- Adam Glanzman/Daily
By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 29, 2013
Monday, Michigan football coach Brady Hoke — who had spent the earlier part of his press conference admiring the Michigan State defense — was asked, if given the opportunity, would he switch the Wolverines’ defense with that of the Spartans?
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Hoke looked incredulously at the reporter.
“No, no,” he said. “I love these kids.”
Few coaches would probably want to swap their team for another. But for as frequently as he used the word “consistency” when describing how the defense would ideally perform, there have to be times where the defensive-minded Hoke wouldn’t mind if the Michigan defense took a page out of the Spartans’ book.
Michigan State boasts arguably the top defense in the nation, ranking in the top five for all major defensive categories with nine upperclassmen starting.
“They’ve done a nice job,” Hoke said. “Probably five or six pro players on that defense that they do a nice job with.”
And how many NFL-caliber players do the Wolverines have on their defense?
“Less than five or six,” Hoke said.
Come Saturday, Michigan will be up against that staunch Spartans defense, and all eyes will be on how the matchup between that defense and the Wolverines’ electric offense plays out.
For as many big offensive plays the Wolverines make, there are an equal number of big mistakes in execution.
“Turnovers” and “ball security” have once again become buzzwords associated with the key to beating the Spartans’ defense. Offensive coordinator Al Borges talked Tuesday about how frequently and effectively Michigan State capitalizes on turnovers, saying that if Spartans are able to force redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner into making a mistake, it could easily turn “a bad play (into) a disaster.”
“You’re going to have a certain number of plays during the course of a game that are a little ugly,” Borges said. “As much as you’d like to think that everything’s going to turn out exactly as you planned, that’s just not the real world of football.”
The Spartans allow just 3.55 rushing yards per attempt — the second-lowest number in the nation. Michigan has spent most of this season tinkering with its offensive line to try and maximize the ground game even more. Fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint guaranteed that the interior line would be ready to show up on Saturday to help him run the ball. Freshman guard Kyle Bosch got into a skirmish with junior linebacker Jake Ryan on Sunday, so Toussaint and the coaches know the line is prepared to be aggressive enough to counter Michigan State.
Scuffles during practice aside, the rest of the Wolverines are doing as much as they can to prepare for the weekend.
Fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan said he has already watched 12 hours of film on the Spartans’ defense, defensive end Shilique Calhoun in particular. Fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon said the receivers have an increased emphasis on blocking this week to try and create even more opportunities for Toussaint.
Hoke said he’s liked the focus from practice so far this week, and that the other major key to cracking Michigan State will be the coaching staff making the right play calls.
“We’ll have a plan that will give our guys the best chance to win,” he said.