While on paper the Michigan State secondary looked solid against Youngstown State, defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett was positive about his overall assessment of his charges.
"I think they graded out fairly well for the first game," Barnett said regarding the play of his defensive backs. "We have some things we need to improve on, but the guys played hard, ran around and tried to hit people, so that's a good thing. Hopefully we can take it to another level this weekend."
While there were several standout performances last Friday, Barnett stressed the need for improvement.
"The main thing is, when it gets to third down, we want to get off the field," said Barnett. "We had some drives that were a little bit longer last week at times; we have to work to correct that. We don't want to be on the field longer than necessary, and a lot of times it was our own fault. We have to tackle better and make the plays we need to make."
For running backs coach Brad Salem, he knows the Spartans offense is based on the running game and feels he’s got three backs who can make it work in Edwin Baker, Le’Veon Bell and Larry Caper.
"I think all of them really do everything well," Salem said. "Larry does a great job catching the ball out of the backfield and pass protecting, but each one of them has improved on the things they think they needed to work on. I think there's balance. I don't think you can say, `hey, this guy's in there, they're going to do this.' Just like (Larry) ran for the touchdown. Yes, he's in there on third down and on a couple of pass plays, but still can run. They all can. That's the unique thing; we have a situation where there are guys that can really do everything."
While most coaches would be happy to have two backs that can get things done, Salem also has Nick Hill who cannot be overlooked.
"(Nick's) a guy that can do things with the football, and having him and Larry Caper back there are guys that handle the football every day," said Salem. "It's a luxury for us to have this many running backs. They've done a great job of working together, and really competing against each other. (Nick's) a vertical runner - when he sees it, he's decisive and he'll go."
The Spartans will look for their second victory of the season when they battle Florida Atlantic on Saturday. The game is set for a noon kickoff and will be televised on ESPN2.