EAST LANSING – Preparations for the 2008 season are already underway for coach Mark Dantonio and his Spartan football team.
Change comes as no surprise to college football fans — after all, they wave goodbye to seniors and juniors, like the surprising Devin Thomas, every season. But some of the early moves by Michigan State may intrigue Green-and-White devotees.
First, the T.J. Williams experiment is over. The troubled athlete, who switched positions from wide receiver to cornerback this season, has been removed from the team for a number of unspecified reasons — likely related to struggles with academics and discipline throughout his Michigan State career. Dantonio gave a terse, "No," when asked about the possibility of Williams returning to the team and declined the opportunity to elaborate.
But the Spartans will be adding players through recruiting. Dantonio commented on a few early enrollees.
"Tyler Hoover, an outstanding defensive end from Novi . . . has a tremendous upside . . . has a tremendous motor," Dantonio said. "I think he'll see playing time next year. I think he'll be an immediate contributor to defensive end."
The head coach also lauded incoming recruit and early enrollee Johnny Adams, an athlete with the potential to play offense, defense or special teams. Dantonio said Adams should also find the field in some capacity next season.
In addition, offensive lineman Arthur Ray, who has battled cancer since joining the Spartans as a freshman last season, will also suit up for the first time and could possibly contribute. "His attitude is unbelievable in terms of how he has overcome his bout with cancer."
A position change to tight end could be in the works for some Spartans.
"We've worked Michael Jordan in there a little bit," Dantonio said of the defensive tackle. "I think he's a guy who could play into that position." Dantonio also pointed to offensive tackle J'Michael Deane as a candidate for transition to tight end.
Losing loads of talent at the defensive end position should be mitigated by freshman like Hoover and another fresh face, this one a transfer from Dantonio's former program.
"Trevor Anderson . . . is an outstanding player and a two-year starter at Cincinnati."
Wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, running back Ashton Leggett, defensive end Kevin Pickelman and defensive tackle Ryan Wheat were also singled out by Dantonio as players who, despite limited exposure last year, have a shot to do what Devin Thomas did and shock the world next season.
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