Mark Dantonio Updates the Spartan Nation as Camp is Underway…
Dantonio: Like it has been the last seven years the first days in shorts just looking at retention. You’re looking at guys being in shape and getting their legs up underneath them, the quick twitch. You want to look and see what the freshman have and how they compete against an older player. Those type of things.
It was a good practice and will find out a little bit more about our football team as we move forward. It starts here, and it’s a new beginning. I think everybody across the country probably feeling the same thing.
Q: Did you have a good handle how the summer went or do you not know until pads come on?
Dantonio: I think you have an idea. They changed some of the rules so some of the coaches can at least come out and watch some of our guys, correspond with them and see how they’re feeling and our strength coaches give us some indication of that. Then you always get an indication when our players come in and they run their test. Our test is a difficult test. I think 95 or 97% of people made it and then the next day (Friday) the guys that didn’t already made it this morning. It’s positive.
Q: So everybody has passed the conditioning test?
Q: Any early initial impressions?
Dantonio: I guess the initial impressions would be Montae Nicholson, very balanced, a big frame guy can really run. Got to get in shape so he can play and finish the drills. Malik McDowell very quick, athletic. Enoch Smith very athletic. All of those defensive lineman (freshman) are really athletic guys. Craig Evans as well as David Beedle and then (Montez) Sweat and (Robert) Bowers. All showed great athletic ability. I’m sort of looking at the freshman. Can they catch up? There is a lot going through their mind right now. And there is a lot going through their legs. It’s going to take a special guy, but I was impressed with those guys. Then on the offensive side of the ball (Madre) London obviously looks like a great player as well, but there is a lot to learn. So those are my impressions.
Q: Have you noticed anything different attitude wise with a Rose Bowl under their belt from the older guys?
Dantonio: No. Our guys have always been enthusiastic, but we haven’t hit the dog days yet. I thought our meetings were great yesterday, a lot of enthusiasm. We don’t have a large senior class, but we have a large junior class that are fourth year juniors that are in their fourth year. They provide a lot of leadership for us. Guys like (Connor) Cook and Shilique (Calhoun) Trae Waynes; those type of guys that are in their fourth year, a lot of leadership.
Hondo: Any players out two or more weeks?
Dantonio: Damon Knox right now has got some surgery, so he will be out for a little bit of time. It is what it is so we have got to deal with it.
Q: Is Knox possibly going to be ready for the start of the season?
Dantonio: We’ll have to see about that. I don’t talk about injuries.
Q: You still are wearing a name tag on the first part of camp in case someone doesn’t know you?
Dantonio: I think everybody has to go back. You have to go back a little bit. Got to take a step back and reaffirm what you are trying to do. Even the small things, whether you are a senior or a coach here for eight years or a true freshman, we all have to sort of bleed together a little bit. I think that’s what we have to do.
Q: Will Ed Davis be ready for contact?
Dantonio: Yea. Ed Davis is full.
Q: So no other regulars or in the two deep out injured?
Dantonio: We aren’t going there guys.
Q: With the start of a new season are you allowing the guys to talk about the Rose Bowl or last season anymore?
Dantonio: No. What we talk about is what the next step for this program is. You know the next step is fall camp. That is a long period of time. We have to get through it. We need to train for it. Not have injuries. Play at a high level. Tackle in space. Catch the ball. Make the 50-50 catch and all of the different things. So that is where our focus has to be right now and then it has to get on the first game.
Q: With your schedule the way it is with the first two games (Jacksonville State, Oregon) will there be more of an effort to move things (practice) around with a faster tempo?
Dantonio: We manage to keep a pretty fast tempo as it is. We train for that type of tempo. We have to do that because we see so many teams like that. So there are always things we have done to get ready for that. You know we’ve always taken maybe the last three days of fall camp before we even go to game week to start to work on our first game.
Q: Where there any guys that came out here a look like a million bucks since spring?
