed as a sophomore, he could help the defense by putting opposing offensive units on a long field.
Despite the progress the unit has made, they still need all the help they can get if they hope to get the Spartans off to a fast start - and even more important - a solid finish to the 2006 season.