Mark Dantonio Briefs the Spartan Nation on the State of Michigan State Spring Football
Mark Dantonio: Just thought we’d work on a little November weather today. So we’re out here, going on our thirteenth practice, and we’re looking forward to it. I’ll take some questions.
Q: In practices thirteen and fourteen, is there a lot of work being done or are you tapering off now as you go to the spring game?
DANTONIO: No, this is the last push…thirteen. We’ll get something done today. Fourteen will be in shorts so not as much, but I think with fifteen practices you’ve gotta be able to get something done every day. So we’re gonna use this as an opportunity to move outside, play in the wind a little bit. I think it tests you in other ways.
Q: Have you made a decision on quarterbacks live on Saturday, the two back-ups?
DANTONIO: I would say we’re probably not live, but we always have that opportunity to change.
DANTONIO: I think our guys look forward to the spring game because it’s an opportunity to play in front of a lot of people, That’s been sort of the history here and I think that will continue. I’ve sort of gone out there and said hey let’s get a big crowd out there and everything, which I think is very doable. Especially if we get some nice weather and everything. So I think our guys are looking forward to it. It gives them a chance to compete against each other and choose up teams. Everybody likes to compete; we choose it up on basketball courts and things of that nature. This is much like that.
Q: Are you still doing steak and beans and franks?
DANTONIO: Yeah, we do a little of that too, Yep, we do.
Q: What do you eat?
DANTONIO: I eat with the losers.
Q: Max Bullough said one of the things he’d miss most about college was the Kids Clinic. That really resonates with your guys. Would you talk about that?
DANTONIO: Yeah, last year we had about 900 young people here. Our players work very much individually with each guy. We’ll have our complete team divided up, it’s very organized, the ratio is pretty good…you’ll have 5-6 players working with 20-30 kids, so it’s pretty good. I would anticipate even more coming this year just by the sheer numbers that we’re hearing right now. So it should be an exciting day for everybody, an opportunity for a lot of young people to meet our players and be a little bit of a part of our program.
Q: What are you hearing?
DANTONIO: I’m hearing 12-15.
Q: Why is it do you think your players enjoy that so much?
DANTONIO: You know, we talk a lot about being givers here, not takers. I think that’s just part of it. They have an opportunity maybe 2 or 3 or 4 times a year to make a difference in people’s lives and I think this is one of those days they take that personal…to put a smile on somebody’s face and make it a special day for people. I think that’s part of it.
Q: There’s been a lot of whispering about getting 50,000 here. Is that a big deal to you? Is that something you’re pushing for?
DANTONIO: Yeah, it is a big deal. I think that’s where this program is at. You wanna compete at a national level, at some point in time you need to take those steps that need to be taken, not just in the fall but in the spring as well. So it’s a big deal. We wanna make this as much like a Midnight Madness thing as we can. That’s an event at Michigan State, Midnight Madness. We wanna make their spring game an event. I think it can become that. I think based on our success at this point it warrants that. And I’m looking forward to people coming out and having a great time.
Q: How would you evaluate things now through twelve practices?
DANTONIO: I don’t think you’re ever satisfied. You’re trying to get better. You’re trying to continue to move forward. So we see some good things, we see some things we want to see get better. It just depends really on which room you’re sitting in, to be honest with you. And that’s usually a good thing. But our guys are playing hard, we’ve got numbers, we’ve stayed pretty much healthy throughout the spring so that’s been a positive. We look forward to closing it out.
Q: You mentioned that Damion led a drive last week. Is he making progress?
DANTONIO: Yeah, I thought Damion played well last week. It’s live situations… He’s got a knack for running the football. I think that Tyler O’Connor’s done some good things as well. And you know, we’re just gonna let it go.
Q: Anything noteworthy in the last two or three practices since we last talked to you?
