EAST LANSING - Kaleb Thornhill (6-1, 240, Sr.) ferociously fills the middle of the Spartan defense at the MIKE linebacker position.
Thornhill, a local product from Lansing Eastern, continues a legacy at MSU following his father and brother. He has also been an important bridge for the new coaching staff.
"Mark Dantonio is a good get for Michigan State. . . . The entire team is excited about the hire," Thornhill said in an MSU release.
But Thornhill will be relied on for more than a few nice words. His role in the new 4-3 defense, especially in the gritty Big Ten, will primarily be stuffing the run.
1) Veteran presence:
Having started 21 consecutive games, Thornhill brings an important level of experience to the gridiron. A player who exudes the qualities of a captain, Thornhill has become a vocal leader on and off the field.
2) High football IQ:
Although Dantonio had doubts about Thornhill's ability to digest the new scheme, those fears have been put to rest through intense spring practices—growing up in a football family has its advantages. With a shift in emphasis to a more straight-up style, Thornhill should be able to utilize his football experience to excel in a more defined defensive role.
1) Will Thornhill stay healthy?
Recovering from shoulder and knee injuries, Thornhill sat out the Green and White game and saw no live action throughout the spring. While he is expected to return healthy by September, many wonder if his lack of real-time experience in a new system will put him behind the curve. Losing a starter at any position would hurt, but with his combination of leadership and experience, losing Thornhill would sting even more.
2) Is Thornhill a true MIKE linebacker?
Coming out of high school, Thornhill's speed and size (4.6 in the 40 and 210 lbs.) suggested to some that he might end up in the secondary. While he has proven doubters wrong in the past, the new defensive scheme should reveal rather quickly whether or not Thornhill is a true middle linebacker.
Expect Thornhill to remain an integral part of the defense. The new, aggressive 4-3 scheme will give him a chance to prove, once and for all, that he can be a standout player. Any future in the NFL will be heavily influenced by how well Thornhill adjusts to the new philosophy.
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Thornhill Continues Family Legacy at State
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