One of #5 Michigan State’s most closely watched position battles in fall camp has come at the linebacker position as the Spartans look to replace Chris Frey and find who will line up alongside middle linebacker Joe Bachie and outside linebacker Andrew Dowell.
The linebackers group is one of Michigan State’s deepest position groups, which leads to the Spartans having as many as five players who could be seriously considered to fill the void left by Frey.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said that he’s been impressed by junior Tyriq Thompson and sophomore Brandon Randle so far this fall and added that he’s also seen Joe Bachie continue to build off his breakout season in 2017.
“I think Tyriq Thompson has had a good camp thus far, but with camp, two days is like a week ago in camp, so it’s really what you do on a daily basis,” he said. “I thought Brandon Randle had a very good scrimmage as well. We’ve got a good foundation who we know are going to play very well. Joe Bachie’s been tremendous. Some guys played very well, but you look at guys that are new guys, so I’m trying to find who’s had a good practice, who are newer players that are going to add to the mix.”
Along with Thompson and Randle, sophomore Antjuan Simmons and seniors Jon Reschke, Byron Bullough and Grayson Miller, who made the transition from playing defensive back a year ago, are among players who will compete for playing time this fall.
Thompson, who also met with reporters, acknowledged the team’s depth at linebacker and said that while they’re all competing for playing time against one another, he also understands that they’re all pushing one another to improve at the same time.
“We’ve got a lot of depth at linebacker right now, a lot of good depth too,” he said. “We’ve got guys like Brandon Randle, Jon Reschke and Byron Bullough. We all work to compete and get each other better every day.”
Following an impressive sophomore season where he proved to be one of the top middle linebackers in the nation, Bachie led Michigan State with 100 tackles, which was seventh most in the Big Ten Conference, and now enters his junior season as one of the unquestioned leaders on the Michigan State defense.
While he has become one of the best in the country at his position, Bachie said that he still sees room for improvement in his game, specifically his bitzing, and has put plenty of time and effort into working on that area and added that it’s been a goal for the linebackers to improve as blitzers.
“I want to become a better blitzer,” he said. “I wasn’t very good at that last year I thought. I have to use my hands a little more when I’m blitzing so that’s something I’ve been working on. That’s something the whole linebacker group has been working on. We’re trying to become the best blitzing group that Coach Dantonio has had.”
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