Mark Staten the Michigan State OL Coach Talks About the Progress of his Spartans

A: …and sometimes a guy might be able to get there this way. Sometimes he might be able to take a different step to get there. But the biggest thing is we gotta get there. And that’s been key. We’ve been learning and working through that throughout this spring.

Q: What did you get out of the scrimmage and what do you want to see next?

A: Well, I’d like to see us run the ball more consistently. I see that when you’re missing 3 starters it can hurt you. But we learned that last year, so there’s nothing learning there. I saw some guys stepped up as the scrimmage went on. I saw that we need to start faster. And that’s stuff that we talked about. In the 2nd quarter of the scrimmage things were at a higher tempo and things really went well for the offense. The 1st quarter they shut us down.

Q: It seems like in my past experience that in the second scrimmage you run the ball a little bit more or do a better job running the football. Is that more of an emphasis or does that matter to offensive line?

A: I think it’s both. I think it’s consistency. I think it’s guys getting used to their…a week, 2 weeks better. I think all of that helps. It’s a huge thing to get comfortable within new ideas, within new running schemes, within different things we’re now emphasizing.

Q: Fou is your starting LT, but getting reps at center. How’s that going?

A: It was going good.

Q: Is that something that you had thought about for a long time?

A: Oh, he’s done it before. Before he got injured he was gonna start at left tackle. And so it’s something that he needs to do. We’ve been fortunate, he’s been snapping all offseason. He gets in there sometimes and gets some snaps as well. He did it with the 1’s in the drive we went down. We ended up missing the field goal but we went down there to kick a field goal.

Q: Is part of that increasing his NFL stock?

A: It all helps. And it also makes you know what’s going on positionally. It makes you know what that guy’s responsible for. And that’s helpful as well. But yeah, you always wanna see your guys end up having an opportunity.

Q: From a leadership standpoint, what does it mean to have a guy like Travis back and Fou?

A: Yeah, Travis and Fou were tremendous leaders for us. You know it took a dramatic drop when they left us early last year. So it’s been great in that aspect. Tremendous vocal leaders; get the guys in there watching film with them and they take things over. We’re only gonna be as good as they lead us to. Because we’ll get them there, we’ll coach them up, we’ll teach them. But then it’s up to them.

Q: Obviously you guys had a bunch of injuries last year. Do you feel these guys have a chip on their shoulder?

A: They better have a chip on their shoulder. We were inefficient last year. If they don’t have a chip on their shoulder then we’re messing something up, we’re missing something. So they definitely have a chip on their shoulder. And they better keep that chip on their shoulder all through the summer, all through next fall.

Q: Have you seen that so far?

A: Oh yeah, there’s a definite chip. I’m just trying to increase it, make it bigger and bigger, and make it like a tree.

Q: Can you give me an example of something…

A: Well, just a little bit of an attitude. Little bit of, Hey this is an offense and a defense and a special team. What we do matters every day. There’s no back down from them, there’s getting after it. They understand that to be successful we have to be great up front.

Q: What about some of those guys that played last year? What have you seen from the guys that played?

A: Donavon had a terrific, terrific scrimmage. He had a very, very good scrimmage. We threw the ball 60 times or whatever, gave up 2 sacks and then had a throw that went behind the line of scrimmage and marked down as a sack…rightfully so. But he’s really improved his footwork. He’s doing a lot of great things. Tready’s picked up where he’s left off. He’s a focused, focused young man. He is the grind. And then he’s stepped up his leadership. He’s not only doing it by example, but he’s talking about it. He’s getting in front of the team talking to them about it. So that’s been excellent as well.

Q: Do you think he’s starting to settle in and feel like an offensive lineman?

A: Yes. He’s an offensive lineman with that defensive mentality. He’s one of those guys that you want in your corner. You want in your foxhole. That’s the kind of guy Tready is. More and more guys are more gravitating to that and we’ve become better and better.

Q: Conway more energy out there?

