EAST LANSING - William Gholston (6-7, 280) will be in the starting lineup for the first time in his Spartan career when Michigan State takes the field against Youngstown State at Spartan Stadium tonight.
The sophomore defensive end hopes that both he and the Michigan State defense can set the tone for the 2011 season with a strong showing against the Penguins.
"That is how you crack it open," said Gholston. "The way we are going to approach the whole season starts this Friday. It depends on how we go out there. We've got to go out there hard, hungry, and ready to compete."
Gholston played in the first 10 games of the 2010 season as a true freshman before a shoulder injury ended his year in early November. The former Detroit Southeastern star was sidelined before he could record a solo sack.
"I am excited to finally get a quarterback," said Gholston. "I've got to get one. I think that I only had half a sack last year. That is not good."
Playing primarily in Michigan State's nickel defense, Gholston had fewer opportunities to get after the quarterback than more experienced defensive ends like Tyler Hoover and Johnathan Strayhorn. It did not help that Gholston had not played defensive end during his football career until the second week in training camp.
"I feel comfortable right now," said Gholston. "I am really excited. I am worried like 'Oh my God, do I know what I've got to do on this assignment or this assignment?' I am not worried about anything. I feel like I know everything."
The numbers might not be what he wanted as a rookie, but the former high school All-American did gain experience.
"I feel like I know the game speed and the game pace and playing last year helped me a lot," explained Gholston. "And I understand that if would have redshirted I would have gotten stronger and faster. But I feel like I know the game speed a little more."
Gholston has confidence from earning a starting job after a heated four-way competition with Tyler Hoover, Denzel Drone, Marcus Rush.
"Each and every day we come out here and compete and its hounding," Gholston said. "When they say you are in the top spot, No. 1 on the depth chart, it really does not mean as much because all five d-ends right now can start. Corey (Freeman) can start, (Denzel) Drone can start, Tyler (Hoover) can start, Marcus (Rush) can start, and I can start. It is a great thing for the team. It is a great thing in general because we are going to push each other to get better every single day."
Gholston and Rush may start against Youngstown State, but Hoover, Drone, and Freeman will get on the field quite a bit as Michigan State is likely to go with a five-man rotation during the 2011 season.
"I can say that I like the rotation because it keeps us fresh," Gholston said. "But everybody wants to play, I feel like everybody would say the same thing. I might not want my teammates to play (instead of me), but I want to win. If I have to get rotated in for us to win, then that is what has to happen."
Click below to watch a video interview with Gholston after Tuesday's practice.