MSU secondary tries to bring the energy to take their game to another level in 2019

Defensive backs try to make noise after injury-plagued year.


MSU Athletic Communications

Credit: MSU Athletics

Joe Dandron, Sports Director

EAST LANSING — Michigan State football held its media day today and with the focus on the run defense, the offense and quarterback Brian Lewerke. The defensive backs – one of the most important parts of the defense – are trying to take things to another level for the 2019 season.

Senior leader and safety David Dowell said the focus is about the group, not the individual this season.

“The biggest thing is like we don’t have anyone in our room pulling us in the wrong direction. Everybodies focused on that one common goal. One thing we talk about on defense is doing your one-eleventh you know. When we all do our one-eleventh you’re gonna make plays, the plays are gonna come. Because you’re going to be in the right spot.”

MSU’s defensive back group returns some of the most experience and talent in the Big Ten with Josh Butler and Josiah Scott at cornerback alongside Dowell and Xavier Henderson at the safety spots. 

“We got a lot of depth there. We got a lot of guys, six or seven that played for us last year,” said secondary coach Paul Haynes. “You can somebody else in and you don’t fall off and that’s the biggest thing. There’s a lot of competition, which is good, healthy, competition.”

Henderson, who likely is going to step into the starting slot left behind by Willis – who was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts – and will be stepping into a much bigger role this season.

But Haynes wants Henderson to just be himself.

“He’s moved positions because he played field safety last year and now he’s playing boundary safety,” said Haynes. “And you guys know how much Khari meant to this defense. That was the main thing, don’t try to be Khari just be yourself … you gotta be a quarterback on the defense, you gotta be a great tackler.”

Haynes said that Henderson takes it in stride – especially being a sophomore.

“He’s done a great job with it. Played within himself,” said Haynes. “He’s not trying to do things that he didn’t need to do.”

The “old guys,” so-to-speak, of the group, Scott and Butler, just want to bring the energy every day.

“We try to treat every single day as it’s our first day of camp or our last day of camp,” said Scott. “What we mean by that on our first day of camp most people come in with a bunch of energy and the last day of camp a bunch of people have that energy … In our DB room, we wanna come in every single day like it’s the first and last day of camp.”

“We just all have fun. We good around and stuff like that,” said Butler. “Everybodies disciplined and doing everything the right way and that’s pretty much it.”

From offense to defense

The talk of camp this past Thursday when MSU opened it up was Julian Barnett. 

Barnett, a four-star recruit out of Belleville High School practiced with the wide receivers after many thought he may play defensive back for Michigan State.

“He’s just a talented kid … if he learns the offense well enough then they will definitely use him,” said wide-receivers turned assistant defensive backs coach Terrence Samuel. “If they don’t use him then we will use at DB.” 

“It’s just a matter of really more his comfort than anything.”

Barnett played both sides of the ball in high school before coming to MSU listed as an ‘Athlete’ on most recruiting sources.

“I think he has a chance to play this year but he’s still learning,” said Samuel. “Guys can look pretty raw … Ain’t no question he’s a division one talent. It’s just you know like I said, can you think under pressure.”

Twitter: @JosephDandronMI

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