August 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Michigan State freshmen Montae Nicholson, Malik McDowell standing out, coach Mark Dantonio says

MSU freshman defensive tackle Malik McDowell already owns one of the top two spots on the depth chart, according to coach Mark Dantonio (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)

East Lansing — As Michigan State’s first scrimmage of preseason camp looms on Saturday, a few freshmen are making a name for themselves while a couple of others remain in limbo.

Before practice on Friday morning, coach Mark Dantonio talked about the four freshmen he sees in the two-deep (first or second on the depth chart) just a week into practice. He also mentioned linebacker Deon Drake (Detroit Cass Tech) is not practicing because of eligibility issues and running back Gerald Owens is dealing with an injury that could keep him out up to three weeks.

“He’s working through some academic issues right now from an eligibility standpoint,” Dantonio said of Drake. “We’ll see where that takes us.”

As for the first-year players that are standing out, Montae Nicholson is with the second team as a cornerback. He has also worked at safety and is learning some of the offense as a receiver. Brian Allen is the No. 2 center behind his brother, Jack, while Malik McDowell is in the two-deep at defensive tackle and Montez Sweat is working with the twos at defensive end.

“Those are the guys off the top of my head,” Dantonio said. “(Madre) London’s a guy that’s gonna be in the mix. We’ll see how that shakes out, but I think we have a good situation at tailback right now.

“We’ve got four freshmen knocking on the door at two positions. It’s an outstanding group and there’s a lot of players that are gonna play. I’ve been impressed with a lot of players here or there. Enoch Smith or Jalen Watts-Jackson or Vayonte Copeland, I could name them all. They’ve all impressed, but those are the guys that are probably working with the twos right now.”