Mark Dantonio Updates Spartan Nation On Spring Football Halfway Through
Mark Dantonio: We’re going into the seventh practice. First opportunity that I think we’ll have to go outside the entire day, so that’ll be good for us be able to spread out a little bit. Had a good scrimmage on Saturday, or I guess Friday, some outstanding performances. I thought DeAnthony Arnett really took a step forward. Cook looked really, really well…played very well. Had some big plays out there by both sides of the ball, so we’re progressing.
Q: Has there been any significant move on the depth chart and can you tell us who?
DANTONIO: That’s a big question. I would say guys are moving up and down a little bit, Hondo. I think Reschke had a good scrimmage. Right now he’s never 1 at mike linebacker. Taiwan Jones made practice today, but Reschke was the guy that stepped in for him in the scrimmage. That was a positive. I thought he played fast. He played fast and with a lot of energy and it was good to see. Some guys that you don’t always hear about all the time, like Kodi Kieler. I thought he had a big scrimmage and was impressed with the physicality of our offensive line. And then again, I continue to be impressed with some of our skill players.
Q: What is DeAnthony showing you that you’ve wanted to see from him?
DANTONIO: I think the biggest thing he’s showing is he’s catching the ball very consistently, but the toughness factor is very apparent to me. The tougher you are, the harder you play, the better things usually shake out for you. So I’ve been impressed with him.
Q: Are you saying that Arnett is one of the players moving up the depth chart?
DANTONIO: Yeah, he’s moving up. He’s playing with the 1’s and that type of thing, rotating in there.
Q: Last year there were a lot of question marks with the offense. What are your expectations for this group?
DANTONIO: Well, hopefully we continue to get better. I thought we hit full stride last year, probably in November, and didn’t really look back. I think we can build on those things. Langford’s been good. Nick Hill had a big run on Friday as well. I just see our guys playing physical up front. Jamal Lyles is playing very well at tight end. I think he’s taking a big step forward. He transitioned last year…really after fall camp was over we moved him over to the tight end position. He kinda had to learn how to run with it so I think he’s had a positive spring this far. So good things are happening.
Q: Anybody else in the mix at the mike there?
DANTONIO: Shane Jones is a guy that we expect to be a good player for us. Tawain, Darien Harris can move in there as well. We’ve got a number of players that can play in there. Riley can probably go in there a little bit. But he’s transitioning back to linebacker. That takes a little time too, you just don’t flip over and change.
Q: So Reschke’s #1 sort of, because of Jones being a little banged up?
DANTONIO: Yeah, probably right now.
Q: How about the defensive tackles?
DANTONIO: I think Knox and Joel Heath… I thought Brandon Clemons played well this past weekend. Kittredge is a guy in there, he’s sorta gotta play…he’s gotta play with better technique in there. He’s gonna play extremely hard. So those four guys are the guys in there. And then we’ve got good people coming. I think our defensive line and the recruiting in our defensive line position I think is gonna pay dividends.
Q: Have you missed the starting quarterback questions?
DANTONIO: Well, you know… I thought Connor Cook played extremely well on Friday. I was impressed with Tyler O’Connor, he did some good things. Damion Terry’s coming and he’s a talent. I think that situation is pretty strong right now. But we could use another one out there.
Q: Is this the first time in a while that you can remember that you come into one of these first scrimmages and the defense is kind of…I don’t wanna say behind…but normally it seems like the defense is in good shape?
DANTONIO: Well, you know we were going into our sixth practice when we had the scrimmage. Our defense made a lot of plays too and continued to be strong in the secondary and skilled position. But I thought our offense… They both did good things. It’s tough when you’re sitting there and you’re not rooting for either side, you’re just trying to make it all work, make it competitive. And it was. But defense made some plays too. We had some sacks Calhoun looked strong.
Q: Now that you have a starting quarterback established in this point of the season, is there any differences that you’ve noticed from last season knowing that that role is now there?
