Michigan State G Travis Jackson Talks About the 2014 Spartans OL and the Change of Mind Set
SPARTAN NATION: How is this team different today than you were one year ago on the verge of starting spring practice?
JACKSON: We had a really tough season, obviously, in 2012. So going into that there was kind of a shadow casted from a 7-6 season, which wasnâ€™t up to our standards. So we were kinda working hard to get back to where we wanted to be. And then this year is a different kind of shadow because we had a successful season. Now youâ€™re almost sick of hearing about the old Rose Bowl teamâ€¦you need to re-identify yourselves, do this and that. But the one great thing about having a great season is that you can build on that. With a 7-6 season you have to come back, and with the Rose Bowl season you can build on it. Itâ€™s really a lot different for me because Iâ€™m a senior now. As seniors, Coach D emphasizes that we gotta step up now, we have to have our best season, and we have to lead. So itâ€™s just kind of exciting, personally for me, in that perspective.
SPARTAN NATION: Other than right tackle where Donavon is listed as a starter, this is a pretty solid offensive line as far as everyone is in their position. Coach really likes Kodi Kieler. What is it about Kodi? And talk about that Kodi-Donavon battle, would you?
JACKSON: Kodi Kieler is a guy who kinda came in this winter; his past year and a half of work has really shownâ€¦or past 2 years of work has really shown. Heâ€™s faster, stronger than a lot of the linemen out there. Heâ€™s just really kinda progressed and so weâ€™re really excited to see how that carries over on the football field. Donavon is a guy thatâ€™s proved himself. His battle test has been out on the field. The main thing about that is itâ€™s just so exciting to come back having so many guys with playing experience, because game experience to practice experience is just so different.
SPARTAN NATION: Is this OL better equipped to make up for losses that itâ€™s been since youâ€™ve been here?
JACKSON: Yeah, I think itâ€™s just… When you get game experience itâ€™s just so much more important. So we have a lot of guys with game experience, which is gonna be huge going into this.
SPARTAN NATION: Connor Kruse comes in as a walk-on, earns a scholarship. What is it that he does that you really like?
JACKSON: Connor Kruse is a really big, strong, athletic guy. He works his butt off. Heâ€™s one of my best friends, heâ€™s a great guy. Iâ€™m really excited to see what he does this season because heâ€™s a guy thatâ€™s just been waiting for an opportunity. Heâ€™s gonna do something with it when he gets a chance to.
SPARTAN NATION: What do you as players, especially as seniors, do this year to prepare now that youâ€™ve had that success to not let that go or become complacent?
JACKSON: The coaches have really been pushing us hard thisâ€¦weâ€™ve had really tough winter conditionings, which has been awesome. The guys are really stepping up to it. The thing that I was talking about before is just that I feel like we can really build on that season that Connor Cook just talked about, the boost of confidence. Coach D always talks about moving the rock. We gotta come back and we gotta realize that we have to work for it. Itâ€™s a new season, but we also have to build on our last season and get farther than where we were before.
SPARTAN NATION: How different was this off-season compared to last off-season in terms of how youâ€™ve carried yourselves?
JACKSON: Everyoneâ€™s working hard. Everyoneâ€™s out there doing their thing. Thereâ€™s a whole other confidence level. Coming off a 7-6 last year was tough. This year its people are confident in the work, theyâ€™re confident in the work theyâ€™re putting in, theyâ€™re trying to get better. A really cool thing right now is a lot of guys are pushing each other. A lot of guys are challenging each other in the weight room, which is really fun. Itâ€™s created a really fun atmosphere.