Spartans take field in shells

Tuesday brought partly cloudy skies as Michigan State continued work towards their season opener against Youngstown State.

Michigan State took the field for their third of 29 scheduled practices leading up to the official start of the 2011 season. Mark Dantonio's squad continued their work in helmets, shorts, and jerseys while adding shoulder pads for the first day. How did the fifth-year head coach feel about the day's work?

"With three practices in the books, I'm not sure that we're ever as far as we want to be, but we've covered a lot of ground in a short period of time," Dantonio said. "It was our first day in shoulder pads, and I thought our guys really flew around the football.

"We've completed a lot of the installation process and the retention has been very good. It's tough to evaluate practice until you review the film, but we strive for crisp execution in everything we do. The practices have been well organized and the tempo has been good as the players transition from drill to drill and period to period."

While most of the work went towards getting veteran players reps, Dantonio stressed the importance of getting the freshmen into the fold.

"We need to provide the freshmen with opportunities to grow and see where each one is at in terms of individual development," Dantonio said. "The only way they can grow is by getting reps, and through these first five days of preseason practice, we really try to split the reps equally between the ones, twos and threes. In addition, we hope this approach limits the number of injuries suffered by our older guys, as they become reconditioned to playing the game of football following a three-month layoff."

Another sign that real football is right around the corner came from the first appearance of officials at practice.

"We want our guys to play the game the right way and to develop good habits, so the officials have to be out here on a regular basis," Dantonio said. "This is something that we've always done here, and we'll continue to do so because we need to limit the number of unforced penalties: the false starts on offense and the offsides on defense. We must address these penalties during preseason practice, and there have to be consequences when those mistakes are made. Although we won 11 games last season, we were penalized far too many times for those types of errors. We have to critique what we're doing and improve in these areas."

The Spartans will return on Wednesday in shells before putting on full pads for the first time on Thursday.

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