"I'm protecting the punter, making sure the ball doesn't get blocked. If I see anything I change the punt protection. I watch for uneven matches. If they are rushing 10 and we only have 7 blockers, I have to call something different so we can protect the punter. That's basically it."
How did this new job come about?
"It's actually funny how it came about. I was running out on the field one day getting in the stretch line and (MSU head) Coach (Dan) Mullen and (MSU offensive lineman) Coach (John) Hevesy called me over to talk. I saw them together so I thought it was going to be a joke. They asked me what I thought about being on the punt team. I said, 'coach, are you serious? You want a 295-pound defensive tackle on the punt team? What are you talking about?' So, I laughed and they both laughed. But he said he was serious. He told me to come by his office the next day. I went to the office and he was dead serious. He watched film for about an hour just going over stuff, showing points that we would be going over. I was blown away. I told him I would take full responsibility and that I was ready for the job."
The team is doing a couple of new things this summer - yoga and boxing. Tell me a little about both and why they will help you guys as a team?
"Yoga has been very beneficial for the O-line and D-line, really any position to be exact. If you have problems with flexibility, the yoga is going to (help you by putting) you in all kind of positions. It will be hard at first but you keep coming and you will loosen up and get into it.
"An example is Aaron Feld, our snapper. He had some flexibility problems with his back but he really got into it and now he can do almost all the yoga drills.
"The boxing has been real good. In boxing we have a partner who we line up with. He has pads and you have the gloves on. The coach teaches you the routine on how to jab straight, hook and uppercut just like a real boxer."
What is the point behind the boxing?
"The point behind the boxing is to work on your hand speed and your hand reaction. You don't know what your partner will have you do. He'll call out a number and you'll respond to it. It's similar to how it is on the field. The defensive lineman is coming out of your stance using your quick hands to get on the offensive lineman just like the offensive lineman is trying to get their hands on the defensive player."
Coach Balis has Friday drills that he gives names to. I've heard about one called Protect Our House. What was it like?
"We started at 5 (in the morning). We started from our field house and jogged to the stadium. We ran into the stadium, then heard a speech about protecting our house. Then we ran in and touched every single step in the stadium, home to visitor, twice. The only steps we didn't touch were the student section steps. I don't know why we didn't touch those steps.
[The student section was fenced off and locked.-Gene]
That must have been really tough.
"It was tough but I made it. You have no choice but to make it. You just have to fight through it."
How did you push yourself to the point where you could complete it?
"I looked at it this way, once I got up in the nosebleed section I knew I had to get down. It was simple as that. You have to get down. And you have your teammates on the side or in front of you. You think I have to make it not only for myself but for my teammates. That is what our entire program is based on, being accountable for the next guy. I know I can count on Kyle Love, I can count on Brandon Cooper, Pernell McPhee, whoever it is, even offensive players. I can count on J. C. Brignone, Tyson Lee. (In fact) Tyson Lee was leading the pack."