EAST LANSING – He was an underrated player and now an underrated loss, but Michigan State has viable candidates to replace what defensive end Marcus Rush gave them.
Lawrence Thomas, who will be a senior next season, is the logical candidate to start on Rush’s side opposite Shilique Calhoun, and he’s with the starters outside right now after moving from tackle.
“He’s looking good, he’s looking strong,” MSU defensive tackle Joel Heath said of Thomas. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s been in the system long enough to know that he can play D-tackle and defensive end.”
The early spring eye opener has been Demetrius Cooper. Cooper was billed as a player to watch entering last season, but he didn’t get on the field as much as expected – though he did see action in all 13 games, collecting 10 tackles and finishing second on the team with five quarterback hurries.
MSU left tackle Jack Conklin said this week that Cooper has been a force in practices, showing off a lethal spin move.
“I agree,” Heath said of Cooper. “I see a difference in the meeting rooms. I see his demeanor has changed, he’s not making as many mistakes. No doubt about it.”
Reaching out: Last weekend, the MSU football team held its first clinic for MSU students, a chance for them to meet the team and go through some drills.
“I just thought it was a good experience,” MSU coach Mark Dantonio said. “We wanted to reach out to our students. I sort of feel like our students are closest in proximity to us, they just have to walk across the street to the stadium to the spring game.”
And that’s one of MSU’s goals for the April 25 spring game – to get 50,000 people in Spartan Stadium.
“That’s something that this program needs to do,” Dantonio said. “I think when you parallel basketball, and basketball hopefully will be a part of that celebration as well, you’ve got a lot of different things going on that day with good weather on the 25th and those type of things. Again, you always have to reach higher. Last year, we had 35,000 or 40,000. I just think we have to continue to try and move forward in our program and that’s the next step.”