The flowers are blooming ... very early and temperatures are in the 80s, and it's time for spring football.
The Spartans open their spring practices next week Tuesday (March 27) and will have a month of practice before the spring game on April 28. Yesterday, Mark Dantonio mentioned a few Spartans making positional changes heading into the next month and many centered around the deep defensive line.
The biggest surprise was Denzel Drone, formerly a defensive end, moving to tight end -- a position he did play in high school. The 6-foot-2, 262-pound redshirt sophomore has started six games in the past two years but with the depth at defensive end (Will Gholston, Marcus Rush specifically as clear-cut starters and Damon Knox and Joel Heath likely as backups), the move to tight end helps provide depth where the Spartans are a little thin.
Dion Sims is the lone returning tight end with any playing time of significance. Sims has the ability to make plays downfield, and at 6-5, 276 pounds, he can block, too. Other returners include redshirt sophomore Paul Lang and senior Drew Stevens. One of the incoming freshman Josiah Price and Evan Jones could contribute if need be. It seems Price would have the upper hand as move of a Brian Linthicum-type player in his size.
Drone likely will be auditioning as a blocking tight end, as Michigan State features plenty of sets with two tight ends. He certainly doesn't have the usual height for a tight end, but could be a contributor nonetheless.
"We can at least look at that position move in the first two weeks," Dantonio said to ESPN's Big Ten Blog. "He's played enough defensive end that he can go back over there and be a co-starter for us, but I think we need to put our best football players on the field, and if he can be one of those top 11 players, 12 players, 13, 14 players on offense, then we'll leave him there. If not, he'll be one of those top 14 players on defense."
Also on the defensive line, sixth-year senior Tyler Hoover will be making the move from defensive end to the interior at defensive tackle. He will be competing with sophomore James Kittredge and a hoard of redshirt freshman for playing time. Anthony Rashad White figures to be a lock to start, and Micajah Reynolds also appears to be staying on the defensive side of the ball after his play in the bowl practices last season.
Another move to provide depth is Dana Dixon at wide receiver. Dixon, who had played cornerback in his first three seasons at MSU, likely will By my count, the Spartans have eight scholarship wide receivers currently on the roster -- including DeAnthony Arnett and early enrollee Kyle Kerrick, but not including Dixon or the incoming freshman.
Dixon's move could merely be to provide more wide receivers to run through drills and play in the spring game, so both teams can have enough wide receivers. Once the freshman class of Aaron Burbridge, Macgarrett Kings and Monty Madaris arrive in the summer, the depth will be much better for MSU and Dixon could move back to cornerback.
On the other hand, Dantonio and his staff could see the chance for Dixon to contribute at wide receiver. With Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard locked in as the starting cornerbacks, and sophomore Mylan Hicks plus redshirt freshman Trae Waynes and Arjen Colquhoun pushing for playing time, Dixon might have been lost in the shuffle. I would guess there is some of the latter, with him getting lost in the shuffle, but ultimately I think he will end up back in the defensive backfield.
(Editor's Note: It is worth noting that all class years referred to, such as redshirt sophomore, are for the upcoming season.)