Mark Dantonio took time to evaluate and asses his team with one week left in Spring practice. Here are his thoughts on a myriad of questions!
A: Like I talked about at our last scrimmage, we’re looking for consistency and performance. We’re looking for our guys to raise their play to another level and get better as we go. Obviously I’ll just take some questions. That’s usually what they’re gonna print anyway.
Q: Mark, Jack Allen obviously is out and last year you had some injuries. You mentioned there are 3 starters out for the scrimmage. Are you concerned about your durability?
A: Well, a couple guys with an ankle and this type of thing, so it’s not long term out. But with Jack and we’re missing two others, we’re missing the right side of our offensive line. Not a concern because they’ve practiced and they’ve got game experience. The goal is always to be 15 for 15 in spring practice and I think if you’re doing that you’re getting better. They’re not necessarily getting better if they’re nicked up.
Q: You mentioned on the conference call looking at some other guys for running back. Who are you gonna look at?
A: Riley Bullough is the guy that we’re looking at right now and I just thought he was a guy that handled the ball a lot in high school. A lot of times when we’re getting ready for somebody else we put people in those positions that sort of simulate an opposing player. So we had Riley at tailback last year getting ready for Iowa. He was pretty impressive so I thought let’s see what he can do. The other day he was impressive, he’ll get reps tomorrow in the scrimmage and we’ll see how he looks.
Q: So we’ll have some Bullough-Bullough collisions then?
A: Yeah, I would imagine so.
Q: Have you seen any of that yet?
A: Yeah, there’s been a little bit of that. He did a nice job the other day so we’ll see how it goes.
Q: What did he do well?
A: He’s got good feet in the hole and he’s powerful. He’s 230+ lbs. and he can move the pile. You gotta get positive yardage, and that’s what he’s done. I think he’s got a good football IQ. That’s so important, especially if you’re gonna play a couple of different positions. We’re not gonna move him from the linebacker position, but we’re gonna experiment with him on the offense side.
Q: Anybody else moving?
A: No, we just gotta deal with it one at a time. We’ve got a couple other candidates, but we’ll do it one at a time.
Q: Is there a chance that he could you impress you so much that by the end of the spring you’ve rethought that move?
A: That’s usually the idea when we move them, that they’ll be able to gain some ground in the competition. He’s aggressive, we liked him, gotta find a guy that can carry the ball 200+ times. So we gotta find out either with our guys that are existing at that position or incoming freshmen, or moving somebody. We’ve always had that and we’ll continue to have that. I was excited about the way he played the other day.
Q: What’s going on at defensive tackle, especially the guys behind your starters?
A: I think we’re pretty decent at defensive tackle. Lawrence Thomas is having a good spring. Very active, weighs 300+ lbs. right now and he can move. Very athletic. You’ve got Kittredge, you’ve got Hoover and you’ve got Micajah Reynolds. I think Damon Knox has done some good things this spring, and Brandon Clemons is coming back off an injury. This is his first spring after being out in the fall so he’s done some good things as well. I’m not sure if I’m missing anybody or not.
Q: Would you say the LT would be in that first four?
A: Yeah he’s in the first four, somewhere in there. He’s gotta take that next step as well.
Q: Is this the most depth you’ve had at defensive tackle?
A: There’s some numbers in terms of solid players. Players that can be game ready, I think it is.
Q: What is it that incumbent tailbacks aren’t doing, Coach, that made you look for some other options?
A: We’ve always had guys to be able to play off each other. You know, a bigger guy and a faster guy that sort of compliment each other. Right now we really don’t have that. We have Nick Hill, we have Jeremy Langford, we have Nick Tompkins. They’re all sort of the same type of guy. So to get that tough yard in there, to get that grind out yard, we don’t have a guy yet. But we got them coming in. I think we have some guys coming in. That’s why we have to maintain our compass with Riley at linebacker as well. But I do think we need that guy. We’ve always had it and that’s what we don’t have right now. We’ve gotta look for big plays and durability and consistency.
Q: Coach, the three guys that were out (OL) are any or all of them back tomorrow?
A: I won’t know that probably until tomorrow. Depends on how they get through the day.
Q: Did you emphasize the idea of passing a lot more at the last scrimmage? Are you trying to do something different tomorrow?
A: No, just play the situations. We did a different scrimmage format last week. Will be the same one again this week that we did this week. It’s a little bit more drive the football to play the down the distance rather than create the situation for them, they gotta create their own situation. If you get behind a champ a little bit you’re gonna throw the football. Ie. That’s why we gotta be able to run the ball more effectively.
Q: So it is more a case of the defense stopping the run?
A: Yeah, our defense is playing well. And at the end of the game we put a 2 minute situation on the clock. Just by the nature of the game and what we were doing well.
Q: You’ve talked about Maxwell doing well in controlled situations but maybe not as well as things are breaking down. Is he doing better?
A: I think he’s doing better. There’s much more live than we’ve ever done, obviously. We’ve been live throughout. When that happens there’s gonna be breakdowns and that puzzle doesn’t quite fit together as well as it is when there’s no pressure on the quarterback to get him. So that’s all a part of it. But it’s real, so you get some real reps and also you get some very defined things that you can look at and say, You can get better at this, you can get better at that. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Q: Did Maxwell getting something out of it and kind of progressing here?
A: I think all 3 of our quarterbacks are. And again, I think from our quarterback situation we’re healthier than we were last year, we’ve got more experience. We should be in a better place.
Q: Jim Bollman’s role?
A: Well, tight ends. Tight ends. But he works with the tackles just like Roushar worked with the tackle tight ends. Really the title is Co-coordinator Tight Ends but we’ll certainly…
Q: Can a guy like Ellsworth give you the luxury of moving Riley around a little bit?
A: Yeah, he’s played in a couple different areas. He’s played the middle, he’s played at all three linebacker positions. I think he’s having a great spring. As well as Jairus Jones is having a very good spring. I’ve said that before.
Q: Jones is working where?
A: Jones is working primarily at star in nickel situations and regular as well. He’s done a great job, he and Taiwan Jones are pretty much playing neck and neck there. He’s made a lot of plays. He’s been physical, he’s a very aware football player. I think awareness is a lot of it sometimes.
Q: Is Darquez getting close? I know you said you thought about him getting some contact. Where’s he at on his comeback from the injury?
A: Yeah, he’s close. He could probably go next week. But we’ll just hold him out with only a couple of practices. There’s nothing for him to prove. So we’ll hold him out. But yeah, he’s doing some sprints and that type of thing right now. But we’ll hold him out.
Q: Is Isaiah good? I saw last week he was out for a day. He seemed to wink and say it was no big deal. Does it seem like he’s gonna be fine?
A: We’re gonna find out about that one. We’ll have to wait and see as we go. But he’s not out, out.
Q: Demetrious Cox is a guy you came close to taking a red shirt off. Where is he?
A: Demetrious is a very football player. He’s going to figure into our plans. Right now.
Q: On the defensive side of the ball, has anybody else stepped up to that role?
A: Hoover’s done a nice job in that area, Max, Kyler Ellsworth, we’ve got a good second group. Chemistry’s good. What we do on a day-to-day basis is good. There is a sense of urgency.