August 28, 2012

Depth Chart Notes: Reynolds still impressing

EAST LANSING - When asked about pleasant surprises in August camp, the improvement of junior defensive tackle Micajah Reynolds was the first thing that came to mind for Mark Dantonio.

Reynolds is listed in today's two-deep as the co-starter at three technique defensive tackle. That's the job vacated by Jerel Worthy's early departure into the NFL.

Senior Tyler Hoover is listed as the other co-starter at the position in the depth chart that was released during Tuesday's weekly press conference.

Hoover and sophomore James Kittredge, a transfer from Vanderbilt, were expected to battle for the starting job. Reynolds was somewhat of an afterthought.

Soon, he could become a forethought, for opposing blocking schemes.

"Right now, he (Reynolds) has had a tremendous summer camp," Dantonio said. "He vertical (jumps) 33 inches. He benches 400-plus pounds and he runs about a 4.95, and he's a 300-pound guy."

Actually, he is 309, down from 330 in the spring.

"Right now, I think he gets it," Dantonio said. "That's allowed him to rise up the depth chart. In the spring, he wasn't in that capacity.

"He has lost a little bit of weight. He sort of has his weight under control right now, but it is going to be important that he plays well."

Hoover is also vastly improved from the spring, having shed ideas of being a defensive end, embraced the idea of being a big d-tackle. He is up to 310 pounds, up about 10 to 15 pounds from the spring, and playing stronger.

Kittredge was better than either of them in the spring, and he continues to improve. "Kittredge is a whirling dervish in there," said offensive line coach Mark Staten, whose guys work against the d-line every day. "Kittredge is like a tasmanian devil. He reminds of Kevin Pickelman when Pickelman first got in there. I don't want to put expectations too high on Kitt, but we are fortunate to have him in there."

So the task of replacing Worthy is a major one, but Michigan State appears to have major talent vying for the job. And the competition isn't over yet, despite the fact that the Spartans are just four days from the season opener against Boise State at Spartan Stadium (8 p.m., ESPN).

"It could be a coin flip," Dantonio said of the Reynolds-Hoover competition. "Basically, who is going to practice well today?

"They are both going to play a lot."

Reynolds (6-5, 309, Lansing Sexton) has progressed rapidly since finally being given a chance to focus on one position. Reynolds bounced back and forth from d-line to offensive line several times in his three years at Michigan State. He was a second-string offensive guard as a redshirt freshman in 2010 and seemed destined for stardom on that side of the ball as the heir apparent to Joel Foreman.

But Reynolds was needed at defensive tackle last year when depth concerns arose. Then he moved to left tackle when Skyler Schofner was injured early last season. Then when Pickelman was lost to an injury in the Big Ten Championship Game, Reynolds worked as a back-up nose tackle during bowl practice. He was listed as the official second stringer at left tackle AND nose tackle on MSU's depth chart for the Outback Bowl.

"He has been a guy that has been so athletic that we kept trying to push him into a role, one side or the other," Dantonio said. "His youth prevented him from knowing everything. He has ability. What he has learned to do up front on defensive is finally play with his hands and play with his power and not sit and read. He is much more engaged in terms of how he is playing the game."

Kittredge is listed as the second-string nose tackle, behind Anthony Rashad White.

Drone Listed As D-End

Junior Denzel Drone is back primarily on defense. He spent the spring and the first half of August camp at tight end, due to depth concerns at that position.

Drone (6-2, 260, Plant City, Fla.) was a spot starter at d-end early in his career. Now he is back at d-end, where he is listed behind William Gholston and redshirt freshman Joel Heath.

"He could go either way," Dantonio said of Drone, in reference to tight end and defensive end.

Drone is coming off arguably the best game of his career. His push and penetration was largely responsible in helping MSU get a fourth-down stoppage in the first half against Georgia in the Outback Bowl. He added a tackle for loss late in the third quarter, and then made an athletic tackle on a zone read play to force a punt in the fourth quarter.

"We moved him back to defense a little bit to provide depth and to allow him to use his skills," Dantonio said. "He has been too good of a player there."

Notes & Quotes

Elsewhere on the depth chart:

  • Michigan State listed 12 postions in its two-deep, including three WR positions. Tony Lippett, Bennie Fowler and Keith Mumphery were listed as the starters at those positions.

    DeAnthony Arnett, Andre Sims Jr. and Jeremy Langford were listed as the back-ups - in no order.

  • There is no listed winner in the battle to succeed Trenton Robinson at field safety. Jairus Jones was the first-stringer through the middle portions of August camp, but on Tuesday's depth chart Jones was listed as co-No. 1 with sophomore Kurtis Drummond.

    R.J. Williamson was expected to compete with Drummond for the starting field safety job. But Jones, a junior, made a surprising push with a strong August. Williamson is now listed as the No. 2 strong safety behind returning starter Isaiah Lewis (5-10, 205, Jr., Indianapolis).

  • Senior Steve Gardiner is listed as a third-stringer at Mike linebacker and Sam linebacker. Gardiner came into camp as the No. 2 Mike. Coaches indicated that he was a little dinged up at times during camp. Gardiner made three starts last year.

  • TyQuan Hammock, who served as the No. 2 Mike linebacker for most of last year, is not in the three-deep. Walk-on Kyler Elsworth (6-1, 220, Jr., Goodrich, Mich.) is listed as the No. 2 Mike, ahead of Gardiner and Hammock. Hammock is expected to resume his role as a kickoff coverage menace.

  • Ed Davis is the No. 2 Sam linebacker, ahead of Gardiner.

  • Darien Harris is not listed in the two-deep. He is behind Chris Norman and Taiwan Jones at 'star' linebacker. Harris came into camp ahead of Jones as the No. 2 'star,' based on Harris's strong spring. Jones answered with an even stronger August.

    "Harris could be playing on the third snap of the game, or he could be listed third," Dantonio said. "Taiwan Jones has had a great camp, as has Chris Norman."

    Meanwhile, former linebacker Lawrence Thomas didn't quite get into the three-deep at defensive end.

    "He (Harris) is a great football player, as is LT," Dantonio said. "And they are definitely in the future plans here. You will see them play on Friday. They will be on special teams, etcetera."

    Dantonio said Thomas missed three days with a concussion and then two more days with a subsequent injury.

    "He is back on the mend and he has been practicing for the last week," Dantonio said. "LT, from a learning standpoint, is making an adjustment. He may play at defensive end on Friday. He may play a lot. I just didn't think we should put him there as a No. 2 guy right now, or as an either/or."

  • Andrew Gleichert is listed as a co-No. 2 tight end, along with Derek Hoebing. They are behind Dion Sims (6-5, 285, Jr., Detroit).

    Dantonio announced earlier this week that Gleichert, a former walk-on, is now on scholarship.

    "He has worked extremely hard," Dantonio said. "He is 6-foot-5, 260 pounds plus. He came here as a 220-pound guy. A tight end who catches the ball very well, blocks very effectively. We are looking for great things for him throughout the next three seasons. It is obviously very exciting for him. We are very excited for him."

    Other new faces in the two/three-deep include:

  • Nate Klatt (6-4, 290, Jr., Clinton, Ohio) as co-No. 2 at right guard, along with Connor Kruse. Klatt had a surprisingly strong spring game and has continued to build momentum, having steered clear of injuries that have hampered him in past years.

  • Paul Lang, a redshirt freshman tight end whose career was thought to be in jeopardy as recently as the spring due to a back injury, is listed as the No. 4 tight end. Coaches list Lang (6-5, 255, Pittsburgh) as a pleasant surprise and a rapidly-improving commodity at tight end.

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