One of the big early-season storylines going into the 2018 season for Michigan State was the position battle at center between Tyler Higby and Matt Allen and, through two games, the coaching staff is starting to see one of the two take control of that battle.
Higby appeared in all 13 games in 2017, including seven starts at guard, entered this season making the switch to the center position, while Allen is a natural center, who entered 2018 with the hopes of filling the shoes of his older brother, Brian, who started 38 games for the Spartans in his college career, including 13 starts at center last fall.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said that while moving Higby to center was the coaching staff’s best idea to play its best five offensive linemen, the transition hasn’t gone without struggles along the way.
“You know we try to make Tyler (a) center, we want to always try and play our best five,” he said. “But with that being said, it's difficult sometimes to transition to the center box, and you saw him -- you saw a couple times what happened to him. Things got disrupted, and when you can't control the center box, if you can't control the nose with the center box, it's difficult to run the ball. Especially if you're running things where a guard or somebody is pulling, and there's disruption, and you saw that happen.”
For Allen, who is more experienced at the center position, Dantonio said that he feels the sophomore has performed better through two games and noted that the position battle will continue to pan out over the course of the next couple of weeks.
“I thought Matt played better,” he said. “He was more firm in there. He's been a center longer. So you know, we certainly have to try and figure that out as we go and that's one of the things we figure out in the next couple weeks here.”
But for Higby, the struggles haven't been because of a lack of effort according to Dantonio, but rather a result of someone simply learning a new position, which comes with new responsibilities, along the offensive line.
“But it's not from a lack of trying or lack of a will, but he's snapping the ball and he's probably not stepping -- when you catch on a zero knows who is coming out of his stance that I think knew the snap count and anticipated it, got off on the ball, things become a little more difficult. So we need to vary the snap count in that situation.”
Fans can expect to see both Allen and Higby taking reps at center when the Spartans return to the field next Saturday when they take on Indiana in Bloomington.
Remember to check back to Spartan Nation for all of the latest news on the 2018 Michigan State football team.
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