DEFENSIVE END: This is among the positions that will be hotly contested all fall and could change hands week-to week. Look for Senior Ervin "G Ball" Baldwin to improve upon a four-sack season a year ago and become the starting left end in the State defense.
"I was impressed with the way Ervin Baldwin performed last year, especially when you consider that he didn't arrive on campus until preseason camp in August," coach Mark Dantonio stated. "He immediately became an impact player, because he works extremely hard and he's very competitive. When Ervin has his motor running, he can make some plays in the offensive backfield."
At 6-foot-2, 275-pounds, Baldwin has quickness to go along with the size and strength to be a productive pass rusher. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will try to coax another three to four sacks out of Baldwin to make him a player the opposing offenses have to account for.
It'll be a horse race for the end position opposite Baldwin but look for Brandon Long, who fought off injury to show flashes of being ready to join the playing group, to grab the nod while speedy Jonal St. Dic, who specializes in coming off the edge, will be the primary backup at both positions.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: At defensive tackle look for junior Justin Kershaw, making the move to the interior line, to emerge at one defensive tackle position as the starter. Kershaw made the difficult move from the edge and now will be counted on to be a force at the point of attack against the run. He was second among MSU linemen a season ago in tackles with 26 (16 solos, 10 assists).
"Justin Kershaw has had an outstanding spring," said Dantonio. "We've been able to move him inside from the end position, and he's been very productive in there."
Next to Kershaw likely will be John Stipek who's expected to man the nose tackle position.
Stipek, at 6-foot-5, 276-pounds has the bulk and the nose for the street fight that is the nose tackle position, but he could be challenged by true freshman Antonio Jeremiah, who at 6-foot-5 and 295-pounds has unusual athleticism and power for a 19-year old and Ogemdi "OG" Nwagbuo (6-foot-4, 290-pound) a senior.
"John Stipek reminds me some of Tim Anderson when he was a sophomore at Ohio State. He's just a tough, hard-working guy. John will continue to improve because he wants to get better and he's extremely competitive."
(Stipek's) going to consistently give you everything he's got whenever he steps onto the field," said Dantonio who also commented on his talented group of freshman including Jeremiah, 6-foot-5, 308-pound Ryan Wheat, 6-foot-5, 260-pound Ishmyl Johnson and 6-foot-3, 290-pound Oren Wilson.
"We're extremely thin at defensive tackle. It's extremely tough to play inside as a true freshman, but we might not have a choice this fall. We might be forced to get the job done by freshman committee this fall."
GSN's picks: Defensive ends - Ervin Baldwin, Brandon Long; tackles - Justin Kershaw, John Stipek
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