MSU looking for playmakers on defensive line

EAST LANSING — Subtract one playmaker but add a couple to the Michigan State defensive line.

End Will Gholston is expected to be picked in the NFL draft this week — a loss, one year early, of MSU’s 2012 leader in sacks (41/2) and most imposing physical presence.

But sophomore Shilique Calhoun took over Gholston’s spot in spring ball and built on brief glimpses last season that indicated he can be a top pass rusher. And sophomore defensive tackle Lawrence Thomas showed in Saturday’s spring game why his move to defensive tackle could be a good one for the MSU defense.

“When he goes in there, he might make mistakes here and there but that’s inevitable, he’s changed positions,” senior linebacker Max Bullough said of Thomas, a former linebacker and fullback. “But he’s a guy you notice. He’s a guy that flashes, makes plays and gets off the ball.”

First-year defensive line coach Ron Burton said Thomas must improve at using his hands but that “his athleticism, his get-off shows every play — he’s very dynamic in that.”

Senior defensive tackle Tyler Hoover compared Thomas to Jerel Worthy, whose early departure a year ago had an adverse effect on the defensive line’s performance in 2012. Even with Gholston, the pass rush off the edge was not as strong as hoped.

Calhoun can help that, but so can Thomas and the tackles by being more disruptive and commanding more attention from blockers.

“We talk about it all the time,” Thomas said before the spring game. “Getting more pressure, getting more sacks.”

And though Calhoun has received mostly praise for his performance this spring, MSU assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is hesitant to proclaim him ready to dominate.

“He’s got ability to make more plays, so, to me, he’s just been average,” Narduzzi said of Calhoun, who suffered a minor ankle sprain late in the spring game. “He’s still a starter, but he’s been average. He’s got the ability to make big plays, and we’ve got to make big plays, not just plays.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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