Outgoing: Spartans making their departure (defense)
When Senior Day took place on Nov. 19 against Indiana, Michigan State honored a senior class unlike any other it had seen before. It set the record for most wins in a four-year span with 37 — and won a Big Ten Championship in 2010.
A lot of talent leaves the Spartans football team after this past season concluded with an Outback Bowl win against Georgia — and this is a tribute to those players.
The Spartans lost four players to graduation, and one to the draft a year early, from its fifth-ranked defense.
Blake Pacheco — Defensive tackle
Career stats: Four tackles
Pachecho began his college career as a walk-on at Utah before playing at a small college in California and finally made his way to East Lansing, where he spent three years as a walk-on.
Kevin Pickelman — Defensive tackle
Career stats: 93 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 58 yards from tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, 46 yards from sacks
Pickelman was recruited as a tight end by John L. Smith, but became a force on the defensive line under Mark Dantonio. He had a career year in 2011, with 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks before falling victim to one of Wisconsin’s lovely low blocks on defensive lineman. His big game came in the biggest game: Michigan. He had two tackle for loss and a 9-yard sack — including the picture at the top of this post.
Jonathan Strayhorn — Defensive tackle
Career stats: 50 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 30 yards from tackles for loss , 5.0 sacks, 28 yards from sacks
Strayhorn teamed with Pickelman to make up a great pair of smashmouth defensive tackles alongside Jerel Worthy. It is one thing to be serviceable, but it is another thing entirely to understand your role and excel in it. Strayhorn did this well, he was not the star, but he made plays. He plugged the gaps up the middle and helped the Spartans defense be so successful against the run in 2011. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending knee injury against Iowa because he was in the midst of a really good season.
**Defensive tackle Jerel Worthy
Career stats: 107 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss (13th), 118 yards from tackles for loss (20th), 10 unassisted sacks, 12 sacks (T-12th), 78 yards from sacks (T-17th)
Honors: 2011 All-Big Ten first team (coaches and media), All-American by The Associated Press, Walter Camp Foundation, American Football Coaches Association, CBSSports.com, NBCSports.com and Yahoo! Sports
Oh, Jerel … Spartans fans will miss Worthy’s heart and enthusiasm. He was the one waving his arms to get the crowd excited, running toward the student section and celebrating like a clown after one of his many huge defensive plays. He got a tattoo of a Spartan stomping on a Wolverine, which is just another day in the life it seems. Worthy lived in the backfield and was an unstoppable force — blowing up play after play, and celebrating with a child-like joy. He was the driving force behind the defensive success in the past three years. In his love for Michigan State and his play on the field, he brought the energy and passion to fans and his teammates alike.
Trenton Robinson — Safety
Career stats: 229 tackles, two tackles for loss (eight yards), 21 pass deflections, nine interceptions (T-9th), 59 interceptions yards
Honors: 2011 All-Big Ten first team (media), 2010 All-Big Ten second team (coaches)
Robinson was a staple of the Michigan State defense for the past three seasons, and will be remembered for his hard hitting — especially his pop on Montee Ball in the Big Ten title game, where he just leveled Ball. Robinson consistently made plays and led the defensive secondary, which turned from the laughing stock of everything college football under John L. Smith to a dynamic playmaking unit. Never the biggest player on the field, he played bigger than his size and for the heart he always played with on every play.