Tacklers Tell the Story

Of the four tackling positions, the player with the most tackles against UM was SAM linebacker Greg Jones with four — he finished fifth on the team overall. Next, Eric Gordon at WILL with 3 tackles, then SS Nehimiah Warrick with two, then Kaleb Thornhill, also with two tackles. In total, they made 11 tackles, only two of which were solo; compare that to UM's quartet who had 45 tackles, 14 solo.

EAST LANSING - Michigan State learned a lesson in losing to their cross-state rival Michigan last Saturday. Winning football games comes down to talented players executing throughout the game.

And that doesn't mean just the highlight reel guys like wide receiver Mario Manningham and running back Mike Hart. In fact, it's the guys who don't make ESPN clips that seal victories for the Wolverines.

Take, for instance, the art of tackling. For most teams, there are four players on the field whose sole responsibility every single play is to have a nose for the football and to make an effort to close in on the ball carrier, especially in the running game: the three linebackers and the strong safety.

Those are the players that should be appearing at the top of the defensive statistical heap. All four of Michigan's players at those positions did so: SS Jamar Adams led the team with 14 tackles; Obi Ezeh was next with 13 tackles at the MIKE; then Chris Graham at the WILL position with 11 tackles; and finally Shawn Crable at SAM with 7.

For Michigan State, out of the four tackling positions, the player with the most tackles against UM was SAM linebacker Greg Jones with four – he finished fifth on the team overall. Next came Eric Gordon at the WILL spot with 3 tackles, then SS Nehimiah Warrick with two. Rounding out the quartet was MIKE LB Kaleb Thornhill, who also had two tackles on the afternoon. In total, the Spartan group made 11 tackles, only two of which were solo; compare that to UM's quartet who had 45 tackles, 14 solo.

So what do the Spartans need to get their defensive playmakers in position? Right now, opposing teams can circle impact players on the defense, players like Thornhill and Warrick, because of the depth and experience issues MSU has been facing.

Simply giving some players more time to mature is one answer. Jones is a true freshman, still adjusting to the speed of the Big Ten. He was in position to make a tackle on Hart in a hole but missed, giving Hart his first big run on the afternoon.

Gordon is another player who should improve with time. The red-shirt freshman now has nearly a full season of starting experience and that will come in handy over the next three years as his body and physicality on the field catches up with his experience.

Good things happen when teams successfully put the players most trained to make tackles in position to get the job done. Jones led the team in tackles the two games previous to the Wolverines. In the future, if the Spartans are to develop into a powerhouse defensive unit, his name, along with other LBs and safeties, will be sitting atop the stats sheet.


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