Focus 2010: Defensive Ends

Whether built like a linebacker or defensive tackle, defensive ends must not only pin their ears back on third-and-longs, but they must always play disciplined at the point of attack, seal containment and even provide consistent backside pursuit.

For one of the most consequential positions on the football field, look no further than defensive end.

Whether built like a linebacker or defensive tackle, ends must not only pin their ears back on third-and-longs, but they must always play disciplined at the point of attack, seal containment and even provide consistent backside pursuit.

In Michigan State's aggressive 4-3 scheme, speed and agility are valued at defensive end, where Spartans are expected to execute zone blitzes and a handful of stunts every game.

For MSU, the top two names on the D-end list for 2010 are in-state studs William Gholston and C.J. Olaniyan, of Detroit Southeastern and Warren Mott High Schools, respectively.

Gholston is at the top of not just MSU's, but (and this is speaking without hyperbole) he's at the top of the nation's list.

Cousin of the former Ohio State and now NFL product Vernon Gholston, William has been introduced to MSU's college atmosphere, the football program and the Spartan coaching staff. And from what he's told us at GoSpartans.net, the Green & White have made quite an impression.

With 34 sacks in the past two seasons, and as a varsity starter since his freshman season, Gholston has the track record to back up the hype. And the hype should only grow: Gholston was named to USA Today's 2009 second team All-American list, the first of many accolades he's sure to encounter as his high school career enters its senior campaign.

While Gholston is the gold standard, Olaniyan isn't too far behind. After a junior season that saw him accumulate 77 tackles, with 14 of those for a loss, recruiting has been percolating for the Warren native.

With a half dozen offers in hand, Olaniyan is drawing serious interest, in the form of scholarships, from some big names in the Big Ten — MSU, Wisconsin, Penn State — and even some overtures from teams like LSU in the SEC.

Landing a pair like Gholston and Olaniyan would be a coup for coach Mark Dantonio and the MSU program. But if either, or both, falls through, there's plenty of Midwest talent in the pipes.

Darryl Baldwin may live in Buckeye country, but the way Ohio State recruits, it's possible the 4-star D-end could end up elsewhere. If he does, the backyard brawl between MSU and UM might play out off the field too, as those are two teams Baldwin is considering at this early stage.

Ohio is loaded, however, with BCS talent, so if Baldwin is out of the picture, there's always Cleveland Glenville's Jayrone Elliott.

A top prospect at one of Ohio's most prolific feeder schools, Elliott would bring more than a talented lineman to the school he chooses; he'd also open the door to a program that has generated such recent talent as Marcus Hall, Jonathan Newsome and Mike Edwards.

Back in-state, Tremondae Branch is a tweener who might end up at defensive tackle, but the Flint Carmen-Ainsworth prospect will have plenty of time to sort out his best position at the next level.

Finally, North Carolina's Chris Smith could open some more Southern doors for the MSU staff. The 6-foot-2, 220 pound D-end sheds blockers like a snake sheds skin and has the edge sped to be a premier rushing specialist.

One thing's for certain: the ranks of champions are filled with impact defensive ends, and MSU would like nothing more than to build a pipeline at the position to the NFL.


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