Football tour notebook: Fun takes from Michigan State fall practice
EAST LANSING, Mich. — It felt like a mid-October day in East Lansing on Saturday as we watched Michigan State practice. This is a young but talented squad that will need to mature quickly.
Here are some fun takes from a quiet MSU campus.
Most impressive player: WR Cam Chambers looked good. The redshirt freshman made some great grabs and could be a breakout guy on this wideout corps, which has depth and talent. Trishton Jackson, rangy Felton Davis III and Darrell Stewart, Jr., are top options. True freshmen Cody White and Hunter Rison, son of ex-Spartan great Andre, look good. Keep an eye on White.
Top specimen: Pick any of the three RBs: junior L.J. Scott, senior Gerald Holmes or junior Madre London. Each is over 6-0 and 220 pounds. This is a powerful triumvirate that has experience. In fact, all three could start for many Big Ten teams.
Loudest coach: DE/Special teams coach Mark Snyder gets after it as well as any coach on the circuit. A good combination of smarts and passion.
Impressive newcomer: DE Jacub Panasiuk. The 6-3, 266-pound true freshman is the younger brother of DT Mike and is poised to help off the edge. And keep an eye on TE Matt Dotson, another true freshman. He figures to play a role in this tight end-friendly offense. Dotson is 6-5, 234 pounds and a product of famed Moeller High in Cincinnati.
On the rise: LB/DE Brandon Randle. DE coach Mark Snyder loves the athletic ability and skills of this redshirt freshman. He is 6-2, 231 pounds and quick off the edge. Look for him and Demetrius Cooper to be used in pass-rushing situations. Snyder says Randle has some of the “bend” that 2017 No. 1 NFL pick Myles Garrett has; Snyder coached him at Texas A&M.
Nagging question: Was last year’s 3-9 mark an aberration? Keep an eye on the trench play on both sides of the ball.
Under the radar: LB Joe Bachie. The 6-2,233-pound sophomore is the MLB in a linebacker unit that probably is the strength of the defense. He is wise beyond his years and could end up being a three-year starter. Bachie is flanked by vets in Chris Frey (SLB) and Andrew Dowell (WLB). Shane Jones is a utility man. Keep an eye on true freshman Antjuan Simmons, an Ann Arbor kid.
According to MSU SID Ben Phlegar, the Spartans have 74 true freshmen/redshirt freshmen and sophomores on the roster.
Keep an eye on DE Kenny Willekes, a 6-4, 244-pound sophomore. He is a former walk-on who could juice up the pass rush. He reminds me of Marcus Rush. MSU had just 11 sacks last year. That must change. Others to watch off the edge are Robert Bowers, Justice Alexander and Jacub Panasiuk.
The DTs look good. I like No. 99, Raequan Williams. He is a load inside at 6-4, 300. Williams forms a nice duo with Mike Panasiuk.
This is Mark Dantonio’s 11th season in East Lansing. And o-line coach Mark Staten, DC/DB coach Harlon Barnett, co-OC/RB coach Dave Warner and co-DC/LB coach Mike Tressel have been here the whole time.
Today was Parent’s Day, as proud moms and dads dotted the sideline.