MSU needs to turn up the pressure on Irish

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Spartan Demetrius Cooper gets pressure on Furman quarterback P.J. Blazejowski.

East Lansing — A year ago, Michigan State had 37 sacks, good for 242 lost yards and a ranking of fourth in the Big Ten.

But much of that production is off to the NFL with ends Shilique Calhoun and Lawrence Thomas.

Re-creating that sort of pressure will be a key, though the results in the season-opening victory over Furman didn’t exactly yield the desired results for No. 12 Michigan State.

Michigan State recorded one sack in the 28-13 victory, courtesy of fifth-year senior end Evan Jones. And headed into Saturday’s matchup against No. 18 Notre Dame, Michigan State is looking for ways to ratchet up the pressure.

“We need to find ways on first-and-10-type situations when you know you have to stop the run to still get some pass rush,” co-defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said Wednesday. “Certainly we didn’t move the defensive line or blitz as much as we have sometimes historically but we’re going to find a way to get pressure when we have to.”

There are plenty of new faces on the defensive front, and that no doubt will play into the fact there wasn’t the expected pressure in the opener.

But with junior tackle Malik McDowell continuing to disrupt offenses, Michigan State is expecting the likes of junior Demetrius Cooper and graduate transfer Gabe Sherrod to apply pressure from the end, while graduate transfer Kevin Williams and redshirt freshman Raequan Williams can help from the tackle spot.

Tressel said Raequan Williams has taken advantage of the extra week in preparation for Notre Dame.

“I really think he’s gotten a lot better in two weeks since the first game because he has his first ever game film to look at and realize what he can work on,” Tressel said. “And we got to have a couple pure fundamental practices in that bye week.”

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There’s also the chance Michigan State could look to a couple true freshmen to give a spark to the pass rush. Ends Josh King and Auston Robertson both flashed during camp and could be on the verge of playing.

“There’s a chance with the defensive front that you’re going to see some more guys,” Tressel said. “(Freshman tackle Mike) Panasiuk played a little bit but didn’t play a bunch. Josh King, Auston Robertson, those guys might get some action against Notre Dame.”

Figuring out when to burn a redshirt, however, is never an easy choice.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Tressel said. “It’s difficult because you might have some guys that know it a little bit better, and then you have new guys that you know their upside is really big but there’s going to be some growing pains. When somebody has huge upside, yeah you want to use them but you’ve got to time it right.”

Linebacker strategy

One of the biggest questions heading into the game is how much linebacker Ed Davis will play. The senior was granted a sixth season of eligibility last week by the NCAA and this will be his first chance to play after tearing his ACL last August.

Working him into a rotation that includes juniors Jon Reschke and Chris Frey as well as sophomore Andrew Dowell will be the challenge, even further muddled by the fact Reschke (injury) did not play in the opener.

“Probably the guys that played the most last week will play the most this week, and you’ll get a chance to work those guys in,” Tressel said. “Reschke, he’s fine, he’s ready to go. ... Ed probably will get worked in a little bit slower. But they’re gonna play. Both of those guys are gonna play.”

Offensive line review

Michigan State offensive line coach Mark Staten is hoping to get more players in after playing six on offense in the opener and two — redshirt freshmen Cole Chewins and Tyler Higby — on field goals and extra points.

He was happy with the performance of his starters, including Kodi Kieler at center, who was spelled by Benny McGowan. The fifth-year seniors saw plenty of action along with sixth-year man Brandon Clemons at right guard, senior Miguel Machado at right tackle, junior Brian Allen at left guard and sophomore David Beedle at left tackle.

“I liked what I saw out of Kodi. I liked what I saw out of Benny,” Staten said. “I didn’t get a chance to put Brian in there like I was going to, but that will all come. Need to get (freshman) Thiyo (Lukusa) and Cole in there and get them involved, and get Tyler involved.”