Analyzing Michigan State: Defense

Posted: September 4, 2013 in Football

The Spartans are known for their tough defense, especially in the run game.  They only allowed 11 yards on the ground in their opener.  For the Bulls who looked like a bad high school offense against McNeese State, it could be a rough day at the office. 

The Michigan State defense operates out of the standard 4-3 set.

Defensive line

At defensive end, sophomore Shilique Calhoun (6’4″ 250 lbs.) gets the start after totaling 6 tackles last season including 2.5 TFL (1 sack) (replacing William Gholston who was drafted by the Buccaneers), he had 2 hits on the QB and recovered a fumble in the starter.  Behind him is redshirt freshman Jamal Lyles (6’3″ 246 lbs.) who had one tackle.  At the other end position is junior Marcus Rush (6’2″ 245 lbs.) who totaled 38 tackles last season including 7.5 TFL (2 sacks). He had 4 tackles including 2 sacks to start the year.  Behind him is senior Denzel Drone (6’2″ 251 lbs.) who had 10 tackles (2 tackles and a .5 sack in opener) and sophomore Joel Heath (6’6″ 260 lbs.).  At defensive tackle is senior Tyler Hoover (6’7″ 290 lbs.) who totaled 13 tackles (.5 TFL) last season.  He had 3 tackles including a sack in the opener.  Behind him on the depth chart is sophomore Lawrence Thomas (6’3″ 305 lbs.) who had just 3 tackles last season, Mark Scarpinato (6’3″ 286 lbs.) who had 1 tackle, and sophomore Damon Knox (6’4″ 276 lbs.) who had 2 tackles last season.  At nose tackle, senior Micajah Reynolds (6’5″ 307 lbs.) returns after totaling 19 tackles last season including 2 TFL and 1 sack, he had 2 tackles in the opener.  Behind him on the depth chart is junior James Kittredge (6’4″ 252 lbs.) who had 14 tackles (4.5 TFL), sophomore Brandon Clemons (6’3″ 297 lbs.), and redshirt freshman David Fennell (6’2″ 267 lbs.).

Overall, the Spartan front line has a lot of size that will put a burden on the USF front 5 to open up lanes in the running game.  Rush is their big playmaker off the edge and Reynolds has incredible size at the nose tackle position, so the front 5 has to be ready.  USF had a few big runs against McNeese State and will need even more in this game, but it may not be so easy.


At the STAR position (weakside linebacker) there is senior Jarius Jones (6’1″ 213 lbs.) who had 18 tackles total last season.  He had 2 tackles and 2 interceptions in the opener.  Jones will split time with junior Taiwan Jones (6’3″ 250 lbs.) had 38 tackles including 5.5 TFL (1 sack).  He had 6 tackles in opening game.  Behind both of them is sophomore Darien Harris (6′ 215 lbs.) who had 4 tackles and senior Danny Folino (5’9″ 212 lbs.).  At the MIKE position is their big time senior playmaker Max Bullough (6’3″ 245  lbs.) who totaled 111 tackles last season including 12.5 TFL (2.5 sacks) and 1 interception.  He had 9 tackles including 2.5 TFL in the opener, starting off strong in his final year.  Behind him is senior Kyle Elsworth (6’1″ 225 lbs.) who had 10 tackles (3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks)  and 2 tackles in the opener and sophomore Pat Rhomberg (6′ 230 lbs.).  At the SAM position is senior Denicos Allen (5’11” 218 lbs.) who had 79 tackles, including 10 TFL (3 sacks) and 1 interception last season.  He had 5 tackles and 1 sack in the opener.  Behind him is  sophomore Ed Davis (6’3″ 230 lbs.) who had just 5 tackles last year.

The linebackers are led by Max Bullough who is one of the top defenders in the country.  They all have big size and come up well in run support.  If USF wants to take advantage against them, it will have to be in space where the Bulls can use their speed to try to get the edge and spread the field out against them.  We didn’t see a lot of that last game and doing so on the road could prove to be even harder.


At cornerback is sophomore Trae Waynes (6’1″ 185 lbs.) who emerged late last season for the Spartans as a growing star (had 1 pass break up in their opener).  Behind him is redshirt freshmen Ezra Robinson (6′ 180 lbs.) and Gabe Augustin (5’8″ 176 lbs.).  At the other corner spot is senior Darqueze Dennard (5’11” 197 lbs.) who totaled 52 tackles, 5.5 TFL and 3 interceptions last season, becoming their star corner.  He had 2 tackles and 3 pass break-ups in the opener.  Behind him is redshirt freshmen Jermaine Edmondson (6′ 182 lbs.) and Mark Meyers (6′ 177 lbs.).  The Spartans don’t have a lot of experienced depth at corner, so the passing game for USF should be able to get something going if they are able to attack down the field.  At free safety is junior Kurtis Drummond (6’1″ 200 lbs.) who totaled 53 tackles, including 4.5 TFL and 2 interceptions last season.  He had 4 tackles and 1 interception in the first game.  Behind him is redshirt freshman Demetrious Cox (6’1″ 189 lbs.) and junior Mylan Hicks (5’11” 196 lbs.) who had 4 tackles in very limited playing time (1 tackle in the first game). At strong safety is senior Isaiah Lewis (5’10” 208 lbs.) who had 80 tackles including 1.5 TFL and 2 interceptions.  He had 4 tackles in the opener.  Behind him is sophomore RJ Williamson (6′ 212 lbs.) who had 27 tackles (1 TFL) as a reserve, he had 4 tackles including 1 TFL in the opener.  Behind him is sophomore Arjen Colquhoun (6’1″ 192 lbs.) (2 tackles in the opener) and redshirt freshman Zac Leimbach (5’11” 193 lbs.).

The Spartans are pretty solid at both safety and corner.  They don’t have a lot of experienced depth yet, but the talent is there and the starters seem to be pretty reliable so they won’t have to rotate in a lot of players.


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