If you’ve missed the NO FLY ZONE, you’ll be happy to know that it’s going to return in full force in 2018.
There are more Spartans that have earned the right to be mentioned as part of the core group that made NO FLY ZONE a brand, a rallying cry, and a mentality that created havoc for opposing offenses thinking they could attack the Michigan State secondary during some of the most successful seasons in the history of the Spartans’ proud football program.
One of the things that has sometimes gone under appreciated when discussing the dominance and aggressive nature of that very special NO FLY ZONE era is the fact that the defensive line was made up of monsters that gave those Spartans in the secondary the ability to tee off on the poor receivers that thought they could find holes and gaps back there.
Anthony Rashad White
Just take another look at that list of beasts that were stuffing the run, pressuring and destroying the quarterback, and helping to create that NO FLY ZONE.
And, there is every reason to believe that the very real progress that was made in 2017 with a defensive secondary that improved dramatically after the team-wide cratering of the 2016 disaster will not only continue in 2018 but will elevate in ways that may, indeed, warrant the return of the NO FLY ZONE.
How about these names as the new stewards of the t-shirts and bumper stickers and banners and hashtags?
When any Spartan takes a look at that list of studs who are ready to patrol the secondary, attack the line of scrimmage, and cause havoc for quarterbacks with timely and punishing blitzes, does any Spartan see any holes in the list of committed maniacs who are anxious to earn NO FLY ZONE status?
And, as was the case with the original NO FLY ZONE, the potential return of this mentality and achievement will only be bolstered by a deep and talented gang of monsters that will make up one of the better defensive lines in all of college football.
This defensive line gang might not have the star power that the Spartans boasted around the years of the Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and College Football Playoff years.
But I dare any Spartan to be pessimistic about this gang –
There are others.
This is a run-stuffing, quarterback pressuring group that shuffles in and out and all around and there really isn’t any sort of real “drop off” no matter what the particular combination of guys happens to be from play to play.
The statistic that’s been correctly referred to over and over again is, indeed, important – the sack total in 2016 was 11 in 2016 and it jumped to 28 in 2017.
Just as important was the fact that the Spartans finished the 2017 season with the number two defense against the run in the nation.
The more “popular” defensive passing statistics from 2017 might not be eye popping – 37th in the nation in pass defense – but there are numbers to look at that should make Spartans bullish on the return of the NO FLY ZONE –
Only 15 touchdown passes allowed all season.
A total of 14 interceptions over the season.
A pretty good 56.5 % of passes completed – and only 29 of the 241 completions went for more than 20 yards.
What does this all mean?
A beefier, speedier, more experienced, and even more determined defensive line is going to stuff the run even more than it did last year.
That same gang of defensive lineman is going to surpass last year’s 28 sacks – it says here that the final tally will be at least 35.
This all sets up nicely to allow the 50 guys who will be running in and out, on and off the field all game long as part of the nasty gang of defensive backs in Green & White to improve significantly on last year’s success.
Memo to t-shirt makers and brand builders everywhere – time to get the 2018 brand established, the font style of the words themselves properly updated, perhaps a theme song to accompany the unit, and a refresher on the original gang that started it all.
Get ready, folks.
The NO FLY ZONE will be patrolling and dominating all season long – let’s prepare to join in on the fun….
Michigan State’s veteran secondary ready to make bigger impact in 2018
Theo Day evaded pressure and saw Laress Nelson behind the Michigan State starting cornerback. A big play looked in store for the second-team offense.
The ball hung up in the air. Scott flashed his quickness to catch up to Nelson, then showed his savvy to seal off the receiver and his ball skills by leaping in front and picking off the pass at the goal line during MSU’s spring game.
The Spartans are hoping it will be that kind of year for its secondary. All four returning starters are back, with sophomore Scott and junior Justin Layne at cornerback and senior Khari Willis and junior David Dowell patrolling the middle at safety.
Behind them, however, is a talented crop of players who are pushing their way for playing time.
“Obviously, Coach (Mark Dantonio) is going to recruit defensive backs,” said Willis, who is one of the team’s most vocal leaders. “We gotta have guys that are ready to go. … We trust whoever we can put in the game. I feel like that’s just going to help us because it’s a long season – guys could get dinged up or maybe somebody could get in a playing stump. So being able to have not that much of a drop off is going to help us in the long run.”
That depth was on display during the spring game last month.
True freshman safety Xavier Henderson played a significant amount in nickel packages, as did senior Matt Morrissey. Sophomore Dominique Long, a special teams standout last season, also is pushing for playing time at safety with those two.
Henderson, an early enrollee, was one of the standouts of the spring – much like Scott was a year earlier en route to earning a starting job.
“He’s a competitor,” Scott said of Henderson. “He’s going to bring it every single down.”
At cornerback, senior Tyson Smith and junior Josh Butler got second-team reps. But redshirt freshman Shakur Brown and true freshman Kalon Gervin also could work their way into more playing time come this fall.
MSU finished 37th in the nation in pass defense in 2017, allowing 202.3 yards per game – including holding eight opponents under 200 yards passing and two under 100. The Spartans allowed just 15 passing touchdowns and picked off 14 passes this season. Opponents completed 56.5 percent of their passes. Of the 241 completions against the secondary, only 29 went for 20-or-more yards.
Dantonio has not shied away from using young players the past two seasons, somewhat out of necessity and somewhat because of their talent. He believes both Henderson and Gervin had strong spring showings.
“Both those guys have put themselves in position that if they can play at this level, they’ll be in games next year,” Dantonio said after the spring game.
Contact Chris Solari: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Download our Spartans Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!