DANTONIO: There’s a lot of things going on out there. We just keep competing. The defense won the scrimmage; the offense won the scrimmage the two times previous. It’s really not a big scrimmage. It’s more like…rather than going live in these three periods, we go live all together and just let our players sustain. I think it’s important that players learn how to sustain. In other words, play 6, 7, 8, 10 plays in a row in situational things, not knowing what they’re gonna be given. Just trying to get our young players better and trying to make it as game-like as we can.
Q: You’ve made Saturday a fun day. You’ve got Sparty calling plays and everything else.
DANTONIO: Yeah, we’ve made it fun. We try and keep it that way.
Q: So the D didn’t get jerseys out?
DANTONIO: Well, I said it wasn’t a real scrimmage.
Q: Can you fill us in with any depth chart changes, especially with the 1′s and the two deeps?
DANTONIO: Offensive line is pretty status quo. I think our quarterback situation is pretty much the same as it was. I feel confident that Connor is secure at #1 and then the other two guys are still playing practice to practice. But they’re both functional. Wide receivers, I think we’ve had a good spring there. Tight ends are solid. Defensive line, we go back and forth at defensive tackles a little bit. The ends are solid. Linebackers are pretty solid standard-wise, but we’re going back and forth a little bit with a couple different people. Our secondary, we’ve gotta find that one safety. Whether it’s RJ or whether it’s (?)… Both guys are (?).
Q: Who at linebacker are you going back and forth?
DANTONIO: You see a little bit… Is it Riley Bullough in there? Is it gonna be Chris Frey in there a little bit sometimes? He sort of makes some moves, but he’s a freshman.
Q: Frey’s at…
DANTONIO: Frey’s at the STAR.
Q: Riley’s at the SAM.
DANTONIO: Yeah, . Darien Harris can move in and out of those positions.
Q: At those position groups, do you get anxious to see how they draft out tomorrow? Just to step away from it and see what the players think about those situations?
DANTONIO: No, I think our players have figured out they want to draft the best team so it’s usually by… What do they need? Where’s the biggest separation between which position group? So we’re gonna draft out that position group. They’ve figured out how to get the best team and that’s what they’re gonna do.
Q: Northwestern players are voting on Friday on that whole union thing. What is your stance on that? Coach Fitzgerald is probably in a tough spot over there.
DANTONIO: Yeah, I’m just working on spring ball.
Q: Is Andre Sims making any movement at all at wide receiver?
DANTONIO: Our wide receiver situation is pretty deep, really. When you look at our wide receivers, we’ve got a lot of guys back with game experience. Andre’s one of them, AJ’s one of them. He’s just gotta find his way into one of the starting positions But he’s solid, he’s extremely functional, and that’s what I always… Is a guy functional? Can he go in and compete and win for us? I think he can. But we’ve got a lot of players at that position. When you start naming the names that have played here in the last couple of years, we’ve got a lot of guys in there.
Q: Is Kruse still holding onto that #1 spot?
DANTONIO: Yeah, I think Connor’s had a good spring.
Q: How’s Demetrious Cox doing?
DANTONIO: I think he’s had a good spring and he’s solidifying himself as one of the top five guys.
Q: Nickel guy at least?
DANTONIO: At the very, very least. I thought he had a very solid scrimmage last week. He’s athletic, he can run, and he’s a baller.
Q: I know Macksood had a setback, but how’s he been playing?
DANTONIO: Matt’s been solid. He’s made a move into transitioning to the F position, running with 1′s sometimes, sometimes the 2′s. You can see why he led the state in pass receptions two years in a row as a high school player.
Q: Because you have a clear-cut #1 at quarterback, will you have more reps for other guys than normal at the spring game?
DANTONIO: We’ll probably play one of those quarterbacks on both sides of it so Connor doesn’t have to play the whole game. But we’re gonna try and make it fair.
Q: Any other injuries you can tell us about?
DANTONIO: No, no, no injuries. None.
Q: There are none?
DANTONIO: I don’t think so. I’d tell you if there were, you know that.