East Lansing — Michigan State has managed to stay relatively healthy throughout preseason camp.
Save for a few minor bumps and bruises, defensive tackle Damon Knox had been the only significant player to suffer an injury.
But add another name to the list as fifth-year senior guard Connor Kruse suffered an undisclosed injury in the team’s scrimmage Friday and will be out indefinitely. Coach Mark Dantonio only discusses injuries when they will keep a player out for the season, so at least that isn’t the case with Kruse.
“We’ve not lost Connor Kruse for the season,” Dantonio said. “So whether he makes the Oregon game or not, I’m not sure but we’ve not lost him for the season. He’ll be back, sooner than later.”
In the meantime, the depth of the offensive line will be tested. Junior Donavon Clark will move from right tackle to right guard while sophomore Kodi Kieler moves into the right tackle spot.
“Kodi Kieler, I thought he had an outstanding spring,” Dantonio said. “You could make a case for him being one of the top five and I think he’s had a very, very solid summer and very athletic big guy. He’s tough, knows what to do. He’s a guy who’s gonna play for us and as coach (Mark) Staten does, he’s been rotating guys in there. We expected him to play anyways.”
The Spartans are also moving junior defensive tackle Brandon Clemons back over to offense, a position he played during preparation for the Rose Bowl.
The increased depth at defensive tackle, where Joel Heath and Lawrence Thomas have established themselves as starters while freshmen Malik McDowell and Enoch Smith continue to excel, is allowing the Clemons move.
“He’s a guy that our offense really liked at that position, really didn’t want to lose him,” Dantonio said. “But when (Mark) Scarpinato made the decision to go to medical school … we lost a tackle and we had to keep him there (on defense) in the spring.
“But we’re in good shape. And you know, James Kittredge started at center for Vanderbilt back when he was a freshman. So that’s always a possibility that we could even go one more and put another guy over there with extensive experience on the offensive line.”
Late last week, Dantonio said he would have a good idea by the start of this week which freshmen would have a shot at playing this season.
None of the names he mentioned Monday seemed like a surprise as they have all drawn the coach’s praise throughout preseason camp.
“Brian Allen is in the two-deep on the offensive line,” Dantonio said. “I think (Montae) Nicholson’s flirting there in the two-deep at safety. (Linebacker) Chris Frey is a guy that might show up on special teams. Those are probably the three guys right now … (running back) Madre (London) might show up as well and the defensive linemen, they are going to play. Those guys are going to play.”
The defensive linemen Dantonio has spoken of most are McDowell and Smith. Both should have a shot to play at tackle.
The only change is the move of Nicholson from cornerback to safety.
“We’ve moved him back in (at safety) because we had a couple guys nicked up,” Dantonio said. “I think that’s his position, that’s where he’ll stay at this point in time. I think he can play any of those positions, personally, but he’s got to be able to play in and out.”
The move of Clemons to the offensive line also afforded Dantonio on opportunity to once again praise the play of Thomas.
The junior has held plenty of promise since he arrived at Michigan State in the fall of 2011. But injuries and position changes have slowed him.
He appears to be finding the perfect fit at defensive tackle.
“I think L.T. has had an outstanding summer camp,” Dantonio said. “He’s a guy that looks like the real deal in there.”