Red-Shirt Freshman Misch Mixes It Up

If fans have doubts, the coaching staff certainly doesn't. Beginning spring practice as the third-string weak-side linebacker, Misch impressed coaches enough to vault to the first-string strong-side linebacker position by early April.

EAST LANSING - For all their faults on defense, Michigan State at least has a burgeoning group of promising linebackers like red-shirt freshman Jonathan Misch.

A standout member of the scout team last season—winning the scout team player of the week award before the Pittsburgh game—Misch adjusted to the college game as he switched positions from defensive end to linebacker. But at 6-2, 200 pounds (up from 195 at the start of spring), many wonder whether or not a player of Misch's size can stack up against Big Ten caliber competition.

If fans have doubts, the coaching staff certainly doesn't. Beginning spring practice as the third-string weak-side linebacker, Misch impressed coaches enough to vault to the first-string strong-side linebacker position by early April. And Sam-backer is where Misch started for the victorious Green squad in the spring game.

Although undersized as a middle linebacker, and even a tad slight for the Sam position, the motor and speed Misch brings to the defense should mesh well with the more aggressive philosophy that replaces John L. Smith's circus defense.

While he will probably never be known for filling holes like Brian Urlacher or Junior Seau, Misch has the ability to not only stay with running backs and tight ends in pass coverage, he also knows how to grapple.

In addition to his knowledge from his experience as a high school defensive end, Misch was also a successful wrestler at Orchard Lake St. Mary's. In a defensive scheme that relies heavily on blitzes, Misch not only has the speed required to be successful, he is also well versed in the necessary footwork and blocker-shedding abilities required of a linebacker whose sole mission is to record quarterback sack.

In the end, there may even be some advantages to Misch's smaller size—at least in some situations. One of the most frustrating aspects of a zone blitz for an offense is not being able to man-up on the guy their supposed to block. When every micro-second counts, finding a 240 pound monster is much easier than locating a lithely lightweight like Misch.

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