EAST LANSING - If Michigan State is looking to answer a need at its defensive end position with size and strength, it may have been answered by the offseason conditioning and weight training of junior Tyler Hoover and sophomore William Gholston.
Both Hoover and Gholston looked noticeably bigger and stronger upon first glance at MSU's annual media day on Monday morning.
Hoover, who improved last season - finishing with 36 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, including three sacks, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery - playing at 275-280, added bulk to his frame and is expected to enter the season opener on Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m. against Youngstown State in the 290 range.
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"I'm going to play a little bit more heavier this year and hopefully be more physical,'' Hoover said. "I'm probably going to be more in the boundary side (of the formation) this year and if I have to take up double teams, it's going to be pretty easy now.''
Gholston, who saw action in 10 games as a true freshman before his season ended with a shoulder injury against Minnesota, accumulated 13 tackles, one for loss, a half sack and one pass breakup. He was able to show flashes of an expected bright future playing in the 250-260-pound range.
This season, he'll start play in the 280s, and along with Hoover, give the Spartans a pair of tall - both players are 6-foot-7 - and now bigger defensive ends that hopefully can help clog up opponent's abilities to run and throw comfortably against the edge of MSU's defensive front.
While both players expect the physical stature of their games to take a step forward, it hasn't just been the added strength and power that's going to make the difference for the duo playing on a d-line that is expected to excel with experienced and vastly improved inside down linemen such as Jerel Worthy, Kevin Pickleman and Anthony Rashad White.
Both Hoover and Gholston used the offseason to fine tune their techniques. Those little things that will hopefully make a difference in disrupting the success of the opponent's offensive flow.
"What I think (helped me) was the hands stuff. Getting off the ball and just having my hands ready,'' Hoover said. "It was more working on just having my hands already up to be able to get him off of me, or even not being touched. Basically, it's about just having that dominating factor, where you don't get touched (off the snap) and taking less time to get into that backfield. It's split seconds now and obviously, the faster you get off the ball and get back there, the better it's going to be for the defense. You're not just trying to slap hands and run around, you're trying to beat each and every part of the body (in front of you).''
Fonoti & Incoming Freshmen, in action, practice video.For Gholston, a good part of his offseason improvements, in addition to the physique upgrade, developed in his mental approach to the game.
"I just took Coach D's advice and tried to get 5 percent better at anything in general, and I wanted to get 5 percent better as a man and a player," Gholston said. "And it worked out for me. I feel like I kind of slowed things down just a little bit from last year's game. Now, I feel like I will be able not to rush so hard or take the wrong step, and still get that pressure.''
While MSU coach Mark Dantonio was pleased with the physical developments of both players, he added words off optimistic caution about his duo of well sculpted bookends.
"Yeah, both those guys are bigger big guys, 6-foot-7 guys," Dantonio said. "Both those guys were very good athletes coming out of high school. They've trained their body, (and) just through maturity have gotten just bigger, and I guess that's a good thing.
"(But) they've got to retain their quickness, which based on how they moved out there (on Sunday, the first day of fall practice), it seems like they have. But, again, we're in shorts, so we'll define it as we go."
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