EAST LANSING - Todd Anderson doesn't regret his time as a defensive end during his first three seasons at Michigan State but he's really relishing the potential for success in the role he'll play as the team's new starting fullback.
"At d-end, it's one where your responsibility kind of depends on the offense," Anderson said. "As far as fullback goes, I know where I'm going and who I've got and I can just focus all of my energy on that and try and blow someone off balance. That's more my style, my mentality and that works best for me. I always see it on TV and I love it when they replay a fullback's block.''
Anderson, who enters fall camp at a bullish 266 pounds, can already envision the enjoyment and satisfaction he will feel as he joins a long list of former fullbacks to play and excel as they lined up behind the quarterback at MSU.
"I'm good friends with probably the last three or four fullbacks. Jeff McPherson, Andrew Hawken, I talk to them all of the time. We have a great tradition, power offense and it's going to be fun to be a part of that.''
It is a role he feels he was always meant to fulfill ever since his arrival on campus in 2007 as a walk-on.
"I feel like at d-end I really had to work because I was 6-2, 240 and working against some guy that was 6-7,'' said the Napoleon native who was approached about the move to fullback late last season and made the official transition during spring practice when he was 253 pounds. "So I really had to work to get where I was. But at fullback, it just feels natural, always has, like I've been blocking my whole life. So, it's just as well.''
Last season, MSU finished the season with former walk-on Nick Bendzuck at fullback, after Josh Rouse suffered a season, and eventually, career-ending neck injury. That left a run-first MSU team thinner than expected in an important position in the Spartans' power run game.
Enter Anderson, who said the transition has been easier than some might expect, simply because of his experience on the defensive side of the ball. It's that experience that gives him hope he can be "very effective", as he says, on offense.
"On defense, you have to learn the whole offense. On offense, you basically learn base defenses. So having my defensive mindset, I knew how to read blitzes, and where they're going to line up, maybe better than some offensive guys. So (in film study) I was more focused on our own nomenclature rather than the defense's (set).''
Despite his comfort with the move in what appears to be a smooth transition, the question remains about his chances of getting some touches in an already crowded backfield?
"I'm really excited about that," Anderson said. "We had something going in on Monday and I'm confident running the ball, with some quick hitters. That will be fun. And I feel pretty confident catching the ball. I think I've got good hands. But I know my job primarily is to block. We've got great backs like Rock (Edwin Baker), Le'Veon (Bell) and Larry (Caper). Those guys get one block and they might be out of the gate. So that's my primary focus. If I get to touch the ball, that's a bonus. But my first goal is just to bust some holes open for them.''
FOCUSED AND SELFLESS: Junior running back Larry Caper expects to be a key contributor in a crowded and talented backfield, but according to Caper, who had talked strongly about making sure he concentrated on being productive in other areas if he wasn't going to get a significant amount of carries, some things have changed.
"I'm not really worried about the numbers right now, I'm just worried about staying healthy and doing the little things," said the Battle Creek native who missed the first two games of last season with a broken hand but returned to play in 11 games and lead all Spartan running backs in receptions with 12 for 133 yards. 'Most of my goals are qualitative. So it's effort, toughness and things like that. As long as I take care of those things each day, and take it day by day, my goals will come true.''
Caper feels he can do that by putting his 223-pound frame in a selfless position.
"As far as this season, it's really about putting the team first," Caper said. "It's not all about my individual goals. When I keep the team in mind and keep myself healthy, the sky's the limit for our team.''
And his response when asked if there were enough balls to go around in the backfield:
"There's definitely enough touches," he said. "Wisconsin did it. They had three running backs that had over 800 yards. We're a running team and we've got three running backs that could start anywhere in the country. If I'm healthy, 100 percent healthy and doing what I have to do on the field, off the field, in the classroom and in the film room, without a doubt, I'll get my touches.''
ADVICE VIA RISON: Fifth-year senior Keith Nichol has made the transition from quarterback to wide receiver as easy as can be expected, but when you get a verbal boost from someone like former Spartan and All-Big Ten wideout Andre Rison, Nichol says you can't help but get pumped up about your potential for the future.
While Nichol couldn't repeat Rison's rather pointed advice verbatim, he was able to paraphrase it down to family-friendly rating.
"He expects us to play the way he played, which was as a record-setting, first round draft pick,'' said Nichol, who finished last season with 22 receptions for 262 yards and one touchdown. "Essentially, the thing that he said was always get after your guy. Whether you're running a clear out, whether you're getting the ball, whatever you're doing, you have to get after your guy and beat him on everything that you do. And make it obvious who won that play. Let them know that you won. Obviously, he trashed talked here a little at State when he played and whether it's your style or not, he was just saying, make sure you get after them on every play.''