June 14, 2018 6:45:14 AM
Every day from 99 days out (May 25) until kickoff, I'll put up a post telling you how many days until kickoff and breaking down something about the upcoming season related to that number.
Today, since we are 79 days away from kickoff, we take a look at: Mark McLaurin led MSU with 79 tackles last season; will he lead the team again?
As I see it, this has less to do with McLaurin and more to do with the defense he will be playing in.
Because Todd Grantham ran a very aggressive defense out of a three-man front, linebackers were very much involved in the designed, initial pressure. In four-man fronts, they aren't needed as much in that sense and they can play the run in the traditional stack setup, taking advantage of the pursuit angles created by the defensive line. Linebackers may be freed up for some extra sacks or tackles for a loss in the Grantham scheme, but I expect the overall tackle number to be higher for linebackers.
I'm also interested in how new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop will use the safeties. We project McLaurin and Johnathan Abram to be the deep guys with Brian Cole at nickelback, but there is no good way to know which of them is going to be used most often to bring pressure. All of them can do it and do it well, so I don't anticipate a skillset bias there. I'm confident all of them will be called upon to help run support, as all defensive backs are in a six-man box, but I find it hard to believe that any one of them will be creeping into the box more than the other.
For all of those reasons, I think a linebacker will lead the team in tackles, and I think it will be Erroll Thompson. I wouldn't be surprised if both McLaurin and Abram are in the top five, but I don't see either of them finishing No. 1. Plus, think about it this way: when a four-man front defense has a safety leading the team in tackles, it's probably because the defense was busy getting bombed on and the safety was the last line of defense.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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