Three The Hard Way

It hasn't been easy for Michigan State trying to decide on a starting linebacking corps but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

EAST LANSING -It hasn't been easy for Michigan State trying to decide on a starting linebacking corps but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

After the graduation of veterans Kaleb Thornhill and SirDarean Adams, MSU needed to fill two spots on the starting group.

First, it appeared that moving freshman All-American Greg Jones to the middle spot would be the right choice, but lately, MSU has seen junior Adam Decker emerged and stamped himself as someone who could hold down the middle for the Spartans.

"I thought he was very solid," head coach Mark Dantonio said after last weekend's scrimmage. "He was very controlling and he knows the defense. We're still trying to figure out what the best match-ups are in there. He has taken a definite step forward."

That move allows the rangy Jones to continue his solid play at the strong side, using his combination of speed, cover ability and blitzing speed to the Spartans advantage. Plus, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is insistent that his best three linebackers appear on the field, regardless of position, as he mentioned earlier this week..

"We're going to re-evaluate and find out who our three best backers are," Narduzzi said.

But the real surprise of the spring has been senior Ryan Allison, who after starring on the coverage teams, really caught Dantonio's eye. The move was thought to be to safety at first, but Dantonio says Allison's speed and ferocious mentality are a perfect fit for the WILL linebacker position

Meanwhile, the emergence of Decker has taken the pressure off sophomore Eric Gordon. Gordon got a ton of playing time last year and while he didn't make the impact that Jones did, he stamped himself as someone who would be a factor in the playing group.

MSU has added depth with players such as Brandon Denson, who is fighting with Allison and Decker for the third LB spot, Jon Misch, who earned playing time last season, and a couple of freshman in Steve Gardiner, David Rolf and Jamiihr Williams who also figure to see the field, Josh Rouse, Jon Misch and junior.

"This is my senior year," Allison said when asked about the impact of switching positions to linebacker. "I just want to play."

The group gives MSU a solid corps that should be a strong factor in how the Spartans fare this fall. The group won't have to wait long to find out how well they communicate and gel as a group. The season opener against Cal led by veteran quarterback Nate Longshore will be a solid test and if MSU can pull off the upset, they could contend for the high upper division in the Big Ten.

Joe Torok contributed to this story

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