Spartan Defenders Must Work Together

Defensive ends Saint-Dic and Ervin Baldwin will line up over left tackle Jake Long and right tackle Stephen Schilling. Finding a way around future first round draft pick Long and Schilling won't be easy; the Wolverines have allowed only 15 sacks this season. Saint-Dic and Baldwin would benefit from a healthy dose of blitzing from the linebacking corps.

EAST LANSING - Together, the players on the Michigan State defense can be an intimidating group. Safety Nehimiah Warrick rocks receivers who dare to stretch out for a pass; Jonal Saint-Dic takes shots at exposed quarterbacks after beating his man with a rip technique; and Greg Jones has been a Tasmanian devil, flying to plays and making statements with his solid tackling.

In order to pull off an upset, the Spartans will need to find a way to succeed in two key areas.

MSU Corners vs. UM Wide Receivers

Even when healthy, Michigan State (along with most teams, for that matter) would have difficulty matching up against Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington.

With opening game starter Ross Weaver having only played three games this season and backing up Kendell Davis-Clark, who has battled injuries of his own, along with a season-ending detached retina for Chris L. Rucker, the Spartan cornerback position will have its hands full this weekend. Add in a touch of inexperience and controversy with converted wide receiver T.J. Williams, who has a legal cloud hanging over him, and the matchup looks even more imposing.

The green and white will need to rely on sophomore Ashton Henderson, who has seen increased playing time the past two weeks, as the starter opposite Davis-Clark. Safety help from Warrick, Otis Wiley and Travis Key will be essential to prevent Manningham from slipping through the defense for big plays.

But the most valuable assistance those men-on-islands get will come from players who line up in front of them, not behind them.

MSU Pass Rush vs. UM Offensive Tackles

The way the Michigan offensive line has been playing lately, it might be more accurate to talk about MSU's front eight or nine. But if the Spartans have a shot, they'll need to create havoc as efficiently as possible.

Defensive ends Saint-Dic and Ervin Baldwin will line up over left tackle Jake Long and right tackle Stephen Schilling. Finding a way around future first round draft pick Long and Schilling won't be easy; the Wolverines have allowed only 15 sacks this season. Saint-Dic and Baldwin would benefit from a healthy dose of blitzing from the linebacking corps.

At linebacker, true freshman Jones has led Michigan State in tackles the past two games; he is maturing and possesses a load of athleticism. Utilizing his skills through a generous blitzing scheme, along with the experience of senior Kaleb Thornhill, should energize the defense and help Saint-Dic and Baldwin maneuver around the Wolverine bookends.

But what about too much blitzing which might leave the defense vulnerable to big plays? The fact is, MSU takes those risks every game. Slowing down against the Wolverines would only embolden an already dangerously talented squad.

The Michigan State offense lives and dies on playmakers such as Kellen Davis, Devin Thomas and Javon Ringer. Teams know their going to be a focus, but MSU, sometimes creatively, finds a way to get them involved. The Spartan defense would do well to mimic that philosophy.


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