Back to the defensive side of the ball today, as we take a look at who could be the next big thing in the secondary for Michigan State. This is another group that has seen some key pieces from the last few years move on. Safeties Demetrious Cox and Montae Nicholson are gone, as is corner Darian Hicks. All three of them had been starters at some point during their Spartan careers.
It is also a group that has gone from being the strength of the Michigan State defense, to one of its weaknesses. Last year, MSU ranked 83rd in yards per attempt, 84th in opponent QB rating, allowed 11 more passing touchdowns than interceptions, and let opposing quarterbacks complete nearly 60% of their passes. While the group lost three key members from last year, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Experience will certainly play a role in filling the gaps in the secondary, but I am looking beyond that to see who might be the next Darqueze Dennard or Trae Waynes. And the one name that keeps coming up is Josiah Scott.
Scott is a true freshman out of Ohio that was a three-star recruit ranked among the nation’s top 80 cornerbacks. He chose to enroll early, and thus got to participate in spring practice, a decision that looks like it paid off.
If there was a standout on defense during the spring game, it was Scott. He tied for the team lead with eight tackles, and had an interception. He also broke up a possible touchdown pass late in the game to preserve a victory for the defense.
Scott’s play through spring has earned him praise from Mark Dantonio, who even mentioned Darqueze Dennard when talking about Scott’s style. That alone should make people sit up and take notice.
At 5-10 and 166 pounds, Scott will likely need to put on some more weight and bulk up a little bit to help him contend with some of the bigger receivers in the Big Ten. That is nothing unusual for a true freshman.
One thing that stands out when watching some of the clips of Scott from high school are his instincts. He does a good job of keeping the game in front of him, letting the play develop, and reacting. This shows up when he jumps some routes for picks, or gets to the receiver just as the ball does to break up a pass.
These are skills that are very important when playing corner at Michigan State. The defense often relies on the corners to be on an island which means that if they make the wrong decision within the play, it can leave someone open for a big play. Reading and reacting are very important to MSU’s secondary play, and that appears to be one of Scott’s strengths.
It is unfair to expect a true freshman to come in and become a lock down corner. Scott will make mistakes, and get burned at times. In the long run though, I think he has a chance to be an excellent corner, and one that will really help the Spartan defense find some of the “no fly zone” mojo it lost over the last couple of seasons. As I mentioned with Andrew Dowell, this defense needs playmakers, and Josiah Scott has all the makings of one.