Spartans Open Spring Practice

Tuesday began the sixth spring practice in the Mark Dantonio era at Michigan State. Dantonio, who has guided the Spartans to back-to-back 11 win seasons, knows his program is not in a position to rest on past success.

"Coming off 2011, we had a great football, a bowl win, guys have done well in getting ready for the pro game," said Dantonio. "We had some guys play in the Super Bowl. Now it's on to 2012."

With a solid foundation in place, Dantonio knows 2012 brings new challenges as the Spartans continue to build off their recent success.

With a defense projected to be one of the best in college football, questions surround the Spartans offense and for good reasons. Dantonio feels his program has build depth offensively fans should be excited about.

One area fans will be closely watching will be quarterback where the Spartans enter a new phase with an unproven starter after the loss of Kirk Cousins.

"I think our football team right now, when you look at it, we've got a blend of experience coming back, but we also have youth," explained Dantonio. "So when you look at our football team, if you want to look at it position by position, we've got a quarterback situation where we have a guy that will be a fourth year player for us. He'll be a red-shirt junior in Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook, a red-shirt freshman. But a lot in terms of he's been in the system.

"He's game ready. What he hasn't been able to do right now is be in front of a media situation as much, be in front of a live situation as much. But he's gotten the reps and I think he'll be an outstanding quarterback, Connor Cook as well."

While the Spartans may be untested behind center fans can expect to get a heavy dose of the Spartans running attack behind a more experienced offensive line.

Offensive line, more experience than we've ever had before," stressed Dantonio. "Our tailback situation is solid. Le'Veon Bell is back with Larry Caper in his fourth season and Nick Hill in his second. I think Jeremy Langford is a guy with outstanding winter conditioning and looks poised going into his third year to be a real factor, I think, on this football team.

Not to be glossed over, Dantonio knows the offense needs to find Maxwell some targets to throw to.

"Wide receiver is a position we've lost a lot of players," Dantonio said. "When you really look at the guys we've lost, the majority maybe or two thirds of what we've got from our running attack back, but our wide receiver position and the yards and catches really has been sort of depleted in that area. The tight end with Linthicum, or whether it's with Keshawn Martin, and B.J. Cunningham, and Keith Nichol. So we're looking to replace those guys, obviously. So that's a position where we've addressed those needs in recruiting, and we're addressing those needs with position moves or different situations we're trying to deal with."

Two players who could help the Spartans at wide receiver are former two-way performer Tony Lippett and running back Langford.

"Tony will go exclusively to offense," said Dantonio. "He's a guy we moved over there on the defensive side of the ball. Really along with Langford last year because we felt like we had depth in those positions, and those are two good athletes just to stand there and watch. Both those guys will be able to come over on defense in an emergency situation, but both those guys work exclusively on the offensive side of the ball.

"Langford may see time out there, wide receivers as well. But both those guys are very good athletes, catch the ball very, very well, and good run after catch."

Despite having a strong defense on paper and possible solid replacements for those no longer in the program, Dantonio is not allowing anyone to rest on past accomplishments.

"I would say probably the most important thing of all is we need to earn our jerseys," said Dantonio. "Whether you're a coach here, whether you're some part of our staff. I don't care what element that is whether you're a manager, trainer, whatever it is. Whether you're the quarterback or tailback, every day you go out there you need to earn what you get. You need to earn the jersey that you're wearing and make a big deal about that as we move forward."

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