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October 15, 2013EAST LANSING - Lawrence Thomas has been full-go in practice for more than a week.
Michigan State opted not to give the athletic sophomore game reps against Indiana last weekend. But Mark Dantonio and his staff are determined to get Thomas on the field against Purdue.
"We need to get him some active reps, some live reps," said Dantonio during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. "I thought he could possibly have played on Saturday, but the way the game just went with the whole nature of it, we decided not to play him.
"I know he wants to play, and he's excited about that opportunity. As is our football team, his teammates and also his coaches. But it's time now, and I think he needs to play."
Thomas is listed as a defensive end on the depth chart.
"You've got a 1-on-1 battle (at d-end)," said Thomas. "It is way different from the inside, where you get double teamed a lot. At defensive end you are out there on an island. You've got to beat them man in front of you."
At 6-foot-3, 290, Thomas is better suited to defensive tackle where he spent bowl practice and spring football.
"He's at defensive end right now just because it's probably a little easier for him to play himself back into the defensive tackle," said Dantonio.
"I am trying to help him out a little bit, but he has it," said starting defensive end Shilique Calhoun. "He has been inside, so coming off the end is easy. When you are inside you are getting hit by a guard and a center and a tackle or a guard. Coming off the end when it is just a tackle is a delight. He is probably having as much fun as he's had in all of the years he's been here."
Calhoun believes the defensive line is better with Thomas in the rotation, wherever he plays. Michigan State's sophomore sack leader, however, likes the havoc-creating potential of Thomas lined up inside.
"He a big guy in the middle, about 285 or 290, but he plays like he is 240," said Calhoun. "He is fast off the ball, and he is good with his hands. Having him back out there gives me an extra boost. He is a part of my class, and I am happy to have him out there. It is a nasty duo when we are on the field together.
"It is good for us because he brings fresh legs, he brings excitement, and he is a very strong guy. Just when you think somebody goes down and is tired, you put somebody else in there that is ready to go that is just as strong, just as fast, it is a good combination for our D-line."
Thomas made his debut at fullback as a redshirt freshman in 2012. Dantonio has not ruled out a role on offense for the converted linebacker.
"They haven't said anything to me about offense," said Thomas. "But I know all of the plays over there. Whenever they give me the go card, I will be more than willing to go over there and help the offense also."
Calhoun, Marcus Rush, and Denzel Drone have taken the most game reps at defensive end. Joel Heath has been effective as the fourth member of the
rotation. Heath is listed as a back-up behind Rush. Thomas is No. 3 on the depth chart behind Calhoun and Drone.
"I am doing pretty good out in practice," Thomas said. "I am doing good in ball drills and how I am moving, my agility, my speed."
Thomas was poised to be a major contributor on the D-line coming out of spring football.
"It was tough because I had a great spring, and I had high hopes and everything," said Thomas. "But I can't question God, I just put my body in his hands a minor setback for a major comeback. I pray about it every night, it is something I just have to deal with."
If he had sat out the 2013 season, Thomas might have been able to petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility as Tyler Hoover had done following the 2012 season. But Thomas is convinced that he can help Michigan State achieve program goals.
"I just feel like I can help me team out a lot," he said. "If I am go to go, why not play? That is a decision that me and my coaches had made. I feel like I can help my team get to the Rose Bowl."
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