Michigan State football built a tradition of great secondary play that took a hit this season due to graduation, an early NFL entry and injuries, but the picture looks brighter for the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.
Spartans coach Mark Dantonio told reporters in East Lansing on Wednesday safety R.J. Williamson should be full-go when MSU takes on the Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
“Now, we will not have played a game, but he looked very, very good this week thus far,” Dantonio said of Williamson, who had surgery in early October to repair a torn bicep. “And we're working him back into it, but he looks very good and he looks active and he looks ready to go. He has such a great deal of experience that he's going to adapt very quickly in that area.”
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Williamson started 10 games last season and finished third on the team with 59 tackles. He was off to a great start in 2015, including being named the FWAA National Defensive Player of the Week after he returned a fumble for a touchdown and intercepted a pass against Air Force on Sept. 19.
Several players worked through the starting lineup as the season progressed with Demetrious Cox and Montae Nicholson starting the Big Ten championship game.
Williamson's return gives co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett options for the Sugar Bowl, including moving Cox back to cornerback, where he began the season.
“We expect a lot from (Williamson),” Barnett said Tuesday. “He's a very experienced player on our team and on our secondary, who was part of what we were talking about earlier about injuries and things like that. So we did miss him, but it's good to have him back.
“He was always involved and engaged in everything we were doing even while he was out, so it's not like he's behind on anything and understanding techniques or tweaks or things we have made throughout the course of the year. We are excited to have him back. We are excited to have him back. He will contribute heavily in this game.”