Spring time is here for Michigan State Spartan football. It’s a new year, and the staff led by head coach Mel Tucker is clearly looking forward to the chance to actually have a spring practice season this time around — something the coaches (and players) did not have the luxury of in their first year on the sidelines in East Lansing.
Defensive line coach Ron Burton has been with the Spartans for longer than most of the current staff, but in Tuesday’s media Zoom call, Coach Burton brought all of the energy of a coach who just arrived on campus.
Coach Burton started by saying, “the outlook is to be the best defensive line that we can be, and to be the best in the county and the best in the Big Ten, and we have a group of guys who have some veteran experience up front...We expect a lot from this group, and we will see how it goes. We are knee deep in spring ball right now: day four.”
When asked about the things that he is emphasizing with this veteran group of players, Coach Burton explained it like this:
“Fundamentals,” Burton said. “The ability to play with pad level. The use of your hands. Guys understanding what’s going on pre-snap. All those things. Pre-snap reads. Knowing where the back is. Knowing what type of offensive line you are seeing in front of you. Learning what’s going on with the strength and weaknesses of the teams that you play against…the footwork, the hands, the movement, those things are more important, and playing with power consistently.”
Burton later added the importance of “being aggressive in what you are doing and being repetitive with that in a stressful situation. That’s what we need to see.” When asked what he is most excited about, Coach Burton mentioned the large number of veterans in the meeting room who can act like coaches on the field.
A bulk of the questions and discussion on Tuesday focused on updates about the various players on the defensive line. Here is a selection of what Coach Burton had to say:
On Jacub Panasiuk (redshirt senior defensive end): “The expectation is for him to be leader. The expectation is for him to understand the process and to be able to help other guys around him...He has a great first move, but he is working on his second move right now.”
On Brandon Wright (junior converted running back, now at defensive end): “He is a former tailback with the ability to run and the ability to pass-rush...We think he a lot of upside, and he has embraced it this spring. He is taking it one day at a time, but he has definitely already flashed in pass-rush situations. We are glad to have him on our side of the ball.”
On Drew Jordan (graduate transfer defensive end from Duke): “With the experience of being a starter (at Duke) coming here, it is a plus for us. He is a student of the game. He has great pass rush ability, and also plays with great power...He has been a pleasure on and off the field. It is like having another coach on the field.”
On Dashaun Mallory (redshirt junior defensive tackle): “He has lost some weight...making him a little bit more dynamic. He has lost 25 or 30 pounds and it’s allowed him to have a lot more movement.”
On Jacob Slade (redshirt junior defensive tackle): “He is right at 315 (pounds). He is playing with great power and push. He is just managing to be able to run with it at all times.”
On Maverick Hansen (redshirt sophomore defensive tackle): “He is down in weight right now. He is down to about 305 or 300 pounds. We thought that was necessary for him to be able to move. He plays with good pad level and strength. He plays with great power, so that’s what we love about him.”
On Jalen Hunt (redshirt sophomore defensive tackle): “He is about 315 (pounds). He is trying to sculpture and reduce the fat and have more muscle. Strength and conditioning has allowed that to happen.” Burton also mentioned that Hunt is now completely healthy. “He has not missed a rep. He is very dynamic in his pass rush...Consistency is what he needs to be. He flashes all the time. He has a great get off and we want to utilize that as much as possible. Disruptive.”
On Michael Fletcher (redshirt sophomore defensive end): “He is running with the second group and is also in our speed package. He has gained some weight and he is playing very strong right now. He has a great long-arm move now that he has utilized. He needs to be more consistent with his play...What we like is that he has gotten stronger. He hasn’t missed any reps, and you will see him on the field this fall. That is for sure.”
On Simeon Barrow (redshirt freshman defensive tackle): “On the pass rush part, he is very aggressive. He gets off the ball. He just has to understand that he has to play his gap. But pass rush-wise he has flashed.”
On Kyle King (redshirt freshman defensive tackle) and Chris Mayfield (redshirt freshman defensive tackle): “Two guys who are on the rise, but they are still learning the system. They are still working and are a work in progress.”
On Avery Dunn (redshirt freshman defensive end): “He has come a long way. He came in here a sopping wet 215 or 220. He is now 245 pounds...He has flashed, but is just learning the defense. He plays with great energy, but he has a lot of upside.”
Coach Burton saved most of his comments for sixth year graduate student, Drew Beesley. Regarding the defensive end, Burton had glowing reviews:
“It is Coach Beesley to us, that’s for sure,” Burton said about Beesley. “Being able to play both inside and out and being a positive guy in the room, he is a true leader up front. Coming back for a sixth year allows him to improve his pass rush inside and out. As you can tell, we use him in both places (defensive tackle and end). That is something that he wants to continue to make his craft better by utilizing a little more speed and power, because he plays with awesome power up front.
“He does a great job of retaining and improving himself all the time. What I see is his ability to coach everyone else up. His ability to improve and help each and everyone around him. That’s what I love about Drew Beesley.”
The Spartans will continue with an additional 11 practices spaced throughout the month of April, culminating with the spring game on April 24. The team is expected to have its first scrimmage this coming weekend.
For the full video of Coach Burton’s remarks, check out the video below.