MSU's Kodi Kieler grows into being center of attention

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Kodi Kieler

East Lansing — While the offense came up short in Friday’s scrimmage — the second of preseason camp for Michigan State — there were signs things are starting to come together.

At least, that’s what coach Mark Dantonio indicated in his comments following the defense’s 27-20 victory under a modified scoring system.

And one of the most important keys to the offense having success this season is the development of the offensive line. Much of that progress will probably hinge on how fifth-year senior Kodi Kieler adapts to playing center after spending the last two seasons at right tackle.

It’s a position Kieler played when he first arrived at Michigan State, but it’s been an adjustment moving back, something that started last spring.

“In the meeting rooms, knowing everything is not that big of a deal,” Kieler explained. “Once you go out there and see how the defense is set up, that is when it gets more challenging. You have to do everything so quick and make the call and tell the rest of the offense where to go.

“I guess that is the hardest part, but as I have gotten more reps at center this camp, I feel a lot more comfortable doing so. Now, I am just going right up to the line and I am telling the offense where to go. It has gotten a lot better.”

While he has big shoes to fill with All-American Jack Allen now in the NFL, he also continues to lean on his former teammate, talking and texting with Allen as he tries to earn a spot on the roster with the New Orleans Saints.

The biggest advice Allen has given Kieler was how to become consistent with the shotgun snap, something Kieler said has been his biggest challenge.

“He told me to snap and hit my leg in the same place every time," Kieler said. "That's really helped me in the second week of camp.”

And if it’s ever hard reaching Jack Allen, Kieler can look to his left where junior Brian Allen is the starting left guard and has extensive experience as a center, as well.

Defense wins at MSU scrimmage, but offense catching up

“I definitely look to him when my head is in between my legs and I can’t call the point, he is the guy doing it,” Kieler said. “Having him next to me, if I am hearing a call when I am not looking out there, I know to trust to do what he says. So, it is nice having him next to me. It is also nice having him next to me because I have never played inside before. He is helping me a little bit with hand placement and footwork kind of stuff, so he is definitely helping me a lot in that aspect.”

Kieler said he spent the first few days of camp working with the tackles, but since then, it’s been all center. That adjustment will be critical for the Spartans, as will keeping healthy, something that hampered Kieler last season.

He hurt his knee in the second week against Oregon and later in the season banged up his shoulder. He said he now feels as good as he has in a couple years and is looking forward to the season-opener against Furman on Sept. 2.

“I think everyone's a little beat up, but I'm feeling good,” Kieler said. “I'm feeling healthy and I'm ready to go for the season.”