Mark Dantonio confirmed today that R.J. Shelton has moved to wide receiver for at least the next few practices, while fellow true freshman Delton Williams looks like he’ll be sticking at running back.
Shelton moved from running back to wideout Monday due to some other receivers being “nicked up,” Dantonio said, and the Wisconsin native impressed coaches with his speed, agility and hands.
“He’s got great ball skills, he ran into his cuts,” Dantonio said of Shelton. “He’s played receiver– he played a variety of positions, really – in high school. He adapted well.”
As for Williams, he’s been solely focused on offense and is making an impression with his speed and burst through the line. The Pennsylvania native had been considered at linebacker coming into camp, and he also played both receiver and safety at Erie Cathedral Prep (alongside new QB Damion Terry).
Does that mean that Shelton and Williams’ future positions might be interlinked?
“Yeah, I would say so,” Dantonio said. “Right now, based on the way Delton ran the football, I think he’s the tailback and he was exciting to watch.”
Some other tidbits …
* All five running backs – Williams and fellow true freshman Gerald Holmes, along with Riley Bullough, Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford – are making an early impression on Dantonio in situational settings.
“All five of those guys I guess looked pretty good. It looked like we were getting on people up front,” Dantonio said. “It was a physical thing – we went goal line, we went short-yardage situations, we went some third down situations. We try to get situational things in. Guys played hard, and the defense really did some good things as well obviously. But that’s what stood out.”
* Dantonio said Terry “looked like a freshman” in practices so far, in part because the staff is throwing a bevy of new concepts and formations at him every day.
“He’s got to turn the ball loose a little bit. He’s very gifted, though,” Dantonio said. “He’s strong-armed. But he’s in really his first day in pads. There’s blitzes coming at him, there’s hot reads, there’s different things he’s got to do. He’s just learning. He’s just adapting right now to the speed of the game.”
* Quarterbacks will be somewhat protected during practice, but Dantonio did say the defense did apply a few hits to them.
“I think we’ve got to try and protect them. But at the same time they’ve got to have opportunity to create, too,” the coach said. “I think that is something we constantly talk about. But we’ve got to keep them safe so I don’t see us making them ultra-live.”
Dantonio added that Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook continue to split reps, and added that “Tyler O’Connor gets a lot of reps as well.”
* MSU hosted about 40 high school players, according to new recruiting coordinator Curtis Blackwell. They all wore Spartans jerseys as they walked around and got to know coaches and players while watching practice.
“We had a lot of guys here. Exciting – it was all 2015-16-17 guys,” Dantonio said. “Maybe a couple sixth graders, I don’t know. Talented sixth graders.”
Dantonio pointed to some discussions and changes that Blackwell made immediately for the visit. That included giving out jerseys for the recruits to wear at practice to feel like part of the action during practice.
Blackwell’s presence apparently made an immediate impression: The Spartans landed their first 2015 recruit today in
Saint Clair Shores South Lake offensive lineman Kyonta Stallworth Detroit Cass Tech QB Jayru Cambell (EDIT: Stallworth reportedly committed, but later said he plans to make it official after MSU’s Aug. 30 opener against Western Michigan).
“Obviously he’s a big factor in days like this because we can’t sit on the sideline and talk to all those guys. So those relationships mean a lot and he knows a lot of those guys personally,” Dantonio said of Blackwell. “I think he’s a great person, first of all. I think he’s a game-changer, an impact guy.”
* Dantonio said junior Mike Sadler, who sat out during the spring, appears healthy and looks good kicking the ball.
“We’ve got a new ball we’re using out there a little bit so there’s a little bit of a difference there, but he’s bombing them,” Dantonio said of his punter.
* MSU will hold scrimmages each of the next two Saturdays. They will be closed to the media, but Dantonio said they will include approximately 120 plays and live special teams.