EAST LANSING - Redshirt freshman Travis Jackson and sophomore Dan France were newsmakers on the Michigan State offensive line on Tuesday.
The two Ohioans were at the top of the depth chart at center and left tackle respectively during the eleventh of 15 allotted spring football practices.
SpartanMag.com spent a good chunk of Tuesday's practice watching Jackson and France work under the watchful eye of offensive line coach Mark Staten and offensive coordinator Dan Roushar.
During an early practice period Jackson fared well in a drill during which he went up against established starters Jerel Worthy and Kevin Pickelman.
France was not sure about the move to the offensive line during bowl practice. Last December the converted defensive tackle from North Royalton (Ohio) High School lacked confidence on the offensive side of the ball. Five months later, France is a new man.
"I definitely see this as a great opportunity," France said. "It is an honor to even be mentioned as a guy that could actually play left tackle in the fall. I am pretty excited about it and motivated to work even harder."
New wrinkles on the practice field: First-year wide receivers coach Terry Samuel has brought some new drills to the practice field. During the first practice open to members of the media on April 12, Samuel had his receivers run routes through the opening of a device that looks like the frame of a lacrosse goal without a net.
"That helps us to break down and get our shoulders over our knees," explained sophomore wide receiver Bennie Fowler. "It really helps you come into your breaks quicker."
During Tuesday's practice Michigan State receivers worked with an angled blocking sled. The Spartans have always emphasized the importance of wide receiver blocking during Mark Dantonio's tenure. But the use of an angled blocking sled is something new this year.
"We definitely have to be great blockers this year as wide receivers," Fowler said. "We have great running backs and usually when you see a really big run by a running back there is a good block by a wide receiver in there somewhere. If we can get the block, we can spring our great running backs."
Using the angled sled requires proper technique. Poor technique shows up quickly.
"I am doing alright with it, but it is a point of emphasis for me," Fowler said. "I don't always get the technique, but I am definitely getting better as we go on."
Lippett continues to show well this spring: When asked how Tony Lippett was doing on defense before Tuesday's practice, Mark Dantonio characterized the red-shirt freshman's first 11 practices of the spring as outstanding.
The fifth-year Spartan coach then reiterated his plan to use Lippett as a two-way player in 2011.
"We worked him last week defensively and then on Saturday we worked him on the offensive side of the ball too," said Dantonio of Lippett. "We had a couple of guys out with hamstrings. But he has the ability to make plays on both sides. We are going to use him as such."
At 6-foot-3, the 185-pounder from Detroit is one of the smoothest players on the Spartan football roster. The former Crockett High School star covers a lot of ground with an effortless stride and his long arms give him an expansive catch-radius.
Click the video below to watch practice clips of Jackson, France, Lippett and Fowler, wide receiver sled work and more from Tuesday's practice.