EAST LANSING — The first five questions that greeted Michigan State defensive line coach Ron Burton during his session with the media Wednesday centered around Lawrence Thomas.
Thomas, a sophomore defensive lineman that has been out with an undisclosed injury, returned to practices a couple weeks ago but has yet to see the field this season.
Burton said a big reason Thomas hasn’t played the last two weeks is because he’s still trying to catch up after missing all of fall camp.
“He’ll get his opportunity, but we have guys who are further along than he is right now and who have played, been in preseason camp, have gone through some fires and understand exactly what we’re looking for and that understand the speed of the game is constant,” Burton said. “Its repetition and when it’s time he’ll be on the field.”
Thomas, who is listed third on the depth chart at defensive end behind Shilique Calhoun and Denzel Drone for Saturday’s game at Illinois (3:30 p.m., ABC) is getting reps both at the outside and inside spots on the defensive line.
With starting defensive tackle Tyler Hoover nicked up, there’s a possibility Thomas could make his debut Saturday and see time inside behind Damon Knox and Mark Scarpinato.
“(He can play) anywhere from left end to right end to nose guard and that’s what makes our defense multiple,” Burton said. “We can put him anywhere on the defensive line. When he does get out on the field he’ll create some havoc.”
Burton also touched on a few other things Wednesday:
On Joel Heath:”Joel has done a tremendous job, but we’ve got veterans up front. We’ve got juniors and seniors with a lot of time on the field. When he gets on the field, you’ll know he’s out there, that’s for sure. We would love to get him on the field as much as possible, but we do have juniors and seniors and guys that have played a lot of minutes for us down there. But his turn is coming.”
On redshirt freshman Evan Jones, who transitioned to defensive end from tight end last month: “I haven’t seen a lot of him because he’s on the scout field. I got to see him yesterday. He’s a work in progress, he’s transitioning and got to learn the position the use of his hands which are things that are necessary to really flourish at that position. He’s got some time. I look forward to seeing him in the spring.”
On depth helping with mobile QBs looming on schedule: “No doubt. We’re rotating right now seven or eight guys at a time and we’re constantly working on that type of movement with our guys and watching a lot of film on those situations.”
BULLOUGH A QUARTERFINALIST: MSU senior linebacker Max Bullough was named one of 20 quarterfinalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which goes to an impact defender. Bullough is third on the Spartans with 42 tackles this season, which includes a team-high 6.5 for lost yardage.