Spartans' Gholston grows into end spot

The debate about where William Gholston will play in Michigan State's defense has gone on for months.

Linebacker or defensive end?

Gholston starred at linebacker in high school, recording 115 tackles, including 44 for loss and 27 sacks as a senior. His 6-foot-7 frame didn't stop him from becoming one of the Midwest's most decorated recruits. As Michigan State introduced more 3-4 elements to its defense for 2010, Gholston figured to play a key role alongside Greg Jones, Eric Gordon at co.

Entering preseason camp, Gholston fully expected to stay at linebacker. And then he started going to training table.

"He played very well at linebacker in high school and he was 240 some pounds," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday. "He kept that weight at 248, 247 through summer conditioning, but once he started camp with three meals a day, I look up and he was 260 pounds."

Gholston's weight gain changed his plan, and last week, he decided to permanently switch to defensive end. He's listed as a reserve rush end behind co-starters Tyler Hoover and Denzel Drone on Michigan State's Week 1 depth chart.

Dantonio expects Gholston to play Saturday against Western Michigan and said the freshman has been receiving a lot of individual coaching from defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi and line coach Ted Gill in recent practices.

"He made the decision that the opportunity to see the field, the quickest, was at defensive end with the pass rush," Dantonio said, "so he's making the transition to that. He's enjoying it, he's learning it a lot."

Michigan State needs some pass-rushing help as Jones might blitz a little less this year than last.

"He's a big, raw, talented guy," Dantonio said of Gholston. "People will notice him. His size alone gives him an upside."

Two more Michigan State nuggets:

  • Redshirt freshman Andrew Maxwell has solidified himself as the team's backup quarterback. If starter Kirk Cousins gets hurt, Dantonio will go with Maxwell next, even though last year's backup, Keith Nichol, remains on the team at wide receiver.

  • Michigan State's depth chart lists co-starters at seven different positions, including two wide receiver spots and two defensive end spots. Here's the list: Running back (Larry Caper or Edwin Baker); split end (Nichol or Mark Dell); flanker (Keshawn Martin or B.J. Cunningham); rush end (Hoover or Drone); defensive end (Colin Neely or Todd Anderson); nose tackle (Kevin Pickelman or Blake Treadwell); and kicker (Dan Conroy or Kevin Muma).