Get the Very Latest from Mark Dantonio Spartans Head Coach Prior to Today’s BIG Scrimmage: Freshman, Injuries, Depth Chart and MUCH MORE!
Hondo: With certain guys that you already know what you have (Connor Cook, Trae Waynes, Shilique Calhoun) do you sit them out of early scrimmages thinking why risk an injury?
Dantonio: No we will probably play our guys about 50 snaps or so. I think it is important that they get into game shape. I think we have to play ourselves into a situation where we can play. Put together strings of plays. I think that is the thing you have to be able to do, especially early in the year. We will play our guys, they know what to do and they are playing at a high level. At the same time it is sort of a catch 22 situation. We need to keep them healthy, but make it as game like as we can.
Q: Since the first two teams you are going to face are up tempo are speaking defensively?
Dantonio: I don’t think there is any question that that is modern day football right now. So we have to be able to practice that and try to simulate that tempo as well. Offensively as well. One thing we did last year was control the line of scrimmage. Control the football. We need to continue to do that and to continue to do that you’ve got to sustain. A lot of guys can go out and play one play here and one play there and play very successfully. But you have to put together six and seven plays where you play very very well and you are able to keep your motor running really.
Hondo: Can a scrimmage performance have more of an impact on the depth chart than practice?
Dantonio: It definitely will. We will try to make it as game like as we can. As I told or young players, this week, although it will feel like a year because it is just like dripping every day. This week (today) we define whether or not you are going to play or not. For the most part because you got to be able to get your feet on the ground and adapt to the system. They’ve had a week of practice to learn a little bit, we will see how successful they can be.
Q: Where is Montae Nicholson in this mix?
Dantonio: He’s playing corner for us right now. He is the number two corner right now for us. He’s made that transition. He is a big body guy that has great ball skills. He can really run as you know, his track times and everything. He’s a 24 foot long jumper at 210 pounds. He can run, but again, can he sustain and put the plays together and that is the thing that you have to be able to do. He’s been playing against our number one receivers and been very successful at times and other times he losses a little bit. He’s an impressive guy. An impressive guy in terms of how he handles things.
Q: Is he in the return mix? Have you started to look at that part of special teams?
Dantonio: We will give him an opportunity and do some of that (in today’s scrimmage) but at the same time, he needs to focus on learning and we don’t want to over burden him.
Q: Will (Damion) Terry play in the scrimmage?
Dantonio: He’s been practicing, but we are not going to hit our quarterbacks tomorrow.
Q: Last year so many questions and that isn’t the case this year. Would you like to have some of the anxiety like last year?
Dantonio: No I don’t care to have a lot of anxiety. This job will do it enough for me. This year compared to last year at the quarterback position it is established. Our twos are working to establish themselves, but it is established who our quarterback is. He’s done an outstanding job in camp and you can see the difference. He’s very confident and in control of the offense. Very crisp. There is just a big difference in terms of his play and what that gives us in other areas. I think our wide receivers have made a lot of what I call those 50-50 catches. Those catches that people are hanging on them and they go up and make the catch, that’s been exciting. You are always going to provide them competition in terms of putting them in situations that they have to win. He’s our quarterback and he’s had a great fall camp this far.
Q: Any notable battles you will keep a close eye on?
Dantonio: We are going to get our linebacker situation squared up in terms of who is going to be the guys. They have to be consistent there. Taiwan Jones has played much better in fall camp thus far. Again you have to simulate those game situations and the best way we can do that is in scrimmages. Our wide receiver situation may be the most competitive out there. We have a lot of guys that can make plays.
Q: How is L.T. (Lawrence Thomas) looked?
Dantonio: L.T. has looked good. He’s been firm in there. He is in great shape. He’s just got to stay healthy which he has done. There has been no issues at all. He’s been solid. We will play a lot of guys in there (defensive line).
Hondo: You mentioned Montae with the twos are there any other true freshman in the two deep anywhere on the depth chart?
Dantonio: Malik (McDowell) is working a lot with the twos. I think Montez Sweat is going to work a lot with the twos. Those are the guys that right off of the top of my head. (Madre) London is a guy that is right in the mix. We’ll see how that shakes out, I think we really have a good situation right now at tailback.
Q: When you and Pat (Narduzzi) came together what was the primary difference in your defensive philosophy and how did those come together?
