Michigan State Spartans Spring Practice Preview: Defense

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Despite the Michigan State Spartans mediocre record of 7-6 last year, the defensive unit was as strong as ever.  Surrendering fewer than 17 points per game and ranking 4th in total defense, the Spartans were a defensive force in 2012.

Will they return to the top in 2013?

First thing comes first: who do the Spartans lose for the 2013 season?  The biggest profile player who has declared for the NFL draft is defensive end William Gholston.  Gholston is highly touted as a physical freak, but underachieved in his junior year, tallying only 4.5 sacks.  Gholston is a big, powerful man, but I question his work ethic and his block shedding ability is questionable.

I’m not implying that the Spartans are better off without him, but I’m not saying they’re not worse either.

DE/LB Marcus Rush will be asked to step up in the wake of Gholston’s departure, and in my mind, this is a good thing for Michigan State.  Rush is a solid pass rusher (no pun intended) who is undersized, but possesses great quickness.  Look for Rush to be an impact player in his senior year.  There is much uncertainty, however, about who will start opposite Rush on the D-line.  There will be an open competition, but redshirt Sophomore Shilique Calhoun is my favorite to get the job.

Anthony Rashad-White is also gone on the defensive front for the Spartans.  Rashad-White was a monster nose tackle at 6-foot-2, 330 pounds.  The Spartans have several guys who will be vying for the starting NT spot this spring, including 6-foot-5, 318 pound senior Micajah Reynolds.  Reynolds is the biggest of the group, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll earn the job.  Junior James Kittredge will make a bid for the spot as well, but with a lot of youth on the defensive line this is anyone’s spot.

The Spartans also lost CB Johnny Adams to the NFL draft.  Adams was the Spartans best cover corner in 2012, and MSU will miss him this year.  Looking to fill his spot are a variety of players, but I like Arjen Colquhoun the best.  At 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, Colquhoun is the biggest of the bunch, and also the most experienced: he’ll be a redshirt senior this year.

As spring practice begins, the positional battles will assuredly heat up.  This Michigan State defense returns many key players for 2013, and should be a force to be reckoned with in the Big 10.

Follow me on twitter @ScottPeceny

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