It isn’t a secret that football is a sport of little change and a lot of copycat work. That is why Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio approved his defensive coaches heading to SEC country to check out the LSU Tigers.
The offensive staff was going through a shuffle, so Dantonio is leaning towards sending that staff out during an off week in May. I asked him about it earlier this week.
Dantonio told me, “Well, we did go to LSU this year as a defensive staff, and I think that was beneficial. From an offensive perspective we’re a little bit behind in terms of because we restructured the staff a little bit, so we felt like we were best suited just to remain in playing, and we’ll go to a place after spring ball and look to do some of those things as we get into June or into May during a week off, during a week where we’ll take a little bit of time in between recruiting.”
So why is taking a look around important? “I think it’s beneficial when we do those things. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. I think it does focus on football focuses on the fundamentals and who really blocks, tackles and plays the ball in the deep part of the field and catches the football and throws it correctly and all those different type of things. That’s going to be the team that wins usually.”
Dantonio confessed some things need to change. “So the focus will always be on fundamentals, but we do need to change some things. In regards to special teams, when you look at special teams, so much of it is the specialists themselves, is the field goal blocked, is it a field goal, what is it, but we’re always going to try and continue to be very, very good in that area. I think we slipped a little bit in some areas, but we maintained in others. So it’s a little bit what did we do well and what do we have to change.”
Dantonio is not one to sit idly by. He is on the lookout for wrinkles and changes. “We’re always looking to try to stay ahead of the curve as best we can and as much as we can. With that being said, we have to do what our players can do, as well.”
Dantonio is correct, he is not one to idly sit by and one area of change is going to me the competition to be the next MSU QB. Andrew Maxwell rightfully comes in to the spring as the #1, but Dantonio plans for the MSU tandem of Andrew Maxwell, Connor Cook and Tyler O’Connor to get a long look this spring.
“You’ve got Tyler O’Connor, who starts as a red shirt freshmen with us, and I think he’ll be very exciting. So it’s very important that he have opportunities to move forward, I think, as a quarterback. I think it’s very, very important that he work with the ones and the twos, that he has that opportunity.”
He went on to add, “Obviously Connor Cook and Maxwell are two guys that have played some, Maxwell far more than Connor, but Connor played in the bowl game and I thought did some good things. You have to weigh those things out, those guys are going to have equal opportunities, I think, but Maxwell starts with the ones. I think he deserves that based on his leadership, based on him having to take all the bullets that are thrown at him from the press and from everybody else involved, because there is a certain part of being a leader, being the quarterback that you have to be able to absorb those hits. I’m not talking about the hits from the players; I’m talking about the hits from the general public and the criticism that’s leveled towards him in every respect. I think that goes with the territory.”
He elaborated that, “It’s not unwarranted. It just goes with the territory. And I think by nature of what he’s been able to do in that respect, he stands at No.1. But with that being said, we’re evaluating our quarterbacks, they will be live this year in scrimmage situations, and we’re going to give people an opportunity to create. And I think that’s very important and critical for this football team that our quarterbacks be able to create at a high level.”
Dantonio is letting the battling QB’s go live this spring. That means they can get hit and will get hit. How much? “We’re only allowed to have three full scrimmages by NCAA mandate. The other ones are sort of you can tackle I think 50 percent of the time. So while, for example, next Friday we’ll go in pads this coming Friday, it’ll be padded practice. We’ll do some live things, but it won’t be a total scrimmage. We’ll be able to pick and choose when we want these guys to be live, but I think they have to be by nature of what we need to find out, and the only way you can find out is by giving them those opportunities.”
So will the QB’s each get a chance with the first string? “As far as who’s working with the No.1s, we’re going to change up some of that as we go. I think everybody should have that opportunity to work behind a great offensive line or work against particularly they need to all work against the No.1 defense to see how to evaluate apples versus apples basically.”
Mark Dantonio has done an amazing job at MSU. He keeps learning he keeps checking new wrinkles out because that is the kind of coach he is. This will be an exciting year for the offense and with the defense under mad scientist Pat Narduzzi always looking for new wrinkles.
Make no mistake this is the biggest spring since Dantonio arrived and I have no doubts they will rise to the occasion.