|From The Orlando Sentinel blogs|
"Offense wins games, defense wins championships." The Spartans will have to believe in this phrase in order to have on field success this season. Michigan State's defense was ranked sixth in the nation in total defense, allowing only 277.4 yards a game.
Much of the defense's success came from the play of the d-line. The big boys up front were anchored by defensive tackle and current Green Bay Packer Jerel Worthy (currently Worthy is rotating in the starting lineup and impressing coaches and teammates at Packer's training camp). Although Worthy is gone, Spartan fans can rejoice in the fact that seasoned veterans return such as Marcus Rush and William Gholston. Both had impacts last season.
College football insider Phil Steele ranked Michigan State's defensive line the 10th best unit in the nation. He notes that the Spartan front line was key last season allowing only 101 rushing yards per game. The Spartans also tallied 45 quarterback sacks. This year Steele says the Spartans will rely on William Gholston to rally the front four.
Gholston (who is cousin to former Buckeye and current Chicago Bear Vernon Gholston) is a physical specimen, standing 6 feet 7 inches and weighing 278 pounds. He has a freakish reach that will allow him to disengage blockers and create separation. He is a preseason favorite for the Bednarik, Hendricks, Lombardi, Camp, and Nagurski awards. Gholston also holds preseason All American Titles from CBSSports.com (2nd Team) and Phil Steele (3rd Team).
Gholston is looking to have a big year, largely due to the fact that he is a hot draft prospect. Last year he had a little slip up against rival Michigan. In an incident that has gained fame via internet clips, Gholston punched Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson during a scrum on the ground. Gholston served a suspension handed by the Big Ten for the incident. He has put it aside and looks to lead the Spartan D-line and defensive unit.
The defensive line preseason depth chart reads as follows: Defensive End Marcus Rush (6-2, 250 SO) Defensive Tackle Anthony Rashad White (6-2, 330 SR) Nose Tackle Tyler Hoover (6-7, 310 SR-5) or James Kittredge (6-4, 272 SO) Defensive End William Gholston (6-7, 278 JR)
Marcus Rush, an Ohio native, enters his second starting season. He has numerous preseason accolades and is praised by coaches. As a redshirt freshman he earned Big Ten Freshman Defensive MVP honors from ESPN.com. Rush is excited about the depth of the defensive line. In an interview from the Lansing State Journal Rush stated:
“Your goal is to have that comfort zone that you can come out and rest for a couple plays and be able to come back in, and that's great. We’re gonna be that much more fresh and more powerful.”
Anthony Rashad White has some tough shoes to fill. The senior from Battle Creek is replacing All American d-tackle Jerel Worthy. White appeared in 13 games, but he is best known for the blocked field goal that set up the Outback Bowl win for the Spartans. He has pure size and strength. His veteran experience will help him endure the season long battle in the trenches.
Tyler Hoover, a fifth year senior from Novi, is in a heated position battle With James Kittredge (a Ramsey, New Jersey). Hoover added 20 pounds to his frame in order to make the switch from d-end to nose tackle. He suffered a fractured rib last season, yet he impressed coaches during the Green and White scrimmage. Hoover won the Danziger Award as a sophomore (this is presented to the team's most impressive Detroit area player). He tallied nine starts as a sophomore and had a huge impact. Hopefully Hoover stays healthy and produces this season.
Kittredge is a product of Don Bosco Prep, a national football powerhouse that has reached the top of high school polls across the nation. He was an Under Armour All American, who originally committed to Vanderbilt. Kittredge originally played Offensive Line at Vandy, appearing in games as a true freshman at guard and center. He sat last season out during the transfer period and has three years of eligibility left. Kittredge's father played with coach Dantonio at South Carolina. Kittredge had a falling out with the Vanderbilt program and wanted a team allowing him to play on the defensive side of the ball. Kittredge was originally recruited by MSU as a d-lineman in high school. He has a high motor and instinct for making plays.
Both Kittredge and Hoover are excellent players. What might be best is a hybrid nose tackle role in which both players rotate. Hoover offers overwhelming size and experience, while Kittredge is quick and versatile. A combination could prove to be a secret weapon in the Spartans defensive arsenal.
A defensive unit is anchored by the d-line. With a deep squad, experienced veterans, freak athletes, and hungry younger players, the MSU d-line will set a precedent for the rest of the squad. Look for a big season from the front four.