Michigan State DL Coach Ron Burton Updates the Progress of his Unit!

Q: Defense in general seems to be ahead of the offense a little bit. So how do you assess that?

A: When you have a defense that’s been together a long time, and you’ve got a defensive coordinator who’s coordinated this for a long time, and they’ve done some things and they’re making some change in their offense and they’re still improving there. So I believe that’s normal. That’s status quo. We gotta continue to improve on what we have and make some changes on the new stuff that we’ve put in. So we’re probably right on par with that. Yes I agree.

Q: When Coach Gill was here he had 5 or 6 interior defensive linemen rotating. What’s your thought on that and how many of these guys do you have that you think you could possibly play?

A: At least 5 guys in there is gonna help us in the middle. That’s for sure. You gotta be able to have that physicality inside. The guys are veterans. We’ve got seniors up front, we gotta find some guys that are gonna get some taste on the field. So we’ve gotta find more 2nd and 3rd tier guys. So at least 4 or 5 guys. We’ve got the two seniors and we’ll go from there.

Q: Hoover’s a tall defensive lineman. What are some of the challenges? How is he adjusting to that?

A: Well, he’s adjusting well. He understands what he’s gotta do. What he’s gotta continue to do to understand the nuances of the center guard tackle movement, where his movement is necessary for them to cross face because of his pattern, because he’s so tall. So we’ll continue to work on his footwork and maintain his path a little bit longer than he was from the defensive end position. So what we’re constantly working on with him is his footwork and his path.

Q: What do you think the overall talent level with all the guys you get to work with is now that you’ve had a chance to see these guys play?

A: I think it’s good. It’s all what we develop here. It’s all about developing guys. They’re here for a reason. They’re on scholarship for a reason. We have to bring it out of them. Our talent is in a good position, very positive.

Q: When you came in did you look at a lot of film of what the guys from last year, individual guys?

A: That’s definitely part of the process. You want to see what they’ve done in the past, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and going forward you wanna see who’s gonna be the best 3 or 4 guys up front. It’s a battle right now. I think it’s maybe something surprising up front too. So I think we’re in a position to see some new guys up front also.

Q: What did you see from Kittredge on film and where has he developed? Because he looks a lot bigger and stronger than he did.

A: Well, he’s definitely quick, strong, he’s agile, he has a great motor. What we want to have him continue to do is use his hands and get off the box. He’ll be an asset this fall up front.

Q: Last time I saw Brandon Clemons he was about 255, now he’s looks about 300 lbs.

A: He’s coming off a foot injury where he had to pickup some weight because he was non-weight bearing on that foot. He gets himself in shape he can have a chance to play inside of the shade, that’s for sure.

Q: Tell me about some of those drills. The stick drill, what’s the purpose of that? And then the drill with the little plastic hoops that the guys are going through.

A: Oh, the wide receivers? It’s the term that we use for get off, being able to overtake an offensive lineman as the lineman’s stepping left to right. Our kids need to step first through that bridge, to attack him and gain ground on the line of scrimmage without stepping left or right. You step left or right you will destroy that bridge. So it’s about the get off, getting vertical and disrupt into the backfield.

Q: And then the stick drill.

A: The stick drill is more hand stuff. More defensive end coming outside in to the non-scrimmage from the guards and the center gaps. What you gotta be able to do is have traffic. So when he goes in there we use those 3 bags to be able to redirect and make him use his hands as quick as possible. Because he’s comes into traffic. That’s what the stick is, you’re going in the sticks.

Q: I see you emphasizing over there what you do in reps you use in games. Does that mean that some of the drills that were maybe used last year you weren’t emphasizing that? Or is that a thing that you emphasize everything you do in practice?

A: Well, that’s just my protocol that I’ve had. I don’t know what drills they used last year. These are the drills I use. I wanna be able to identify them and all our movements in a game like situation so you can go back and visually see where that drill was being accessed, being used. So that’s what we do. We wanna see that drill come to life, as we come to group, from the individual and till we come to teams. What I’m trying to do is identify a drill in the team setting.

Q: Have you ever had 300 pounders to work with?

A: No, not in a while. No sir. Not since my first…not in a long time.

Q: Is it kind of exciting?

A: Oh it’s always exciting. But the next part, I’m a big man myself. I’ve coached in the Big 10 before so it’s not my first rodeo. I coached in the National Football League, I played. It’s all about getting…it’s all about repetition.

Q: How long does it take you to get totally comfortable with all the personnel, and just getting to know the guys? Is that just an ongoing process?

A: As a coach you never wanna get comfortable. There’s always something more learn about a kid. It’s never comfortable. You’re constantly trying to find something. So that’s all the time.

Q: Watching you doing your drills over there, it seems like basic football. Basic first step, second step, body lean. Is that your approach to the game?

