MSU head coach Mark Dantonio praises his football team's leadership, chemistry and deep talent. Dale G. Young, The Detroit News
East Lansing — Michigan State entered preseason camp with plenty of depth in its defensive backfield.
Less than a week in, that depth is about to get tested.
On Monday at media day, as the Spartans entered the first full week of camp, coach Mark Dantonio announced sophomore cornerback Josiah Scott will be out two months after suffering an injury during a non-contact drill.
“Josiah had a situation, so he's out for probably two months,” Dantonio said. “An injury-related situation. Two months or less, two months or more, we'll see.
Scott was one of the big reasons for Michigan State’s turnaround in 2017. Starting 12 games as a true freshman, the 5-foot-10 native of Hamilton, Ohio, had two interceptions while breaking up 10 passes.
The former three-star recruit was named a freshman All-American by ESPN.com and earned third-team All-Big Ten honors from the media. Scott also was named to the Big Ten Network’s All-Freshman team.
“It’s tough to deal with as young guy,” senior linebacker Andrew Dowell said. “He’s a great player and a great kid, so it’s tough for our team to adjust. Guys will have to step up. Josiah at that corner position became Mr. Reliable for us. As a linebacker I never had to worry about him in coverage and making a tackle because Josiah just gets the job done.
“He’s on the quieter side, but the kid can play ball.”
As good as Scott was last season, the expectations were just as high entering 2018. Now the Spartans will start looking for the next starter opposite junior Justin Layne.
“It’s hard. You feel for the guy more than anything because he’s such a great kid,” defensive backs coach Paul Haynes said. “Again, it’s next man up. But we’ve got 18, 19 guys in that room, so we’ve got a lot of guys to sit there and fill the void. Again, you feel for Josiah, but we’ve got guys to fill the spot
“We’re packed in our room, and the good thing is we’ve done a good job recruiting and it’s recruiting athletes. We have some guys that play safety that can play corner, some guys that play corner that can play safety. So yeah, we got a lot of dudes and we’ll be all right.”
Who the Spartans turn to will become one of the most intriguing battles of camp. Junior Josh Butler has the most experience. He’s appeared in 23 games with four starts. True freshman Kalon Gervin, who enrolled early, will get plenty of work, Dantonio said. He added players like freshmen Davion Williams and Chris Jackson, along with sophomore Tre Person and redshirt freshman Shakur Brown, as those who will get a shot to have a bigger role.
“They’re all coming along good,” senior safety Khari Willis said. “Kalon is coming along, and Davion has got a lot of ability. Chris, as well. We recruited some really good freshman corners.
“It’s a pretty big loss for us, just because (Scott’s) experience and obviously how good he is. But we’ve got a lot of depth behind him. Josh Butler has game experience and Shakur Brown is coming along, and like I said, those young corners are coming. So I don’t think the drop-off will be that much.”
Scott wasn’t the only player to suffer an early injury.
Dantonio said fifth-year senior defensive end Dillon Alexander suffered a foot injury and is out indefinitely.
On the other hand, redshirt freshman running back Weston Bridges appears to be 100 percent and will be ready when full pads are on for the first time this week. He suffered a knee injury during his senior year at Copley High in Akron, Ohio, and then got hurt again early last season as a freshman.
Now he’s ready to prove he can contribute.
“He got hurt early, so it’s almost like he’s starting over again,” offensive coordinator and running backs coach Dave Warner said. “He knows the offense very well, and it will be exciting to see him once we get full pads on. But he’s done good through a couple of days so far and with coming off two knee injuries the mental part will be big for him. But I’m excited to see him get going. He’s got some burst to him. He can be exciting.”
Dantonio: 'We're going to report' domestic violence incidents
The college football news cycle has been dominated lately by the news of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer being placed on administrative leave while the school investigates his handling of a domestic violence complaint against a former assistant Zach Smith, who was fired last month.
Dantonio was asked what his policy was on domestic violence.
“Obviously if we hear about something, then we're going to report it,” Dantonio said. “My position on it is it's a problem in society. I talked about that the other day. It's something that cannot be tolerated, but it's inappropriate for me to talk about anything down the road there (at Ohio State).
“But you know, my policy is, if that happens, that we are going to separate them from the football program immediately, if we know, and let things sort itself out and see what happens.”