Jackson: "We're just laying the first brick"

The Rose Bowl is in the past as spring starts and the challenge from Mark Dantonio is to handle success and the Spartans want more of it.

As Michigan State got its spring football practices underway Tuesday, a new banner hung in the practice facility.

But while the Rose Bowl championship is celebrated on the wall, the focus on the field is not on the past, but on finding a way back to Pasadena.

"They say it's easy to win one championship, but it's hard to stay up there," senior Travis Jackson said. "That's definitely our goal is we wanna go back. It's always Big Ten championship and that's definitely where we want to be.

"We're kind of at square one right now and we're just laying the first brick."

With 15 practices, the Spartans will be looking to carry over success, but also find out what they have without 18 seniors, many of whom played important roles.

Coach Mark Dantonio's message has remained the same even with a new team: Handle success.

Coming back from a 7-6 2012 season to a 13-1 campaign that was capped with a Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl title keeps that challenge in focus.

"We can't feel entitled," he said. "We have to be mature enough to be able to handle success."

It is a new level of success for Michigan State, which hadn't played in a Rose Bowl since 1988. The 42-10 record in the past four years is the most wins in such a stretch in school history.

The taste of success now has fueled on the desire to taste more, Connor Cook said.

"After the season ended, the week we got back, guys were out there throwing," the sophomore quarterback said. "We had the whole defensive backfield out there and the linebackers, defensive line, offensive line were doing their drills, quarterbacks, receivers. We are all out there trying to get better.

"I don't think we have too many slackers and I think a lot of guys are hungry."

Jackson said there were guys stepping up throughout winter conditioning to lead, adding there is a confidence level after 2013's success. That success is key to moving forward, senior defensive end Marcus Rush said.

"The one good thing about last year is we know exactly what it takes to get back to where we needed to be," Rush said. "We lost a lot of guys and I think it's important for new guys to step up as leaders and take the roles of guys who left."

With the remaining roster, Dantonio sees a lot of potential. Cook is back at quarterback, Jeremy Langford is back at running back, only one wide receiver graduated and the defense is primed to reload.

"I think we have the makings of a good football team, but we will go where our players take us and much of that is based on chemistry and leadership," he said. "Last year we had a chip on our shoulder and it's important we keep that chip on our shoulder."

Whether the chip on the shoulder remains or not, Langford said there is undeniably a target on the Spartans' chest and that keeps them working.

"People want to beat the Spartans," he said. "People want to stay focus and keep working and be able to keep working and reach those high goals again."

Going from hunter to hunter is a change, but Michigan State still is on the hunt for more with a new slate on the horizon.

"We've gotta come back and realize we have to work for it and it's a new season," Jackson said, "but we also have to build on our last season and get farther than where we are before."

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