If you missed the first two parts, they're here:
The fullback position is a key one in the MSU offense. The lack of elite offensive lines in Mark Dantonio's four years sometimes necessitates an extra lead blocker to pave the way for our excellent stable of running backs. It also adds another wrinkle on play action, short third downs, and goal line situations.
Last year, that guy was supposed to be Josh Rouse, but he suffered a devastating season ending injury in the first game of the year against WMU. Nick Bendzuck, more cave than man really, and Brian Linthicum stepped in to fill the void, but neither were able to quite match up to what might have been with Rouse. Now Rouse and Bendzuck are both gone and Linthicum is (please...) back to playing TE full time.
As fullbacks don't traditionally get very many stats, and these guys are all getting their first playing time for MSU, this will be more focused on coaches' evaluations and the player's personal thoughts. And there's not really any of that fancy video either. It is what it is, but I'd like to think it's the way fullbacks would have wanted it.
So who are the new bulldozers? Coming out of the Spring we have:
The Presumptive Starter:
Todd Anderson (6'2, 253 lbs. Sr.)
A converted defensive end, who flipped over to the fullback spot in the run up to the Capital One Bowl, Anderson impressed enough to stay there in the spring. And he impressed enough in the spring to come out of it the 1st string fullback.
Guys flipping from one side of the ball to the other are always a little hit and miss. My preference is to get kids playing their 'natural' positions from high school. But he seems to have the right attitude for the spot.
Rivals and running backs coach Brad Salem also had some very good words for him, saying,
At 6-foot-2, the 253-pound converted defensive end will be the biggest fullback Michigan State has had during the five years Dantonio has been coach of the Spartans.
"You kind of like that in him," answered Salem when asked if Anderson was the traditionally sized Big Ten fullback that can punish linebackers. "We ran power with some success, stopping penetration. We have done a nice job of being powerful at the point of attack with the fullback position. Todd has done a nice job with his physicality. He has good size. He is about 250. We can get back to the Pound Green Pound mentality."
Coaches, and Anderson himself, also praised his hands, noting that he came into the program as a high school linebacker, and has previous offensive experience in high school,
"I’m really excited," he said. "Fullback definitely fits my skill-set the best. I did play some offense in high school, some tight end, catching the ball and stuff. So it should translate well. We’ll see this spring, but right now it feels like it fits."
Also, there's this:
"But whatever they wanted me to do, I was going to do. It has always been my dream to play football at Michigan State. I wasn’t going to complain."
More after the jump...
Niko Palazeti (6'1, 250 lbs, RS Fr.)
Niko was part of a, at the time, much maligned finish to the 2010 recruiting class. Dantonio accepted offers from a handful of 2 star and 3-star recruits, and got some heat from the star watchers in Michigan State's fan base. Well, so far, a couple of those 2 stars turned out to be Le'Veon Bell and Darqueze Dennard , who are both pretty good. We'll see if Niko can join them.
His HS stats as a FB are good, though I have to assume to put up that sort of production he must have played the 'tailback' slot in some sort of triple option or wishbone attack. He rushed 224 times for 1,279 yards (5.7 YPC) and 24 touchdowns in his senior year. He's also a winner, having carried home a D1 state title. He also put up good stats as a defensive tackle.
It's a rare scholarship offer that goes out to a true fullback, but Niko is one of the few. And I'd argue, like punters, kickers, long-snappers, and return specialists, it's worth it to use a scholarship or two on this position every four years or so.
The word 'great' comes up seven times in two paragraphs of coach D talking about him, so that could be good news, or you could dismiss it as recruiting boilerplate, your choice:
"When you continue to watch him -- and I had all of our coaches watching him these last couple of days, you saw a young man that gives great effort. Great toughness, great ball skills. Has great vision in the hole. Great feet. And we've moved guys to fullback since coming here, we've taken guys and moved them to that fullback position. I felt like given this opportunity we would recruit a fullback.
Coach Mack had great things to say about him. Coach Mack at Catholic Central has never once said to me this is the guy that you need to take, and with Niko he's said that. And I'm very, very happy that he's a Spartan and that he's a part of this program and he'll do great things for us."
Given that the other two are seniors, he looks to be the heir to the position if he doesn't win it this year.
The Long Shot
Adam Setterbo (6'3, 243 lbs. RS Sr.)
Setterbo looks to be one of those cases who could just never quite find a position. He played tight end, fullback, and linebacker in high school, seemingly putting up his best numbers at LB but not being good enough to crack MSU's rotation at that position. He was stuck on the scout team his first three years, popping up on an 'offensive scout team of the week' his red shirt freshman season, and a single 'special teams scout team of the week' each of the following two seasons.
His junior year summary simply reads:
Earned his first letter as a fourth-year walk-on . . . did not see game action.
Soooo, given that, his eligibility, and the lack of buzz around his name in the spring, I would be surprised to see him getting much time this year. But stranger things have happened. Still, as always, lot's of love to the four or five year walk-ons.
The very first play of the Dantonio regime was a 15 yard pass to FB Andrew Hawken. But after Hawken graduated and took his decent receiving production with him (career: 33 catches, 236 yards, 3 TDs) that dimension of the offense disappeared in 2010. If Anderson, Palazeti, or Setterbo can bring that back, and pancake a few linebackers in the process, then all the better for the Spartan's offensive output in 2011.
The Wide Receivers