Hazelton believes redshirt-freshmen can make impact in 2020


Michigan State defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton. (Photo: Michigan State Athletic Communications)

Zach Surdenik, General Assignment Reporter

EAST LANSING — Michigan State’s reputation as a top defense is well-renowned even outside of Big Ten country. Just ask the Spartans’ new defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton. 

“As an outsider, we watch ball, too, and we kind of know what everybody does and Michigan State has always been great on defense.” Hazelton said Thursday. “For me, that’s one of the things that drew me to come up here and talk to these guys to see what makes it so special.” 

Part of that comes from the players that have been at Michigan State on those defenses through the years, including many NFL draft picks. But it also comes from a next-man-up mentality that has kept these defenses strong, even after losing players to the professional level. Hazelton mentioned that Naquan Jones and Jacob Slade are guys that have some game experience rotating in over the past couple years, but says that it’s really about looking at the guys behind them to step up and fill the roles that the now-starters have left. 

Two players that could step up and provide valuable contributions on the defensive line are redshirt-freshmen Michael Fletcher and Jalen Hunt. 

“He’s a really smart young man,” Hazelton said of Fletcher, a 6-foot-6 defensive end from Flint. “He does work hard and he strives to win and learn and do all those things. His length is wonderful, as a coach you love those guys that are long like that.”

Hazelton also brought up 6-foot-4 defensive tackle Jalen Hunt multiple times as a guy who has really impressed in fall camp, saying that he is showing “very real flashes of potential” and that “he’s gonna be a good one. He’s gonna be able to make some plays.”

Both Fletcher and Hunt have plenty of talent and were highly touted coming out of high school. Hunt, from Belleville, was ranked No. 16 in the state for the class of 2019. Fletcher was ranked in the top 10 in the state and was the top-ranked defensive end. 

Neither Hunt nor Fletcher look like they will be starters for Michigan State this season, but in a season unlike any other, depth is much more important, and these two look like promising pieces of the Spartans’ future.

Zach Surdenik is a general assignment reporter for WDBM Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @ZachSurdenik.