Defending Big Ten Champs Open Camp

Michigan State started defense of their Big Ten title Sunday as players took the field for the first time in helmets and shorts. Mark Dantonio's fifth camp as head coach of the Spartans is different in many ways as the Spartans have not opened as Big Ten champions for 20 years. Dantonio spoke with members of the media.

Having reached a goal as Big Ten Champion in 2010 is not enough for Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. Entering his fifth season at the helm, Dantonio knows the first day of practice is always an exciting one.

"The first day of practice, as usual, is very exciting I think for everybody to come out here," Dantonio said. "It's the start of a new season; there's a lot of expectations, a lot of different things going on out here. It's great to see new faces out here. It gives you an idea of what to expect, even though it's just shorts today. We're looking forward to getting back on the field. Our goals are basically to stay healthy during this process of August, not lose our freshmen in terms of the installations, and allow our older players to get their feet up underneath them as they begin to get back in the flow of things.

As is the case with each new season Spartan players must take part in a tough physical test. How did this year's squad do as compared to teams past?

"I like the way our guys came in, they ran very, very well this morning. They tested very well before they left from a strength standpoint, but I'd say probably about 95 percent of our guys made the run test this morning. It's a difficult run test, so all is good. It's as good as we've done."

Last season, the Spartans entered with little fanfare or expectations. This season is different as many feel MSU will be right in the thick of things to win another conference title. How has his team handled the early expectations?

"Really, right now it's about Michigan State. To look beyond that, we're trying not to do that. It's all about who we are and how we come back in shape, how we're going to perform out here today, what kind of carryover is there going to be from the information we were able to give those guys last year. It's all about us; we're going to concentrate on who we are."

As always there are personal questions and 2011 is no different. Dantonio addressed a few players the media asked about two-way player Tony Lippett and highly regarded recruit Lawrence Thomas.

"Tony will start at corner, and then we'll move him to the wide receiver position intermittently throughout practices. We think he has to get his feet on the ground at corner. We did that the opposite way last spring, so we're just trying to make sure he gets an opportunity to learn the basics of the defense."

"I think it could go any way. He's (Thomas) a good football player, we've seen that. The biggest thing is getting guys on the field as quick as possible. We'll see how it all shakes out. The first place for him is at linebacker, and we'll see how he does."

Dantonio also addressed the biggest question members of the media and fans have about this year's squad offensive line.

"I think that will come as we get into August here. With the addition of (Blake) Treadwell and Dan France (in the spring), there was an opportunity to move people around a little bit to see where we were at. There's some young players coming along as well (Travis Jackson). (Jared) McGaha has played right tackle before, he's played guard before, he's played left tackle. So we got some pieces to move around. Ethan Ruhland is a guy that's played center and left guard. (Chris) McDonald has floated in and out of guard and tackle. I think that shows there's a good understanding of what they need to do. We just have to settle on the pieces, and that's going to be determined as we move forward."

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