Meaner and leaner Kieler ready to step in

Down in weight and up in nasty, the sophomore now figures to be MSU's starting right tackle after Connor Kruse's injury. He said the lights went on last year on the scout team and that has fueled his game since.

Kodi Kieler has played center, guard and now tackle in his first two years at Michigan State. As much he has bounced around the offensive line though, position shifts have not been the biggest change for the sophomore.

The Spartans right tackle has gone from self-described pacifist to just plain nasty.

”I just decided to play meaner,” Kieler said. “When I first came here, I was a real pacifist. I didn’t really know what to do. Once I got it figured out what to do and everything, I decided to play meaner.”

It was a change that occurred in the middle of last season, when something just clicked with the then scout team player.

”Something just happened and I was sick of being on scout team, so I was like, ‘Let’s do this,’” he said. “I just wanted to be like accounted for.”

Now, it is paying major dividends. Already in the picture as the sixth offensive linemen for the Spartans, who like to play a solid rotation in the trenches, Kieler now is seeing a bigger role emerging with the loss of senior offensive guard Connor Kruse to injury. The injury resulted in No. 1 right tackle Donavon Clark moving inside to guard and moving Kieler to the No. 1 right tackle spot.

“I was excited and everything,” he said. “It’s not the way I wanted to get it. I definitely wanted to get it through earning it and everything and not someone get injured. Hopefully, he will be back soon.”

Coach Mark Dantonio said the opportunity already was something earned by Kieler, even though his role will be bigger now.

”I thought he had an outstanding spring,” Dantonio said. “You could make a case for him being one of the top five and I think he’s had a very, very solid summer and very athletic big guy. He’s tough, knows what to do. …

”We expected him to play anyways.”

Part of his transformation in addition to getting meaner came with losing weight this offseason, which he did with fellow offensive tackle Jack Conklin. Kieler is down to around 305 pounds after being at 330 last season, a similar drop to Conklin.

”It just helps so much with the running and helps so much with technique because you don’t have all that belly hanging over and everything,” he said.

He said the decision for him came from wanting to gain speed to block players such as Nebraska’s Randy Gregory, as well as facing the Spartans’ own Shilique Calhoun in practice.

”Look at defensive ends like Shilique,” he said. “I’ve gotta lose weight to be fast like him.”

The rest of the work came with a focus on technique and his skill set to be ready to contribute. Moving from a role in the rotation into a starting spot figures to be a pretty easy one for Kieler, who said he is a level-headed player above all else. After all, he said the responsibility of being a starter was something he already felt before Kruse went down.

”I think the big difference is just getting ready to play and knowing I am going to start the first game now,” he said. “Preparation has been the same, just keep working hard and everything.

”Nothing too much is different.”

But when he does step out on the field for the season opener, he knows what he will bring because it is what he

“I try to go as hard as I can,” he said. “I try to be mean out there.”

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