MSU prepares for playing without McDowell in 1st half

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Michigan State will play the first half this week against BYU without defensive tackle Malik McDowell after he was called for targeting in last week’s loss at Indiana.

Malik McDowell, DT, 6-5, 276: Strong and athletic, McDowell proved he is versatile and can play anywhere on the defensive line. He left MSU with eligibility left and will have to prove that he’s not injury prone.  PROJECTION: 1.

Coach Mark Dantonio has already been pretty clear on his disagreement with the decision but also understands his hands are tied at this point. Defensive line coach Ron Burton agrees, but he said he won’t change the way he’s coaching his players.

“We coach aggressiveness and we continue to work from there,” Burton said. “It’s an interpretation, and that’s sad. But hey, that’s the way it goes. But we continue to teach aggressive play and be smart about it. They made that interpretation, and we have to go with it.

“It’s all about safety, and we understand that portion of it. But your mentality, consistently going 100 mph, doing your job at a fast pace and being physical, and I’m not gonna deviate from it.”

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With McDowell out for a half and redshirt freshman Raequan Williams sidelined with an injury, Burton will be counting on the team’s depth to help out inside. Offensive guard Brandon Clemons makes the move over from offense and has played defensive tackle during his career while freshman end Auston Robertson will play some at tackle.

Burton will also count on more production from sophomore Gerald Owens and freshman Mike Panasiuk, as well as redshirt freshman Kyonta Stallworth.

“I would describe it as an opportunity for a lot of guys that are gonna get a chance to play,” Burton said. “That’s a need. We’re young up front, and we’re gonna take advantage of it. So, we’re gonna look it as a positive. They’re wild and wooly and ready to go. So, they’re gonna create their own opportunities. But the situation the way it is allows it, which is a good thing — it’s called growing.”

Clemons played defense early in his career and played a few snaps at Notre Dame on defense. In his sixth year, having him to rely on is a luxury for Burton.

“No. 1, his experience,” Burton said. “He knows everything that goes on in the defensive line, from being able to play both positions. And point of attack vs. the run is big for him, and that’s what we’re gonna take advantage of with Brandon Clemons in the game.”

Burton said he doesn’t expect tight end Jamal Lyles to play defensive end this week, saying most of the help is needed on the interior. He added he hopes to get more chances at end this week for sophomore Robert Bowers, as well.

“He’s a twitchy kids that runs really well and we got to get home more opportunity on the football field,” Burton said. “So, he is still a work in progress but he’s shown in practice that he can go out and play football and be effective.”