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Split personality on Michigan State offensive line

8/5/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Like any good running back should, Michigan State's Javon Ringer pays close attention to the five large men who determine whether he sees daylight or the business end of a linebacker's arm.

Ringer has noticed an interesting dynamic developing with the Spartans offensive line.

"I can almost just sit there in the huddle and just look at 'em and see how the left side, they're more just serious faces and everything, and the right side, they're just relaxed," Ringer said.

Relaxed is one way to describe Michigan State's right side, which features guard Roland Martin and tackle Jesse Miller. Chatty and entertaining would also apply to the two fifth-year seniors.

"You have real funny guys that are really silly all the time, then you've got guys who say mean things that tend to be funny," Martin said. "There'll be jokes we'll make about each other, right out in the open, and everybody's like, 'Wow, why would you say that? That was horrible.' But I'm not gonna tell you any of those.

"Me and Jesse are silly, serious guys. You've got (center Joel) Nitchman, who's 90 percent serious. He's got personality, though. And then everybody else is real serious."

Offensive lines always talk about unity and chemistry, but the mix of personalities seems to work for Michigan State, which ranked second in the Big Ten in scoring offense (33.1 ppg) last season. The Spartans lost both starters on the left side, tackle Pete Clifford and guard Kenny Shane, and are looking for new players to fill the gaps.

Junior Rocco Cironi, who Martin describes as "bright serious" and "his own kind of guy," will protect quarterback Brian Hoyer's blind side at left tackle. Redshirt freshman Joel Foreman, one of several players highlighted for his offseason performance, enters practice with the edge at left guard.

"The left side, they know, 'We're the guys who are young. We're the ones replacing the seniors who left,'" Ringer said. "So they're probably more like, 'We've got to get serious. We've got to know what we're doing.' On the right side, they know everything."

Cironi, who apprenticed behind Clifford, recognizes the responsibility he now possesses.

"I love the pressure," he said. "I played [left tackle] all through high school. I'm used to being on an island by myself."

Is it the same way in the offensive line meeting room?

"We have a nice mix of personalities going on," Martin said.