Spartans' Lippett focusing on WR skills

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
2:45
PM ET
Tony Lippett was a busy guy for Michigan State the past two years.

He is one of the best and most versatile athletes on the Spartans' roster, so Mark Dantonio put that to use. During Lippett's redshirt season in 2010, Dantonio told Lippett to start working with the defensive backs a week after he had emulated Denard Robinson on the scout team to prep for Michigan. Last season, Lippett made five starts at cornerback once injuries hit the position, and he also caught four passes while playing receiver.

[+] EnlargeTony Lippett
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallMichigan State's Tony Lippett breaks up a pass intended for Iowa's Marvin McNutt last season.
Lippett said he would jump back and forth between offense and defense in different periods of practice. For a while, he was attending both offensive and defensive meetings. He was digesting two playbooks and schemes for two separate positions.

"It was definitely a challenge," Lippett said. "I had to switch my gears a lot and stay quick on my toes."

Though Lippett said he thought he "did OK" as a cornerback, he enjoys playing wide receiver more. And this spring, he's getting to concentrate on just that position.

As Michigan State started spring drills, Lippett was listed as one of the team's starting receivers. With last season's top three receivers -- B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol -- all gone, and Bennie Fowler missing at least half of spring drills with a foot injury, Lippett is suddenly one of the most experienced wideouts on the roster, even though he hasn't played there all that much.

"I feel like I have to take a leadership role, but at the same time I'm still a young guy, too," he said. "I'm just trying to take it all in, help my peers and keep taking in coaching."

Lippett's time at cornerback might actually help him become a better receiver. He knows the tricks and angles a defensive back will use to try and stop the ball from being caught. He also had some pretty good role models the past two seasons.

"I learned a lot as far as route running with Keshawn and body control with B.J. and the way he caught the ball," he said.

Having Lippett develop into a reliable receiver would boost the Spartans' chances of repeating as Legends Division champs this season. They are very thin and young at the position right now, while hoping Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett can gain immediate eligibility from the NCAA. Several incoming freshmen will also likely need to contribute.

"I feel we can get the job done," Lippett said of the young receiver corps. "It's a work in progress, but that's what we were brought here for."

If Lippett isn't one of the top receivers by the start of the season, he could help in other ways. Dantonio said he moved around Lippett -- who played quarterback and defensive back in high school -- because he was too good of an athlete to waste on the sidelines. The plan is to keep him at receiver. But Lippett's multi-tasking days might not be over.

"He told me I'll be a receiver from now on, but he still wants me to not be complacent," Lippett said. "So, I don't really know for sure right now."

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