A: He’s big. Yeah, he’s trying. He’s working at it.

Q: He earned a nickname last year, Hank.

A: Yeah, I still call him Hank. But the big thing with him is he’s got to now take it and transition everything. Coming back from an injury is a huge thing. Huge thing. Last year was Skyler and him kinda losing that part of the year. Travis, Fou, Henry. It takes awhile. They have to understand that they can’t get frustrated with themselves.

Q: What about Skyler? He looks like he’s starting to fill out. He looks more like a man than he did last year.

A: He’s maturing big time. And that’s gonna be key for us.

Q: He starting to be more physical than he was last year?

A: Well, he’s a pretty physical guy. Knowledge is power. So it’s knowing what to do, so now you’re seeing that physicality that he’s always had come through on the football field. So he now has to take it from here and put it to here.

Q: Frustrating that Jack Allen doesn’t have this spring?

A: Absolutely. But it’s a physical game, it’s all over the country, no excuses, we gotta move forward. Jack comes back, he’s battling in the fall. And top 5 will play.

Q: Coach, everybody that knows football knows the game is won or lost in the trenches. It’s all about the linemen when it comes down to it. Everybody knows that the most elite offenses have that offensive line that’s a core, it’s almost a team within itself. This early in the season, what kind of things are you trying to emphasize to get that camaraderie built up so that they are truly a whole separate unit essentially and work together as one on the field?

A: They are. They’ve established that. We’ve got a lot of guys that have played a lot of plays, out of necessity because of the injuries. So we’ve got a lot of guys that have started quite a few games for us, and because of that they have confidence now. And so now that confidence has to radiate and they have to take that. But you also know from seeing that is now those guys have to take that and allow it to permeate throughout the entire offensive unit. So now that’s what they’re working on. That’s what they’re trying to do. Bring it so that the camaraderie is tight so when we’re out there doing skelly we’ve got some units going as pass blockers. So the quarterback has bullets flying by him and we gotta block them. So they’re seeing how hard the wide receivers are working. Likewise, the wide receivers are seeing how hard we’re working. So that’s what you need.

Q: So what are you doing with some of your young guys, some of your freshmen coming in? What are some of the first keys that you’re trying to get them in on so they can become part of the team?

A: Eyes, footwork, hands, building success through drills. Then when we watch it on film the next day I’m rewinding and rewinding it and giving them a big hooray, maybe calling them by their nickname in the meeting, throwing them a piece of candy. Just letting them know. Then all the guys get excited for them and you hear them all talking, That’s the way you do it, look at your feet right there. So it’s growing.

Q: So what would you say is your biggest goal for this year as an offensive and defensive line unit and what would be your biggest hurdle?

A: Consistency. That’s the biggest thing. Consistency. I think the biggest thing is we need to be consistent. We need to continue to strive to be great, everybody from every position. So, okay, I’m one of the 8 guys that have started games in that room. I’m not starting. I’m not just saying I’m done. I’m saying how am I getting back in there. When I get back in there I’m keeping that guy from starting.

Q: Are you seeing a lot of fierce competition from the second string guys?

A: There’s great competition, yeah. I can’t really tell ya… We’ve got some injuries, we’ve got some guys bumped and bruised and not in right now. I can’t sit here and say here are the 5. Because there are some surprises that you guys will be able to see in the spring game that you’ll be like, Wow. Yeah, Coach Staten’s right. He’s doing a great job.

Q: Is Kodi Kieler still working primarily at center?

A: He’s working center. First time he worked at center was about two weeks before the end of winter ball. I said, Hey listen. If you get a chance and they’re doing 7 on 7 and you’re done with your line drills, go over and snap some. He kind of looked at me. I said, Yeah. I think you’d be a terrific center. So he started then, first day. We had some injuries, things like that. He’s out there snapping. So it’s been good. He’s a tackle, I understand that. But to be able to snap, to be able to see everything and know the calls and things like that from that position, is tremendous.

