East Lansing, MI
While most people still haven’t got the bitter taste of getting blown out by Alabama in the Cotton Bowl out of their mouth, the reality is that the world keeps moving. MSU and Alabama are the only two schools in all of college football to finish in the top ten the last three years. The Spartans finished 12-2 last season (second most in school history) and with 53 letter winners back including 12 starters backthe cupboard certainly isn’t bare.
So as Mark Dantonio moved to the podium yesterday to open his next spring practice he talked about the obvious progression over time. “Some things change, some things do not as we move through the process. I think spring ball basically is sort of the beginning of the next phase for us. Obviously we go through recruiting after bowl games and such and then into winter conditioning.”
He added, “This is, I think, the first opportunity we have a chance to sort of see where we're at as a football team, watch our players, especially watch our young players as they've had an extra year to -- our freshmen, they had an extra year to redshirt and see how they come out of situations. Will be very exciting for us. Again, we'll have our spring game this year. You guys have the dates on that. We'll have a spring student clinic, youth clinic. It will be before the spring game, as well. That attracted almost 2,000 people last year, 2,000 young people. So very busy time for us.”
So what is Dantonio looking for from his team this spring? “I think every spring brings forth a set of goals for us. Really they don't change. Probably pretty much the same that we've always been. We want to try to get 3 percent better as a player, as a program, I think every single practice. That's sort of inbred in us, I think, as a program and what my college coach told me to do as a player way, way back, so we'll continue to do those things. I think if you can do that for 15 practices, you get significantly better. I think that's what we're sort of measured ourselves against that.”
Is there anything in particular that Dantonio looks to address? “We've got to address our needs and concerns. Obviously you have certain concerns that are inherent to every football team, and in other areas you just have basic losses, guys who have graduated, so you guys know the positions that we're dealing with, so you can take some questions with that in a little bit here.”
Like a mad scientist Dantonio loves to experiment with position changes. Some of those this off season are Delton Williams to FB, Drake Martinez to RB and others will be experimented with. Dantonio elaborated, “Experiment with position change, experiment with new concepts. I mentioned our young players' experience, give our young players experience. We've got seven new freshmen that are coming in the door. It's going to be important for them to play and participate throughout spring, be 15 out of 15. So we'll look forward to our guys completing 15 of 15 practices. That's the goal, as well. I think our young players, especially our rookies, are going to benefit as much as most do due to their lack of performance against college players, playing in a scrimmage, spring scrimmage, with 50,000 people or so there. So all those type of things.” Mark Dantonio is famous for saying football is a game of inches and that means fundamentals. Dantonio declares it every spring and this is no different. “Fundamentally, I want to get better fundamentally, address all the different concepts, new concepts and tweaks defensively, offensively, and special teams, and then obviously we want to stay healthy and keep our attrition rate low in terms of who's practicing every day. The final goal would be back-to-back, and by that I mean win back-to-back championships as we go towards this next phase.”
This team has a lot of question marks to address this spring and we will discuss in depth right here at Spartan Nation. That doesn’t mean the Spartans don’t have the answers, they just have to find them. With a 36-5 record since 2013, I think you can count on Dantonio for answers!