Max Bullough is a two-year starter at middle linebacker for Michigan State. (Dale G. Young/Detroit News)
East Lansing — Seeing a Bullough manning the middle of the Michigan State defense is comforting for coach Mark Dantonio.
This spring, there might be a few double takes, as not only is Max Bullough preparing for his senior season after leading the Spartans in tackles the past two, but younger brother Riley Bullough is listed as his backup.
Riley redshirted last fall and spent most of his time at outside linebacker.
"It's fun because he kind of reminds me of myself when I was his age," said Max Bullough, who had 111 tackles in 2012. "He's making the same mistakes, asking the same questions, having the same body language, so it's fun. It will be more fun once we get to actually start playing. It's hard to tell without pads on."
Tuesday was the first of 15 workouts that will culminate with the spring game April 20.
Max Bullough doesn't plan on being any tougher on his brother, but did say their relationship likely benefits Riley.
"I think I'm more available to him just because we talk on a more frequent basis," he said. "It's easier for him and it to talk about things and for him to be critiqued by me."
Plenty of attention the next few weeks will be placed on an offense that struggled last season as the Spartans finished 7-6.
And while there likely will be less concern over a defense that finished ranked fourth in the nation last season, that doesn't mean the focus will be any less for Bullough and his defensive teammates.
He said there is plenty for the defense to improve on, but believes the entire team is using the offseason to improve.
"Finish and just find the inches," Bullough said when asked what the emphasis has been. "Coach D always says those things and really it sounds like a cliché but it's the truth.
"We lost a couple of games by a few inches last year and won a few games the same, so it's finding those inches and finding a way to make up for them in the offseason."
Bullough admitted it's a concept that isn't easy to improve.
"I believe you gotta believe in what you're doing," he said. "You've got to believe in what Coach D is doing, what Coach (Ken) Mannie is doing and what Coach (Pat) Narduzzi is doing.
"If you dive into that and have the ability to believe in what you're doing and do it to the best of your ability, good things are gonna happen."