Mark Dantonio took time this morning to meet with the media. As you can imagine he was feisty. Not rude or belligerent for those of you looking for something to complain about, but feisty for sure.
The Spartans offensive line has taken a beating. Dantonio wasted no time in addressing that. “Well, I mean, I think I need to just come out and say what’s going on, because everybody has kind of got a good, clear assessment of our offensive line picture. Jared was injured last week, where he — going after a loose ball. So he’s got an MCL. He’ll probably be out. -he should be able to play for the Michigan game. He’ll probably miss it next week. Get healthy enough to practice during the bye week and for the Michigan game I would not anticipate him playing next week. Blake Treadwell has an MCL sprain, so he is out this week as well. Remains to be seen how soon he will be back. Whether that’s one week, two weeks; so we are going to miss those two guys and obviously Skyler.
So we have got a young offensive line. And you can look at it one of two ways, you can look at it and say we are going to get stronger through adverse times, which is the way that we’ll look at it at this point. But Travis Jackson is back and Travis is a very good player; Fou Fonoti played well, as well, in the football game against Notre Dame, and so he’s got game experience and he’s a very, very good athlete. So we’ll shore up the offensive line, and that’s regardless really of what happens or who is playing, we have got guys on scholarship and we have got guys who have been coached and we need to pound the ball. Like we have said, pound green pound, we need to run this football.”
I have already said that I thought the Spartans commitment to running the ball when Alabama, and Notre Dame loaded the box is not smart. Against CMU it is fine, but against the better teams MSU must use a pass to run philosophy rather than their standard run to pass. Dantonio didn’t agree.
He said, “No, we don’t change our philosophy. We have two good of running backs. We have to put the ball in our running backs’ hands because they are too good of players. That’s where that comes from. If we had average running backs, we can change our — we would change our thinking I think, but our running backs are too good of players. We have to put the ball in those guys’ hands, some kind of way, and I think that’s important. Because they can make plays for us.”
One unseen star this season has been the FB Todd Anderson. Not only has he been crushing with his blocks, but he also had a great catch against the Irish. Dantonio is not one to heap false praise, so when he does it is pretty eye opening. He said of Anderson, “…we have a very good fullback and I think Todd Anderson has been a very — I don’t want to say surprise, because I knew he was a football player, but he’s been a very positive addition to our offense, because he’s a 265-pound fullback that can hammer it in there and he makes a dense in defenses with his blocking. So that’s been a positive for us.”
Dantonio showed some fire when talking about his running backs. Even with the demise of his line, he wouldn’t have any of it when it comes to excuses. He said of his backs, “I think it’s a challenge to our entire football team. I think they have got to get — they have got to have a mind-set. Come Saturday, they had better have a mind-set. Their coach will. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but their coach will.”
Since his arrival at MSU he has been adamant that his teams will lead by special teams. Other than punter Mike Sadler who has been extraordinary, and Matt Giampapa the new long snapper, the special teams have not been good. Dantonio addressed that. “It’s a concern. It’s a concern because we have been good in the past on special teams. It was the first kickoff return we’ve had in eight years of being a head football coach. Harlon Barnett does a great job, but again, when you’re playing young players — and Taiwan Jones is a young player and he’s done a great job on kickoff, but he went down and he did not get blocked and he got ambushed. He got ambushed. He got dinged into Jeremy Langford, who is another redshirt freshman.
And then our redshirt freshman, Tony Lippett, was coming down as safety, but he built up to push himself into the offense too deep. So he couldn’t get back over the top, and Taiwan missed the tackle. He should have been able to track him and make the tackle at the 40-yard line. So, you deal with it, you correct it so that mistakes can be avoided, and it will be in the future. Obviously it hurt us in that game. As far as the dropped punt, yeah, that’s uncharacteristic of Keshawn Martin. I believe that was in the Youngstown State game. Certainly the whole Youngstown State game was uncharacteristic. But I take responsibility for the fake punt — fake kick, excuse me, this last time; we had too much penetration. You have to adapt sometimes. We didn’t adapt to that particular alignment. We should not have tried it in that yard line, at that particular line. But you know, you win games on special teams. This time, it caught up to us.”
Finally Dantonio lamented his teams 13-3 record in the last 16 games. Not the 13 wins, but the three losses. All losses in which his team has was out toughed and couldn’t run the ball. Iowa last season and Alabama from the Capital One Bowl and of course last Saturday. “Most people know we can throw the football. But we have to run the football to be successful. If you look at our 13-3 mark over the last 16 games, the three games that we were unable to run the football, on a consistent basis, were the three games we lost. It’s just the way it is. And I would say that’s probably the case with most people.”
Think about this people. Just a few years ago in the recruiting process MSU forecasted that David Barrent, Henry Conway and Arthur Ray were all expected to be starters on this line. Not an excuse, just a fact that they do have depth but that line has been decimated by injuries.