Notre Dame Football Opponent Preview: Michigan State Spartans Defense

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 09: Defensive tackle Raequan Williams
EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 09: Defensive tackle Raequan Williams /

The Notre Dame football team will bus approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes to East Lansing, Michigan to battle Michigan State. Yesterday, we reviewed the offense of the Spartans. Today, we will take a look at what their defense brings.

Defensive Line

Michigan State’s Defensive Line is fairly inexperienced. The Spartans currently start Kenny Willekes, Mike Panasiuk, Raequan Williams and Dillon Alexander. These players have a combined 14 starts or an average 3.25 starts per player.

Although not a starter, Freshman Jacub Panasiuk leads the Spartans in tackles along the Defensive Line. He tallied 5 total tackles in the first two games of the season. Thus far, Raequan Williams and Brandon Randle each notched a sack.

With Michigan State’s youth among the Defensive Line, Notre Dame may be able to take advantage in the run game. Notre Dame’s Offensive Line started an average 18 games per player. In contrast, the Michigan State Defensive Line started an average of 3.5 games per Spartan.

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It is strange to look at a Michigan State depth chart and not see a “Bullough” at the Middle Linebacker position. In fact, Junior Byron Bullough does back up the current starter. Sophomore Joe Bachie  takes over at the spot this year. Playing beside him are Star Linebacker Andrew Dowell and Sam Linebacker Chris Frey.

Currently, Bachie leads the team in tackles with 21 stops. His running mate, Frey, is second on the team with 12 total tackles.

Defensive Back

The Michigan State Spartans employ a “field” and “boundary” concept, similar to Notre Dame. Playing to the wide side of the field is Sophomore Josh Butler. Butler stands at 6’0″ and weighs 186 lbs. To the boundary, the Spartans start 6’3″ 180lbs. Sophomore Justin Layne.

Playing behind this pair of Sophomores is a pair of Juniors. The Field Safety or “Free Safety” is Junior Matt Morrissey. The Boundary Safety is 6’0″ 215 lbs. Junior Khari Willis.

Bottom Line

This Michigan State Defense lacks experience. In fact, the Spartans will start 6 Sophomores, 4 Juniors and 1 Senior. However, Notre Dame should expect the same type of Mark Dantonio defense on Saturday night.

Due to Notre Dame’s inability to throw the football, the Spartans will most likely play man-to-man coverage with 8 players in the box to stop the run. This is a hallmark of Dantonio’s defenses. Can Notre Dame break through with its experienced Offensive Line? Will Brandon Wimbush take advantage by throwing over the top? Can Wimbush make the Spartans pay when they play man-to-man coverage and turn their backs to him allowing him to run? If Notre Dame can do these things, the Irish should cruise to another victory.