EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Fall camp rolls on for Michigan State’s football team and after hearing from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson on Monday, along with running backs coach Effrem Reed, the defense took its turn answering questions from the media on Wednesday.
Defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton and defensive line coach Diron Reynolds both took to the podium and emphasized the importance of stopping the run.
Michigan State gave up 178.6 rushing yards per game last season, ranking 200th in the nation in that statistic.
The Spartans’ line is in the midst of a ton of change with a new position coach in Reynolds along with the addition of several players from the portal.
MSU hopes those portal additions can help the team improve its run defense immediately. The portal additions include a pair of giants in Colorado transfer Jalen Sami (6-5, 330 pounds) and Texas A&M transfer Tunmise Adeleye (6-4, 290 pounds)
“We’re excited about that [size],” said Hazelton. “There’s a bunch of big ol’ long dudes. You don’t notice it all the time until you get next to them and you’re like, dang! I’m really short!”
Sophomore Derrick Harmon has been impressed not just by Sami’s sheer size, but also by his athleticism.
“He can pass rush too, Big Sami can move,” said Harmon. “Don’t get it messed up, Big Sami can move. That kind of surprises a lot [of people] because you don’t think that type of size can move like that but he’s moving, so he’s stopping that run and getting to that quarterback. So that’s what we need.”
Adding Adeleye and Sami to returning veterans like Harmon and potential impact freshmen like Bai Jobe (the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2023 in the state of Oklahoma) gives the team a renewed confidence in its depth up front.
“The guy is athletic beyond belief,” Reynolds said of Jobe. “Just his get-off, his approach to the game. He’s working hard to study the game. It’s just so different for him, from being in a foreign land and playing football only a couple years, it’s just so different for him. He’s still learning the game but his athletic tools are really unmatched.”
Reynolds said he wants to rely on the unit’s depth to keep guys fresh.
“If we can get three-to-four deep and if somebody has a special trait where they can come in and rush for me on third down, and maybe that’s all he does as a freshman, we’ll do that,” said Reynolds. “But we’re trying to go as deep as we can go.”
Hazelton and Reynolds both emphasized everything about their defense starts with stopping the run. They feel if they can take care of business in that area of the game, it will lead to improvements across the board.
“To me, it starts with stopping the run,” said Hazelton. “Because you stop the run, then you put them in situations where you know they’re going to throw. When we know they’re going to throw, okay, now we can blitz and we can let the four guys up front rush. We can change up stuff. We can change up coverages. “
The Spartans made just two interceptions last season and getting to the quarterback is also an area the Spartans will want to home in on after finishing 43rd in the nation in sacks per game at 2.4.