Spartans defense is prepared for Cal's Best

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

There weren't many ohs and ahs in the film room as Justin Kershaw and his fellow Michigan State defenders watched Cal's dynamic running back Jahvid Best.

The Spartans had seen this movie before. Every day in practice.

"We go a lot of 1's vs. 1's and I think Javon Ringer's one of the best running backs in the country," Kershaw said. "Best really reminds me of him a lot. He's a fast back, he runs powerful, he's got a lot of moves, he's a great player, but I go against Javon every day, so there's not really a lot I haven't seen out of a running back."

Best drew attention last fall for his big-play skills, gaining at least 10 yards on more than one-third of his touches. Many of those bursts came as a kickoff returner, as Best ranked second in the Pac-10 in return average (27 ypr).

Ringer's ability to gash defenses for big gains often gets overlooked because of his low touchdown numbers, but the Spartans senior back had runs of 80, 72, 70 and 64 yards last season. And like Best, Ringer expects to return kickoffs Saturday when Michigan State opens the season at Cal.

"Every team respects his speed," Kershaw said of Ringer. "He's the complete running back."

Michigan State might need to spend more time studying Cal sophomore quarterback Kevin Riley, who appeared in four games last fall as Nate Longshore's backup and had his best performance in the Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force. Kershaw, who had five tackles for loss last season, noted that Riley is more mobile than Longshore but said the Spartans are preparing for both quarterbacks.

The biggest challenge for Kershaw could be right in front of him, as he goes up against center Alex Mack, the Rimington Award front-runner, and guard Noris Malele. To prepare for challenges like Saturday's, Kershaw added 15-20 pounds during the offseason and expects to build off last season, his first at defensive tackle after switching over from end.

"It's going to help me with the wear and tear of the season," Kershaw said of the extra mass. "I feel quick off the ball. They're fast, their offensive linemen are fast, so we'll have to be ready for everything."