Another Bullough makes his presence felt at MSU

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — The start of spring practice is still three weeks away, but that doesn’t mean the Spartans are on vacation.

They are in the midst of their winter conditioning program, and Tuesday, went through another of strength coach Ken Mannie’s workouts at the Duffy Daugherty Football Building.

It was the eighth for the Spartans, who normally work out in the predawn hours but have moved this year’s conditioning to the afternoon while the locker rooms at the football building are being renovated.

That doesn’t mean things have become easy

“We’re not going three days a week, but it’s still a grind,” center Jack Allen said. “We’re all pretty tired and Coach Mannie is getting it all done in two days now instead of three. I liked it at 5 a.m. With this you have to wait all day long and you’re sitting around thinking about it.”

Thinking about it can be difficult, but getting through the sessions are far tougher.

And while there isn’t any actual football being played, it is still an opportunity for players to take a step forward, whether it’s as a leader or in a position battle.

Both apply to linebacker Riley Bullough. He’ll be a junior this season and has the inside track to start at middle linebacker after playing the last two seasons on the outside.

“I’ve been starting (to watch) film and obviously the workouts we do here,” Riley Bullough said. “I’m actually going through and watching the 2012 season so I can watch all of (brother) Max’s reps. I’ve been going game-by-game with that and that has helped me a lot. We’ve texted back and forth with him, that’s what I’ve been doing so far.”

He said he’ll also eventually watch all the plays from the Rose Bowl season of 2013, but understands he has a long way to go to reach the level of his brother.

“When I watch Max on film I’m not looking at how physical he was on a play or anything like that because I know I have that,” Riley Bullough said. “Me and Max are different kinds of players. He can go from boom, ball snap to know exactly where to go. I think that is what I need to get better at.”

Bullough said he no longer worries about living up to the family name — besides his brother, his father, Shane, and uncle, Chuck, also played at Michigan State — something that was on his mind when he first came to East Lansing.

Instead, he had focused on his own play, and is working on becoming one of the team’s leaders.

“It’s definitely something that I tried to get better at,” he said. “As I went through the season and now the offseason I’m just a lot more comfortable where I am. ... I think me being more vocal has helped some of the other guys, some of the younger guys and I’ll try to carry that to spring ball and anything that can help them be a better linebacker.

“If you ask guys on the team I’ve always been vocal. You just haven’t been able to see it a ton on the field but I’ve always been a vocal guy, a guy who plays with passion on the field. It’s different now because I’m one of the older guys and people are looking at me more than they used to.”

Bullough was one of several players Tuesday wearing a bronze jersey. Those are handed out from the staff to the players showing the most effort.

There is no official number, but a good third or more of the players were in bronze, something that changes from workout to workout.

Allen was one of several offensive linemen in bronze, including tackle Jack Conklin. Those two were in a one-on-one battle in most of the drills in an effort to push each other.

“I race him every day,” Allen said of Conklin. “I lost one ladder (drill) to him and two sled (drills).”

But the 6-foot-6 Conklin did get the best of Allen on the long sprints from station to station.

“He’s got those long legs,” Allen joked.

Workout warriors

A few players have been standing out during workouts.

Bullough singled out senior-to-be Darien Harris, as well as freshman Tyriq Thompson, who enrolled early.

Quarterback Connor Cook said wide receiver R.J. Shelton, who will be a junior, has been impressive when they have been throwing on their own, as well as Aaron Burbridge, Macgarrett Kings and AJ Troup.

Allen pointed to fellow offensive lineman Benny McGowan, as well as senior-to-be Donavon Clark.

“The young guys are stepping up a lot and I feel like they’ve changed a lot since the end of the season,” Allen said. “There is more on their shoulders now and I think they’re starting to realize that, so they are putting in the time now.”

… Michigan State opens spring practice March 24. The spring game is April 25.