Now that it's less than a month until football season, it's time to start breaking down who'll be playing for the Spartans this season. Previously at The Only Colors, we profiled the special teams, and in this article, we'll be breaking down the safeties. The starters, backups, and more can all be found after the jump.
FREE SAFETY: THE STARTER (as of August 7th)
Trenton Robinson (5'10", 190 lbs., Soph.)
After collecting six tackles on special teams all of last season, Robinson soared into the starting spring safety spot after recording eight tackles and breaking up a pass (one of the few incompletions) during the spring game this year. After that performance, Dantonio was clearly delighted (it's behind the scowl, MSU fans can interpret these emotions after a while)
"Trenton Robinson is a solid all-round football player," Dantonio said. "In the spring, he showed that not only can he can run; he can hit too."
The running we knew; he clocked a 10.49 100 in high school. The hitting was unknown, as on the MSU secondary, 190 lbs. seems a bit light where backs routinely are over 200 lbs. He'll see a lot of playing time this season, but I'm not sure he'll be the starter out of camp, because behind him currently is...
THE BACKUP (once again, as of August 7th)
Kendell Davis-Clark (6'0", 210 lbs., R-Sr.)
KDC was the starter to start the season last year, then that nasty shoulder separation happened in the first game. From there, he only started three more games as Danny Fortener took over the starting duties for most of the season. In the Capital One Bowl though, he got his first career interception (which is about time for someone with 19 career starts at cornerback and safety), and looked to be on track to start against Montana State. However, his shoulder wasn't completely healed, and was held out of spring practice. If the bright lights of the quarterback and running back position battles are blinding you, take a breather and observe the battle for starting free safety. It might be the most underrated position battle in camp this month.
THE SPECIAL TEAMER
Jesse Johnson (5'10", 188 lbs., R-Jr.)
Johnson had the highlight of his career last year when he blocked a punt last year against Cal. As a walk-on, it goes without saying that he'll be used in special teams, and if he sees time at free safety, State might be in trouble. Of course, I said the same thing about Danny Fortener last year, and he turned out not half-bad. In short, Jesse's job is to either block punts or run down the field on kickoffs and hit people, both of which he does well.
STRONG SAFETY: THE CO-STARTERS
Danny Fortener (6'2", 205 lbs., R-Sr) and Marcus Hyde (6'0", 206 lbs., Jr.)
As previously mentioned, Fortener was at free safety last year, where he recorded 69 tackles, broke up seven passes and had two interceptions. The one big knock he had was that he was slow; he did seem to be a half-step slow against some of the tougher competition MSU faced. That's not to say he didn't live up to expectations. In fact, he actually exceeded most of the expectations the fan base had when he went in for KDC last year. I do think the strong safety role suits him a bit better.
The start Marcus Hyde received was also due to an injury. When Otis Wiley went out before the Michigan game, Hyde stepped in and got an interception (granted with a low degree of difficulty, Steven Threet did throw the pass after all). He platooned the strong safety spot with Wiley for the rest of the season, and he had 23 tackles in the last six games. I didn't see Marcus make the spectacular plays Wiley used to make but then again, I also didn't see Marcus completely whiff on tackles a few times, also like what Wiley used to do. It's purely academic at this point who'll be the starter, but there's a third safety ready to compete for the spot.
Roderick Jenrette (6'1", 205 lbs., R-Jr.)
In 2007, Jenrette had 15 tackles before sitting out the last three games with a shoulder injury. Then, as far as most know, something happened, and Jenrette ended up indefinitely suspended from the team for all of 2008. Dantonio didn't speculate anything beyond having to get some personal issues and academics in line, and unless Jenrette wants to elaborate someday, that's probably all we'll ever know. What happened in the past doesn't matter now, as Jenrette earned his way back onto the team a couple weeks ago. Cheers to Jenrette for working his way back on the team, and - keep in mind he was the assumed backup strong safety going into 2008 - it wouldn't surprise me if he was the starter at some point.
THE SPECIAL TEAMER
Brynden Trawick (6'2", 225 lbs., R-Fr.)
Trawick, from Georgia, was the source of some speculation last year regarding his future position. At 6'2" and 225, it's no wonder why some thought linebacking might be in his future. He's a strong safety for now, and if Jenrette hadn't returned, he'd be in the mix for a spot in the two-deep. As of now, he's the odd man out, and he'll probably have to wait until next year to see any significant playing time at safety, and until his junior year for a chance to start. With his speed (4.51 in the 40 as a senior in high school) and his size, he'll be a nice gunner on special teams.
Overall, there's a lot of depth at safety. The person I'm most interested to see is Trenton Robinson, as he made some nice plays on special teams last year. I'll be watching to see if those big play skills transfer.
As for the rest of the units, they're coming in no particular order. However, we'll probably save quarterback for last, because I want something else to report besides "Cousins has experience and Nichol is fast". Until next time compadres.