MSU head coach talked to the media from around the nation yesterday and he had a lot to say. I could tell you what he said, but instead we will let you read in his own words.
Q: Hey Mark, your first 3-4 years there your defense was kind of in the middle of the pack with the Big 10. Then you guys jumped to kind of the nationally elite level. I’m wondering from your perspective what kind of made that happen?
A: Well, I think first thing you have to look at is who’s playing, because players make plays. So we’ve been able to get a little bit better in terms of the player that we’ve recruited and develop that player. I think we’ve done a tremendous job of developing that player in the weight room, on the practice field and in the film room. Number two, I think our continuity on our defensive side of the staff has been very good. We have a coordinator in place, Coach Narduzzi’s been in place, so things haven’t changed as much. We continue to critique things to try and make it better. But we have a really good foundation in terms of what we do. And the third factor is we’ve got new experience with our players. We’ve had players that have excelled in the past, success breeds success. But they have the same teacher, and that same teacher, that same base concept stays the same over a period of time we start to begin to handle it more efficiently. I think that’s what’s happened to our football team. Doesn’t mean we don’t have breakdowns, we do. But we are able to overcome those and we play with a lot of confidence and we play fast. Anytime we can do those two things… Keep it simple, keep it simple but remain comprehensive in terms of handling all the situations and schemes and giving different people different problems. You can be successful and I think that is what’s happened.
Q: DeAnthony Arnett, just how far he’s come since he transferred into your program. What do you see in the future for him?
A: DeAnthony is a guy that last year was in the first year of our program, his first year with Michigan State. I think he’s a guy that runs great routes. He can catch the ball a little bit more consistently than last year. He’s got the potential to be a big play guy but he’s gotta be consistent. He’s gotta be physical at the point of attack, they all have to be. So whether it’s running with the football or maybe crack blocking somebody, he’s gotta do that. He’s in a competition with probably 4 or 5 other guys. He’s a guy that I think will play next year and add a lot to our offense once he gets his feet on the ground and starts moving on a more consistent basis. I think he’s taken big steps this spring and you can see that.
Q: With Max Bullough, I know you guys are always looking for more leadership than maybe somebody else too. Is Max taken another step in that way and what have you seen from him also in terms of the way he’s played this spring?
A: He’s had an outstanding spring. He’s better than he even was last year, in terms of diagnosing and recognizing things. The thing about Max is, I think that an outstanding quality tha t you have as a person is that he always sort of plays with a chip on this shoulder. And I think he always tries to get better. He’s never satisfied with status quo, of where he’s been or what he’s done thus far. He’s constantly trying to improve on that. So with that comes a certain aggressiveness that he brings to the field every day, and I think our players recognize that. They see him as a confident leader and they follow him. So I think that his leadership in that area has even increased. Obviously he’s got a great feel for our football team. I think they have a great feel for him as a person as well. I think Max Bullough sort of had that reputation going into last year as we pick our people. In terms of captains or leadership group, he’s always been one of the guys that has consistently remained on top of the board in terms of the number of people that were voting him in that position. We do that quite often here, you know. We don’t let things just become stagnate. We continually ask ourselves, Do we have the right people leading or giving them their opportunity to lead. So he’s remained very consistent in that area. It’s been a positive thing for this football team.
Q: You’re offensive coordinator, or co-coordinators, how is that working? What kind of change in the look of the offense would you see there being maybe? And also, with Maxwell, is he getting pushed at all in the competition at quarterback? Does Connor have a chance to do anything there?
A: First of all, with our coordinators, Dave Warner will be the lead guy as I said before. Jim Bollman will serve as co-coordinator, but more of a consultant in terms of what to call, when to call things. So I think there has to be one guy in place to be able to do that on game day, and one guy to be the lead person. In answer to what we’re doing offensively, I think it’s always important that you have a foundation to what you’re doing. That you have to build on that foundation and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to take things we did well, improve on those, critique those, but then also add things that can come along with that. While there may be a little bit of a look and who knows if we’ll show that in our spring game, probably won’t. There are certain things that we’re gonna maintain of who we are. As far as the quarterback position, Andrew is being pushed, I think Connor Cook and Tyler O’Connor. Like I said earlier on this, last year we basically finished with one quarterback on scholarship in the spring. He actually handled the whole spring game because Maxwell was out. But he is being pushed, those guys are competitive players, they’ve got good ability, they make things happen. I guess the thing you look for as a coach is you want consistency. And I said this yesterday in my press conference, I think all these quarterbacks needs to be more consistent but they’re playing against a good defense. Again, when things are live there’s a little bit more sense of urgency. There’s breakdowns at times and you gotta make a play and create. But that’s what we’re looking for. We’re putting everybody to the test and we don’t want anybody to sit and be assured of anything. But he is being pushed.
Q: I’m just wondering about replacing Bell at running back. Tell us how it’s shaping up for you this spring. What you’ve got going on.
A: We’ve got Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford and Nick Tompkins, a true freshman that was red shirted last year, that are handling duties right now. We’re bringing 3 guys in fall camp, there’ll be an open competition, we’ll look for other guys to move that direction from within our team right now. I think we have some good candidates that we’ll slide in there, and slide in and out at practice and see how they handle things. But I think it goes without saying that that’s been a dominant position for us the last number of years in terms of 1,000 yard rushers, in terms of guys who’ve become All Big 10, guys that have been drafted. I believe we have 2 All Americans out of that group out of the last number of tailbacks that played here. So obviously this a position of concern for us. But our guys are playing hard and they just…you gotta find guys you can give the ball to 250 times. I don’t know that we have that yet. That’s part of who we are so we’re gonna find it.
Q: There’s been a lot of focus obviously on the offensive staff and changes there. But I wanted to ask you about Coach Burton on defensive line, who we’ve seen already. Seems like a very energetic, fiery type coach. How’s that translated to your guys up front, and not only that, how’s it changed your whole coaching staff having him around?
A: I think Coach Burton, coming from the Air Force academy for 9 years, he’s got experience in the Big 10 Conference. He’s been an added addition. He’s an extremely good coach. He’s very energetic. He’s got great relationships with our players, and our players are playing for him and they’re believing in what he’s teaching. So all you gotta do is come out to practice ad watch him. It’s been pretty very impressive. So we’re excited about that. I think that there are…he’s a difference maker. He can have an impact on young players. Not just the players that are here but they guys that may be coming in the future. I think he can have an impact on them and their ability to play at a high level.