December 30, 2009

Treadwell: Tech defense similar to Iowa

SAN ANTONIO - Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell took his first turn at the podium Wednesday as part of the week-long press conferences in advance of Saturday's Valero Alamo Bowl against Texas Tech, and compared the Red Raider defense to some of MSU's Big Ten brethren.

Treadwell said Texas Tech's defense is similar to Iowa's in their soundness and adherence to scheme.

"Texas Tech, they get into some base things and give you a heck of a time doing what you want to do," Treadwell said while drawing a comparison to the Hawkeyes. "They know their assignments and they are very sound in what they do."

Texas Tech might not be as physical as the Hawkeyes, but the Big 12's No. 4-ranked unit in scoring defense will be faster off the edge than Iowa. Like the Hawkeyes, Texas Tech will largely go with a two-deep zone look and play with good, team-oriented technique in the front seven.

Any time an MSU coach compares an opposing defense to Iowa, it's quite a compliment.

"They do a tremendous job of flying to the football," Treadwell said of the Red Raiders. "There aren't just one or two guys that stand out. As a unit, they do a tremendous job of moving and getting to the ball. They defeat blocks well, they run very well. They are similar to Iowa in that they are not going to try to fool you schematically, but they are going to do the same thing play after play and do it very well."

Practice notes ...

Much has been made of the thinning of Michigan State's running back and wide receiver units due to suspension this month. But until Wednesday, little had been said about one player who has quietly taken on a bigger role since the outset of bowl practice, that being senior tailback A.J. Jimmerson.

Jimmerson has taken reps as the No. 3 running back, basically for the first time all season. He will be behind freshmen Larry Caper and Edwin Baker on Saturday, but due to the destructive nature of the position, there is a chance that Jimmerson could get more work in this game than at any time all season.

"He has brought a lot more opportunities to the table and I think he has taken advantage of it," Treadwell said of Jimmerson. "Certainly his role has increased in that way."

Jimmerson (5-10, 205, St. Louis) has just four carries on the year, the lowest seasonal output of his career. But he has maintained a positive approach to the team and the program.

Jimmerson has averaged 24.8 yards on six kickoff returns, including a valuable 63-yarder against Purdue. Most of his consistent contributions have come as a blocker on kickoff returns, where he has excelled in devastating fashion for an MSU team that ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten in kickoff return average.

"He has certainly been a journeyman," Treadwell said. "He has done a variety of things and has been tremendously involved on special teams throughout the year."

Jimmerson came to MSU regarded evenly with recruiting classmate Javon Ringer in 2005. Ringer narrowly edged ahead of him and into the playing group in '05 based largely on Ringer's understanding of pass protection schemes in John L. Smith's spread offense. Ringer enjoyed a loud freshman year. Smith predicted that Jimmerson would be a star some day, too, but it didn't quite work out that way for Jimmerson. But Jimmerson has never complained.

"He is a very positive young man and he just wants to win," Treadwell said.

Jimmerson's most productive season came as a redshirt freshman in '06 when he rushed for 140 yards on 37 carries. His work decreased to 12 carries in '08 and 8 carries last year.

He has 215 career yards rushing and two TDs, both coming in '06. But he has never been closer to getting into the playing group in the Mark Dantonio era than he will be this Saturday in his final game as a Spartan.

"Coach Enos does a tremendous job on the sideline on gameday of keeping a barometer on those guys," Treadwell said. "Without question he would feel comfortable having A.J. go in in any particular role we may need in that game."

Nichol Could Be 'A Wildcard'

Treadwell again fielded questions on the possibility of second-string sophomore QB Keith Nichol playing at wide receiver. Treadwell was a little more forthcoming with possibilities, but remained evasive.

"Keith certainly is a very talented athlete," Treadwell said while senior WR Blair White nodded in agreement, sitting a few feet away at the podium. "There is always room for a wildcard, a guy that his versatile like him. I am sure you wouldn't be surprised if we had Nichol in the game in any capacity. He can do some things with the ball in his hands. He is always at the forefront of our minds."

So you're not going to show your hand to us, are you coach?

"That's probably another way of saying things right there," Treadwell said with laugh.

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