DANTONIO: I think there’s confidence in our receivers and confidence in our offense overall. When you have a guy that’s sort of solidified in that position, not that it wasn’t last year at this time, but there were some questions. It makes it easier for everybody else to transition.
Q: Coach Izzo was talking about your relationship with him and it’s made his job a lot more fun and better when you guys share. Do you recall some of the things you shared with Tom during, before and after the Tournament?
DANTONIO: I just think we can identify with each other because we go through struggles together. WE go through certain struggles as a coach at this level. It’s a people business. There’s always people that you deal with and always people that… Whether it’s players, supporters, whatever it is. I just think the relationship was strong when I came here and it’s just been strengthening. I’ve said many, many times I look across Munn Field and that basketball arena sits right there. They get it done and they get it done right. He’s been extremely supportive through the entire process for us.
Q: What sticks out on the OL
DANTONIO: I think the guy that can play almost any position out there is Connor Kruse. He can play left, right, tackle, guard. The other guy I think is Donavon that can play in there, Bodanis. We’ve suffered an injury with Zach Higgins this past Friday. We lost him probably for the season .So he’s out and Bodanis will move to guard. I think James Bodanis is a guy that’s got a lot of talent. He’s just young on offensive line play. But he’s got a lot of talent, he’s a big athletic guy, and so it’s gonna be exciting to watch him.
Q: Anyone really grasping that #2 spot at running back?
DANTONIO: I thought Nick Hill’s had a good spring thus far. Delton Williams is out. He had a great fall camp in the fall. But Gerald Holmes has done some really nice things. He’s very athletic and he’s big.
Q: Is that a big opportunity for him with Delton out?
DANTONIO: Yeah, he missed the scrimmage. He was nicked up and missed the scrimmage so…
Q: Delton or Gerald?
DANTONIO: Both. We held out Gerald as well. So it’ll be interesting to see them move.
Q: Any new wrinkles to the offense?
Q: How much have you put in so far? How far along are you?
DANTONIO: You know, six practices in. Six in. We’ll get our base stuff in, but there’s always little nuances that I think we try and add and hopefully get better.
Q: O’Connor distancing himself from Damion or separating the gap there?
DANTONIO: I think that Connor Cook is our #1 quarterback, without question.
Q: Tyler O’Connor, I’m sorry.
DANTONIO: Oh, Tyler O’Connor. Tyler had a good day as well, I can’t remember his stats, but I thought he was sharp, did some good things out there. I think the 2’s scored 12 points or whatever, I don’t know. I thought Damion Terry did some good things as well, but he’s young. He’s a true freshman. But he’s extremely talented.
Q: Is AJ Troup back with the receivers?
DANTONIO: He’s not practicing yet, he’ll be back… He won’t go through spring practice but he’ll be back in the fall. Hopefully he’ll be back in the fall.
Q: How does that hot corner look? We know Darian Hicks started on top there. Is anybody else making a push?
DANTONIO: Darian is #1 corner. I think RJ and Calhoun has had a good spring. I think Ezra Robinson and Jermaine Edmondson are two guys with talent. They’re just young.
Q: RJ still ahead of Demetrius?
DANTONIO: About right there, both together. But I’d say he’s the guy right now. I think Jalyn Powell’s doing good things as well. Jalyn Powell’s a little bit like Isaiah Lewis. You gotta factor that aspect in.
Q: Last spring you didn’t get to come out here hardly at all. You lamented a couple times how it limited you in special teams. Are you able to do a little bit more with special teams this year?
DANTONIO: Well, this is our first day out here today for the full day. So we’ve got eight practices left I guess after today. We’ll get a lot of them out here and we’ll be able to work a lot on special teams.
Q: Can you tell us what the injury is for Higgins?
DANTONIO: We lost him to an ACL.
Q: In the scrimmage?
DANTONIO: Yeah. Just playing and they cut him.
Q: Is there concern with so many guys injured, nicked up or out?
DANTONIO: Yeah, we got numbers. We should be alright. We should be alright. So we’ll see.