EAST LANSING, Mich. -- This spring, Michigan State is auditioning several players with the first-team defense to fill the third linebacker spot alongside mainstays Greg Jones and Eric Gordon.
But arguably the Spartans' best option watched Tuesday's practice from the sideline, decked out in an Under Armour All-America sweatshirt.
William Gholston was pretty easy to spot on the practice field, all 6-foot-7, 237 pounds of him.
Gholston headlined Michigan State's 2010 recruiting class, ranking as the Big Ten's second-highest rated prospect by ESPN recruiting. The Detroit native doesn't arrive at Michigan State until the summer, but he's a regular at Spartans' spring practices and attended Tuesday's workout while on spring break.
"We think he can be a big linebacker type guy that can bounce around and be an edge rusher, bring it up inside," Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said.
It begs the question: Should Gholston play outside linebacker or defensive end, or some sort of hybrid position?
Narduzzi doesn't need to see Gholston in a Spartans uniform to know the answer. He wants to identify another blitzing linebacker to pair with Jones, the reigning Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Year.
Last season, opposing teams consistently moved their protection schemes to account for Jones and didn't worry about anyone else. Narduzzi wants to "make people pay for that" in 2010, and Gholston is the man to do it.
"He's got the ability to run like any of our other linebackers can," Narduzzi said. "People want to sit there and stereotype him and tell him, 'Oh, you're a D-end because you're 6-7.' Well, guess what? That guy's a special guy who can run like a linebacker at 6-foot-7.
"To be able to stand him up and move him around like we do with Greg Jones is something we'd like to do."
Although Gholston isn't practicing this spring, his presence around the coaches has paid off. Narduzzi has been impressed with the incoming freshman's football knowledge, which should benefit him at linebacker.
"He is a very intelligent individual, smarter than I thought he was," Narduzzi said. "During [Michigan State] basketball games this season, he'd come up an hour before a basketball game and talk football. Most high school players don't know a thing, but he knows a lot of things.
"Stuff that I talked about two weeks ago, he'll come in here today and I'll say, 'Tell me what we do on this.' And he knows. He didn't forget. So he's got the smarts to play linebacker."