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April 14, 2008

Green and White draft a chance for team bonding

EAST LANSING - Put the opportunity to eat a steak in front of a college student as opposed to a can of beans and franks and you see the intensity level increase 100 percent.

That was the atmosphere Monday afternoon in the Clara Bell Smith Center as the Michigan State football team held its draft for Saturday's annual Green and White game.

With the seniors having input in the drafting of players, and a steak dinner on the line, the "war rooms" of both the Green and the White teams lived up to their names. Both players and some coaches were wired for a draft that would have made a back-room Chicago politician proud with all the deal making and heated discussions going on.

The top powerbrokers for the White team were quarterback Brian Hoyer and defensive tackle Justin Kershaw who were at the heart of the White "war room" along with linebacker coach Mike Tressel. The White team's draft strategy paid off, especially along the front line where seniors Kershaw and Brandon Long were joined by draft picks Antonio Jeremiah at nose tackle and Trevor Anderson at defensive end.

Add in cornerback Kendell Davis-Clark, safety Roderick Jenrette and linebackers Adam Decker and Ryan Allison and it was easy to see why the White team was pumped at the end of the draft.

"We got the starting d-line," said Hoyer. "We got two of the three starting linebackers. We got Kendell, we got Jenrette, we got Chris L. Rucker who we can use on both sides of the ball."

Hoyer was also happy with what he has to work with on the offensive side of the ball. Along with Chris L. Rucker, the White team has Chris D. Rucker and B.J. Cunningham at wide receiver, starting fullback Andrew Hawken and running back A.J. Jimmerson.

"Hawken was one of our key guys going in," Hoyer said. "We really wanted to get him because obviously he's become a vital part of the offense this spring."

The White team also had the makings of a strong offensive line when they used an early pick on center Joel Nitchman. The drafting of Nitchman allowed the White team to corner the market on centers as they also picked guard/center Mike Bacon.

Without a center, the Green team needed to make a deal and after the draft one of the most heated discussions was the one concerning a trade along the offensive line. With tackles Rocco Cironi and Jesse Miller and guard Joel Foreman, the Green team was missing a center to fill out what would be the strongest offensive line.

A deal was finally brokered by head coach Mark Dantonio that sent Nitchman to the Green team in return for offensive tackle Mike Schmeding. The deal was a two-part deal as the Green team sent outside linebacker Eric Gordon to the White team for Brandon Denson.

"We made Nitchman a high pick for a reason," said Hoyer, who was not entirely happy with the deal. "That was our draft strategy and I felt like we were penalized for our strong drafting by having to send Nitchman to the White team. It was kind of ludicrous what was going on there. There may be further talks going on when we get out of the room."

The addition of Gordon, however, gives the White team a pair of starting linebackers in Gordon and Decker to line up behind the powerful front line.

With a well-stocked line, the Green team has the makings of a powerful ground game with Andre Anderson lining up at running back with fullback Jeff McPherson. The Green offense will also feature wide receiver Mark Dell along with tight end Charlie Gantt.

The Green team also went off the board at quarterback by selecting Kirk Cousins over Nick Foles. With the more mobile Cousins at quarterback behind a line anchored by Miller, the Green team will keep the powerful White offensive line on their toes with the threat of a running quarterback present.
"You know, sometimes they might run a different offense over there," said White defensive Brandon Long about the selection of Cousins, "like Enos pulled on us last year. He kind of came out with Connor Dixon and changed the offense so they might have something planned. You never know what the reason for that was."

The Green brain trust, led by coaches Dan Roushar and Pat Narduzzi along with seniors Otis Wiley, Javon Ringer and Miller went defense with the first overall pick of the draft by selecting middle linebacker Greg Jones. With Jones and Wiley, the Green defense is strong up the middle. The Green also plucked punter Aaron Bates in a bid to dominate field position.

Narduzzi and Roushar also lobbied long and hard to push the Nitchman trade through.

"I mean you got to make some noise to get what you want," Miller said. "It was all needed. We got the center, that's what we needed, so things worked out right."

While the White team took Trevor Anderson with their second pick in the draft, the Green team followed with the strategic selection of freshman Tyler Hoover. A dynamic pass rusher, Hoover will be going against back-up tackles along with fellow defensive end Dwayne Holmes. With Jones and Jon Misch available to blitz, the feeling around the draft hall was that the Green defense would be able to put plenty of heat on Hoyer and fellow quarterback Foles.

While some might think the just bragging rights are on the line, the difference between steak and beans is a major one.

"I saw the beans last year," Miller said. "They have beans with franks in them, that is not something I want to have. I don't want to eat it."

While the draft got everyone's juices flowing, it was also a team-bonding event that gave everyone a chance to have some fun.

"I mean, you saw the coaches wrestling with the players up there," Long said. "You get to see the camaraderie we have with each other. It's fun to have healthy competition. It's a fun thing. We'll have a lot of trash-talking going on in the locker room too. For the next week its either Green or White."





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