Friday night will give Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi a chance to test run his revamped defense after the departure of a couple of key players.
How have the Spartans defensive preparations for the season opener gone?
"Preparation is going good,” said Narduzzi. “We're doing what they do. I'm sure they will have some new things, and we will have some new things for them. But preparation is going good. (We're) just getting our kids acclimated to what we do game-plan week. School starts today so we will have some scattered brains usually on the first day of school. We're looking forward to see what happens there. But preparation is going good."
One positive of camp has been the play of defensive ends. Narduzzi is extremely happy with the depth at the position heading into the season.
"We've got really five ends that could play for us. With Denzel Drone and Marcus Rush we have two good pass rushers, two guys that can get to the quarterback, play with leverage. You've got William Gholston, you have Tyler Hoover, Corey Freeman, so we have five guys that we can rotate in there and feel pretty good about."
As for the Spartans defensive depth chart, Narduzzi stresses it can change at any time.
"It's daily and it's what did you do for me lately,” said Narduzzi. “They are all going to play, I have told them that they are all pretty much starters; it's just who gets to have their name called out and who prepares better. That is where it sits today."
Despite heading into his fifth year as the Spartans coordinator does he still get nerves heading into a game?
"Oh yeah,” said Narduzzi. “You should feel my stomach right now. Want to get a win and that is all that matters. And there is nervousness any time you put a new guy out on the field, I don't care if it is a long snapper or a punter, it's a football game. We're in there talking depth chart and I said this is the Big Ten Championship game in my opinion. You guys can overlook them but we surely aren't."
Despite off field events, Narduzzi stresses it has not changed the preparations of the team.
"Our guys are good,” said Narduzzi. “It's just a little bump in the road and nothing dynamically changes. I think our kids feel bad for Coach (Mark) Dantonio like you would feel bad for everyone in here. You feel bad for anybody who has a situation like that. Nothing has changed dynamically, we do what we do and the program runs."
Another on-field camp battle has been at the Sam linebacker spot. How does Narduzzi see it playing out?
"There is a three-way battle,” said Narduzzi. “Chris Norman, Denicos (Allen), and Steve Gardiner will all get reps at that position, and again we're going to find out the next four weeks. You guys will be able to pick the depth when you watch the game. You can say, `wow that guy made plays or that guy missed a play.' It will probably be something that we see similar, and probably we'll see more things than you will see from the naked eye. It's not like we are going to say `ok, you're in this series.' It's going to be the best players out there. If a guy needs a blow, we're going to try to determine who they are."
A year ago Spartan fans were all excited about the potential of William Gholston. How has the defensive end progressed in camp?
"He's excited,” said Narduzzi. “He's been making more plays. It's going to be a big day for William. His technique has been getting better; he has just been steady. The important thing for William is getting in that game-plan week. Playing against our offense he knew what was going on, played with good technique. Now all of a sudden playing against a spread offense, and we put something else on his plate, you have to have discipline here for option football. And he has been able to do that the last couple of days."
As for the excitement of the first game of the season, Narduzzi says the defense should be pumped and ready to go.
"I think more offensively you think about being under control,” said Narduzzi. “Our guys want to be reckless and attack defensively. I want them cranked up and I want them playing fast. I don't think that will be any affect at all."