Dantonio: I think it is too early to tell that because these are just shorts practices and the game is not played in shorts. Let’s just face it. It’s just you have to put shoulder pads on and then you will know more about it once they get the shells and they start to condition themselves and get into fall shape. You can run a test. But it is very difficult to go through a practice at a high end speed every single snap. You have to train for that. We’ll learn something about our football team every single practice.
Hondo: (Mark Dantonio calls his former coach at the start of practice every year) How did your call go to your coach to start camp?
Dantonio: You know my call went well. I had to call Coach Evans’ wife Joanne. Tough things. First fall for her without Coach Evans for her, but we talked yesterday and we’ll continue to do that.
Q: When did he pass Mark?
Dantonio: He passed in May
Q: You said this summer you would review and go over a lot of things from the spring to determine where you were moving forward. What are some things you will focus on early?
Dantonio: Fall drills are about staying healthy, it is about technique. It’s about conditioning. It’s about getting used to contact again. Being able to operate in the A, B, and C of your position. If you are defensive back you have to be able to change direction, tackle in space and play the deep ball. Or whatever position it is. You’ve got a new beginning sort of reaffirming who you are from a technique standpoint and a knowledge standpoint and a focus standpoint. You have to work on who are going to be your leaders this year. You lost some great leaders last year, got some great ones here, but other guys are going to have to sort of reaffirm themselves.
Q: You have talked for years about getting to a Rose Bowl, how is it different now that you’ve been there? How do you keep that hunger?
Dantonio: We are always trying to accomplish one thing here: get to the championship game. Since it (The Big Ten) has been split we try to get to the championship game. That is still our goal! If we can get there, then the next goal becomes win the Big Ten championship. It is a long road to get there. If you can win the Big Ten championship then you can move on from there and think about bigger possibilities. I know there are a lot of high expectations, but you have to start fresh every year, and sort of go backwards and reaffirm yourself. There are no givens, everybody is working extremely hard, and every program right now has a lot of dreams, aspirations and high hopes. Don’t get ahead of yourself that is what we have tried to figure out here.
Q: Do you feel like you guys have had a lot of momentum on the recruiting trail the last month or so? Are you close to taking a big step up in that respect?
Dantonio: Recruiting has been accelerated so people are making decisions as we move forward here. Everybody has their own time frame here. I am NOT going to pressure people. I am NOT going to tell someone it is your time to make a decision. It is truly their time to make a decision when they want to make it. We just move as we go.
Q: Is there such a thing as momentum in that field? (Recruiting)
Dantonio: Yea. I think there is momentum. Players see that and we’ve gotten good players and we’ll continue to get good players. Guys that come will be developed and have a higher opportunity.
Q: How important is it, especially now with this opportunity, for some of those young guys right now on the defensive line?
Dantonio: Our defensive line guys are going to have an opportunity. We lost two (Micajah Reynolds, Tyler Hoover) and we lost (Mark) Scarpinato as well to early graduation. They are going to have an opportunity but it is the most talented group. You can already see that. If you know one thing about our shorts practices you can see that it is the most talented group top to bottom, and the deepest group top to bottom that we have recruited here.
Q: A group you want to see more from?
Dantonio: All of them. I am looking at a lot them, every aspect we look at all of them we’ll break it down every snap, will break it down. Every technique. We’ll break it down for all of our players.
Q: When you mention your deepest and most talented freshman group you are talking about?
Dantonio: The defensive line.
Q: You have a very deep wide receiver group. A lot of competition.
Dantonio: Yea our receiver group is deep. We did not bring in an incoming freshman, there is going to be opportunities for guys the next year and the year after because we will certainly graduate guys in the next two years. I think it is great competition and I was impressed. Burbridge has come out and caught the ball very well, very sharp. Lippett. You see all. You know the numbers. They are all out here competing and they all look very good and they all look very crisp. And I think our quarterback play looked crisp as well.
Q: Connor Cook thinks the receivers will benefit from having one guy as the known starter. Do you agree?
Dantonio: I am sure when you have a number one quarterback he’s secure, he’s more confident, and our guys are catching more of his balls. Everybody has to catch balls from all the quarterbacks. There is a lot of unknowns out there.