Dantonio: The philosophy wasn’t really any different in terms of what I did when I was a defensive coordinator. Pressure oriented. Put a premium on tackling. Affecting the quarterback. Turnovers. Those type of things. Stopping the run. So all of that was identical. I think the biggest difference was that he was coming from a different system, I was a little bit more of an under front which is a little bit more of a 40 type thing, but not really. A lot of different fronts. He was an over front team. Systematically we evolved to that.
Q: Where you a man guy in the secondary as well?
Dantonio: No, not totally. We were zone, a lot of zone pressures, but we did play some man too.
Q: What do the Allen brothers bring (Brian and Jack) in terms of intensity and other things to the field?
Dantonio: Very similar guys. That is another guy who is running number two, Brian Allen. He’s the number two center right now. He looks like he belongs. Tough, just a chip off of the old block. It’s exciting to have him. He is going to be a great football player for us. We’ve got four freshman knocking on the door at the two position and basically and outstanding group. There are a lot of guys that are going to play, I have been impressed with a lot of players. Enoch Smith, Jr., Jalen Watts-Jackson or Vayante Copeland I could name them all. They’ve all impressed, but those are probably the guys working at the twos right now.
Hondo: For you to even consider a true freshman on the offensive line has to sort of rock your foundation. That goes against philosophy entirely. Brian (Allen) must have been very impressive.
Dantonio: He really has and because Jack has been here, there is a foundation of what we do. Just because of them being brothers and sharing things. He’s well ahead of the curve in terms of knowing what to do. Physically he is gifted, he’s an outstanding wrestler. He is 295, 300 pound guy that can move his feet and use his hands.
Q: Deon Drake?
Dantonio: He’s working through some academic issues right now, from an eligibility stand point and we’ll have to see where that takes us.
Q: Any long term health concerns for anyone?
Dantonio: Nobody is out for the season. There are some guys nicked up, but nobody out.
Q: Any better understanding for a time frame on the return for Damon Knox?
Dantonio: That is a good question to ask. Not really.
Q: So it is a clearing house thing (With Deon Drake)?
Dantonio: Yes the clearing house is working on things.
Q: How is Demetrious Cooper doing?
Dantonio: Outstanding! Big play potential. He’s another defensive end, very similar to Shilique (Calhoun) which is exciting.
Q: So Drake is not practicing?
Hondo: Are you able to step back and appreciate the depth and wealth of talent you have on this team compared to when you got here? You have several players that will play in the NFL one day that may not see the field this year?
Dantonio: When you look back at the first year, we had some great players, guys that are still playing in the NFL. We didn’t have as many and that’s the difference. Our offensive line those were some big physical guys. You had (Jehuu) Caulcrick and (Javon) Ringer and Devin Thomas at wideout. Kellen (Davis) we had some good players. (Brian) Hoyer. On the defensive side of the ball we played a lot of different players trying to just plug some holes. Really if you want to look at a story, where have we come from defensively since 2006 (John L. Smith’s last season) to now? To 2014. There has been a tremendous shift in how we play defense here.
Q: (Brian) Hoyer is playing at Ford Field Saturday (Cleveland Browns vs. Detroit Lions) is there a chance you will sneak over?
Dantonio: No chance.
Hondo: Are you going to send him a text?
Dantonio: Absolutely. Brian is my guy!
Q: When you say the style change in the defense since 2006 can you explain?
Dantonio: The style, the points per game, out system. We’ve had continuity on the coaching staff. Which is huge and we’ve got good players. Tackling in space and our guys are playing with confidence.
Q: How do you feel about this defense now and where you were going into camp?
Dantonio: I think we are coming. You can see leadership. We’re playing fast. Our offense is ahead of where they were last year. As a head coach you have to sift through it all and ask where are we? I think we are much farther ahead offensively than we were last year. Our receivers are catching the ball, identity at tight end. Identity at tailback. All of a sudden tailback is a position where we have two seniors. That is a positive thing. Nick Hill has played very well as well. We’ve got some depth there. And the quarterback situation.
Q: Where you thought you would be or behind?
Dantonio: We are right where we need to be right now. (Big Smile) We just need to stay healthy and accomplish our goals for summer camp. Don’t get ahead of ourselves.
Q: Has Gerald Owens practiced yet?
Dantonio: No, but I am hoping he will be back in about three weeks or so. He’ll be alright.