Thornhill missed all of the spring practice sessions and the coaching staff freely admitted, they felt he would be way behind once he was healthy enough to practice.
But Thornhill had the advantage of being a senior and one thing he pointed to as a key, knowing his way around the film study room.
"The better you konw your opponents plays, recognize formations and things like that, the better you're going to be in reacting to that play and film study is huge," said Thornhill who has become one of the unquestioned leaders of the Spartans defense. "That's what a lot of freshmen and sophomore maybe don't realize is how important film is in preparing for an opponent," Thornhill continued.
He is stressing to the underclassmen the importance of knowing where they are supposed to be in the Spartans defense and he things the new scheme run by MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will be key in helping MSU improve over last year'defensive performances, especially the late game collapses.
"Running the 4-3 (defense) rather than the 4-2-5 bringing an extra linebacker in the box to stop the run is going to be a key," said Thornhill.
"We're more of a downhill defense and I think that's going to improve overall tackles for loss and speed getting to the ball. Were defintely going to be more of a run defense stop the run first and make them pass the ball. That's going to be the major difference."
While he can't help but hear about the comments of the pundits who say MSU won't finish any higher than 8th or 9th in the Big Ten, he is telling his teammates, and himself to use it as motivation.
"I do use that as motivation.
I try not to pay attention to it too much, but obviously its in the back of my mind," admitted the senior.
"We can only control what we can do. You kind of like them not picking us very high because if we...when we win some games were going to shut everybody up hopefully. (We) definitely have a chip on our shoulder because of that.
(Strength and conditioning) Coach (Ken) Mannie has talked about it quite a bit in terms of letting us know we're not ranked very high. I try not to pay atteniton but obviously its in th eback of my head that obviously we need to open some eyes this year."
Thornhill is used to springing surprises. Some thought his career would be cut short by injuries but he's survived and now heading into his senior year, it would be surprising if he can lead the Spartans defense to a bowl game appearance.
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