October 16, 2009

The Nose Tackle Knows

EAST LANSING ---- That idea that you had about the nose tackle being some immobile fat guy put in just to plug up the middle on defense so his fellow linebackers can get all the glory.

Throw that away and meet Michigan State's Oren Wilson. The thinking man's nose tackle.

While Wilson, at 6-foot-3, 294 pounds does meet most of the requirements to play nose tackle: he's unselfish, he's powerful and a little nuts; he is neither immobile, nor is off to see The Wizard, in search of a brain. Moreover, he borders on obsessive with film study.

"I like to prepare, know everything and know what everybody is supposed to do on our defense and what their offense is going to do,'' Wilson said. "So just in case something happens, I can tell somebody what to do or help them out on certain plays on the field.

"For myself, I'm never satisfied so I'm always going to think there's big steps to be taken. You never can be too good.''

That definitely doesn't sound like your typical nose tackle. What does make him the perfect person for the position is that he really is a little bit of nuts. Take for instance his introduction to football and his eventual journey to the nose tackle position. A bug he said bit him in about fifth or sixth grade.

"I just love football. Every since I was little, I've loved football and everything about it. I loved the physicality of it,'' said the junior from Teaneck, N.J. "When I was little I was, I don't want to say an angry child, but it helped me take out some of my anger and it was good for me.''

It's not been good for those lined up across from him because not only are they facing a powerful player but a smart one.

Just ask senior defensive end Trevor Anderson, who will be expecting to get some insider info from his teammate this Saturday when the Spartans (3-3, 2-1 Big Ten) host Northwestern (4-2, 1-1) for a noon Homecoming matchup in Spartan Stadium.

"He's always been a smart player (but) he's really just doing what we ask him to do as a noseguard,'' said Anderson about his teammate, who has played in every game since stepping on campus in 2007. "He's not going to make that many plays on defense that are going to be known on the stat sheet but there a lot of plays where the linebackers wouldn't be able to flow freely like Greg (Jones) and get to the ball as quickly and as often as they are now.''

And what about those professor-like football smarts?

"Oren is a coach on the field. He watches probably just as much or more film then me. The way he approaches the game is real technical. He knows what to do, he knows what they're going to do half of the time. He's out there telling us what plays are going to happen,'' Anderson continued.

"That's a big deal. We need to have a smart noseguard. Like I say, he's not going to make as many plays because of the way our defense is set up because he gets doubled a lot but if he's getting doubled, that just means other people (on defense) ought to be able to flow to ball freely.''

While just that description in itself is impressive enough, consider the fact that Wilson also doesn't line up and play like you typical nose tackle. He makes plays, despite the rigors of his position.

In 32 career games, he has 36 tackles, 2 1/2 for loss, and two fumble recoveries.

And while you might consider him a no nonsense, overly serious kind of guy, Wilson has a fun, albeit, strange sense of humor.
Take the ankle injury that limited his performance earlier on this season.

"Oh, uh, you guys noticed that. It's fine but it's better now. It hampered me a little bit,'' Wilson said with a smile. "It happened in the Notre Dame game in the fourth quarter. The dude put his elbow in my ankle. It was a malicious attempt to take me out of the game.''

Of course, Wilson-ology goes, he saved his best for last when asked about what kind of personality you need to play a position where guys just pound on you all game. Moreover, about what it means to be a great teammate.

"I don't mind at all because I don't have to make the plays. I get double teamed just about 80 percent of the time so it doesn't matter to me just as long as my teammates make the play and we win.

"You've got to be selfless. You've got to play for people around you. That's as basic as it goes.''

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