A: Most definitely. Basic football and being able to take care of the fundamentals and being able to do it at a faster pace and with a tempo. So if you do it with a faster pace and a tempo you can take it to the high repetition. And as you can see, that’s what we’re doing.

Q: How many of these drills are things that these guys…we see wide receivers working out all the time in the summer. Are these simple drills the guys can do in the summer time?

A: Every one of them, without pads.

Q: Is that part of the whole thing?

A: Yes sir. Being able to utilize every one of them without pads this summer. We’ll have all these drills, and be affective.

Q: What do you see from Micajah Reynolds?

A: I see a guy that’s very strong, a run oriented guy. What we’re trying to do is improve upon is his passing situation, to be able to keep him on the field in a passing situation. His strength is his running, technique and also being able to run up front. He’s done well with that. So what we’re trying to do is develop a little bit more of a pass rush from the shade.

Q: What about Lawrence Thomas? What do you see from him?

A: It starts with his athleticism, his strength. His get off is terrific. What we’re constantly harping on is his stance and the use of his stance to be able to side step. He’s got that ability athletically, we’re trying to get it fundamentally.

Q: How long does that take when you’re in a new position?

A: All depends on the person. How much is he doing to get better? So that timetable is on him. But we’re constantly doing it until we can get him there. Maybe a year? It’s all about the kid, how hungry is he? If he’s hungry enough…

Q: How hungry is Calhoun?

A: That shows in his plays. You can see he’s playing at a high level, plays with great pace, great tempo, plays with a violence. So he’s there, he’s just gotta be consistent. And I think he’s getting that.

Q: He had a monster bowl game. I think I saw couple double teaming him a little bit. (???)

A: Exactly. And that’s being able to understand it’s not always just a passing situation. It’s a run situation and being able to see that on the move. I think that’s part of his maturation, understanding that you’re not only gonna be a pass rusher but you need to stay on the field all the time.

Q: How’s Fennell coming along this spring?

A: He’s a young kid, has a lot to learn, he’s developing, he’s hungry for it. Only time will tell.

Q: Mark Scarpinato?

A: Scarpinato is a kid that’s still growing, understands the game completely, strong at the point of attacks. He’ll have a place in our defense.

Q: What in general in terms of recruiting have you been able to so do far and what are the differences between Michigan State and the Air Force Academy?

A: The recruiting is ongoing, never changes. Recruiting is every day. What you get in it is what you put in it. So it’s all the time. I don’t see a difference from the Air Force Academy. Just the caliber of kids. It’s not only the academic side of it, the athletic side takes it to a new level too. But I think it’s all the same. It’s how you present it. How something’s presented, that’s for sure, playing here in the Big 10.

Q: Facebook and text messaging, do you feel like if you’re not doing it constantly you’re missing out and you’re falling behind on other guys even moreso than before they had all these tools?

A: Well, we’re gonna have all the tools. I think over time I’ll use that, but right now it’s full tilt. Because everyone’s in the game. It’s May. There’s no up or down right now. So it’ll shake out as the season continues recruiting wise for the May recruiting into fall. Everyone has a chance right now.

Q: How has the game changed with guys getting early offers? When you’re offering these guys as sophomores or juniors or whatever, what are some of the challenges with that?

A: Well, maintaining the recruitment of the kid, number one. But the recruiting process is speeding up and that’s just a part of it. So our evaluation has to speed up. So that’s where we are. That’s the nature of the beast.

Q: What would you describe your style for recruiting and how you like to get to know your kids?

A: It starts with building trust and that doesn’t happen in one day. That’s building trust as far as getting to know a person. When it’s time to make contact then we’re able to do that. So you’re building it on a day to day basis. And throughout recruiting into spring being able to talk to them in May, and summertime have the opportunity to come up here. You start to build that relationship, it doesn’t happen overnight. I like a true depth relationship, overtime building the trust factor and then going from there. And all that stuff will filter out. You gotta find the kids that wanna have an opportunity to play here in Spartan Land. The ones we identify, have that ability, those are the kids… You want them to be here. You find that out and you filter those out. So that process happens when that trust factor is built over time.

Q: Is there more of an emphasis on getting inside a pass rush a little bit this year?

A: I think that’s all the time you wanna emphasize that and be able to do that. We’ll find that out. We always…that’s constant. You get an inside rush because it’s gonna help on the outside rush. So you’re gonna find that balance from the inside to the outside. Being able to isolate that guy, one on one inside…should have an opportunity to gain on the rushing side.

About Hondo S. Carpenter Sr.

View all posts by Hondo S. Carpenter Sr.
Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. is the founder and publisher of SpartanNation.com and all of the family of services. The idea was birthed when overseas he ran into a Spartan not native to the United States who was wearing his Green and White proudly. He is dedicated to bringing you the latest and greatest information about Michigan State and Detroit Sports News every day. He resides in the Mid Michigan area. Follow Hondo on twitter here: @hondocarpenter.


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