East Lansing — Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzi was adamant when preseason camp opened that freshman William Gholston would be a linebacker for the Spartans.
Less than two weeks later, Gholston was moved to defensive end.
It’s a move that makes sense if Gholston wants a major role this season. The Spartans have quality depth at linebacker, but they’re in need of an edge rusher.
“To be honest, he came over and poked me in the back on Thursday down at Ford Field, and said, ‘Hey, coach, I want to become a defensive end permanently,'” MSU coach Mark Dantonio said before Tuesday’s practice. “I said, ‘OK, how much do you weigh?’ He said,’260.’ I said, ‘Yeah, let’s go.’
“That was his decision. That’s the way I wanted it to be. If he made that move, it needed to be his decision or he’d still be a linebacker.”
Gholston, who is 6-foot-7, was projected as a college defensive end by many recruiting analysts. Scout.com ranked him as the No. 29 player overall in the nation last year at Detroit Southeastern High.
Gholston should help a defense that struggled to get an effective pass rush from the front four last year. That forced the Spartans to blitz more, which often left the secondary more exposed.
“We never planted the seed,” Dantonio said of Gholston’s move to the line. “I think as he continued to rush the passer, he saw himself as a guy that could maybe help a little more in that area. He can be a force and he’s still a freshman. I think we all have to remember that, he’s still young. He has great skills.
“He’s extremely strong and he’s quick. That’s half the battle, or three-quarters of it.”
When asked last week whether he ultimately sees himself as an end or a linebacker, Gholston said, smiling, “I’m just a football player. No matter where you’re at, you get to hit. It’s just a thrill on the defensive side to chase somebody down. It’s like a rush, it’s hard to explain.”
Nose tackle Blake Treadwell has missed practice time because of a lower-body injury, according to John Lewandowski, MSU’s associate athletics director for communications.
MSU’s opening game is Sept. 4 against Western Michigan.
“We’ll see if he makes it next week,” Dantonio said. “It depends on how he comes back on Monday. Got a chance.”
… Running back Larry Caper was held out of contact drills because of a hand injury. Caper is expected to be ready for the opener.
… Running back Le’Veon Bell, a true freshman, has been so impressive that Big Ten Network analyst Howard Griffith suggested Bell could become the starter, ahead of Caper and Edwin Baker.
“He’s an exciting running back,” Dantonio said of Bell. “When he gets his opportunities, he makes the best of them.”
… The competition remains tight at the star (weakside) linebacker spot between sophomore Chris Norman and redshirt freshman Denicos Allen.
“They’re both going to see playing time,” Dantonio said. “They’re both going to be sort of looked at as starters. I think Chris Norman still has the nod right now.”
… True freshmen Isaiah Lewis and Darqueze Dennard already have moved into the two-deep in the secondary.