Q: How about a guy like Jack Conklin where you know he’s got good athleticism, a lot better than people thought he would be.

A: Don’t put that tag on him, Paul. Come on.

Q: He’s like you, a late bloomer.

A: Maybe so. You think when you bring them in, you think they all can be great. And you see the best as a coach. And then you try to work through some bad habits. The thing about Jack, coming from his dad Darren being the head coach, he’s a terrific, smart football guy. And because of that, that kind of made him step up and do some things that people weren’t expecting. Including me, I’ll admit that. But you saw the athleticism. He turned 18 in August before his freshman year. So his development will be fantastic.

Q: So there’s a lot of upside.

A: A lot of upside. Higgins. A lot of upside. McGowan. All those guys. We call them the Mean Squad. Their time is gonna come. Maybe quicker for one or two of them than others, but I’m glad they’re all here.

Q: I saw a few new guys in the mix in that scrimmage. What did you think of pass protection and (???) with so many throws?

A: Yeah. I thought it was good. It wasn’t great. So we need to work to be great. I don’t sit here as an old line coach and go, Hey our defense was ranked this last year. They’ve got everybody returning so I… No. Baloney. You wanna be great? Then go against the best. Go against the best every day and then you become better. So I expect them to come out and respond to the challenge, and this scrimmage better show some things.

Q: How’s Connor doing with the 1’s? Is that the first time he really has been working with the 1’s?

A: He’s been working with the 1’s. Connor has his things he needs to work on. He knows that and he’s still responding. He still knows, just like they all do, that there’s room for improvement. He’s told where it is, he’s taught how to improve it. Just like with the younger guys…I do it with the older guys you rewind it back and you go, Look at this. You can keep your pads down. You can take that first sidestep correctly. You can get your hands in. Whatever it is with another player. You know, give them a little props.

Q: Coach, offensive line, blocking for a guy like Le’Veon Bell, the offensive line has to love it. Have you noticed that as maybe a downfall or essentially pushing them now that they know they don’t have that in the back field. Has that pushed them harder because they know they have to produce possibly even more because they don’t have that talent in the back field this year?

A: That’s a great question. Throughout our history together… A lot of us have been together either before with Bollman or for a long time. We point out the other things the other guys are doing. So we point out so they see it and they know maybe what his responsibility was on that pass play, and he’s working on that too because that might get a new concept. But that running back hasn’t got a ton of reps. So next time he’s gonna put a shoe in the ground and go north. Things like that. They know those holes have…. You’ve got a 230, 240 lb. running back, those holes don’t have to be as big. They make them bigger. They see where…stay on your block, finish. All the things we’ve preached forever.

Q: Mike Dennis, what’s going on with him?

A: Mike’s having a good camp. He’s played a lot of tight end for us, and now he’s got step it up. He’s gotta make the decision, he’s gotta put his foot in the ground and say I’m going for it and I’m gonna be the toughest son of a gun out there. That’s what Mike needs to do.

Q: What does Mike Dennis need to do?

A: Absolutely. We have big plays with him in there. He just needs to now take it and go here. That’s all Mike. Coach D, as you guys have been around this program, says, Hey it’s up to you. We give you all the tools. You’ve got everything. You see this beautiful facility. You see the teaching tools we have. You see the drill work we do. We give you everything. Now when you step across that white line and it’s time to play, whether it be a scrimmage or a game, it’s up to you. And that’s across the board. That’s from tight end to tight end, it’s the wide receivers, it’s the running backs, it’s the other side of the ball. We can do so much, we can get them so far, but then from there it’s on them. They gotta go out there like mad dog killers.

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Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. is the founder and publisher of and all of the family of services. The idea was birthed when overseas he ran into a Spartan not native to the United States who was wearing his Green and White proudly. He is dedicated to bringing you the latest and greatest information about Michigan State and Detroit Sports News every day. He resides in the Mid Michigan area. Follow Hondo on twitter here: @hondocarpenter.

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