As Michigan State’s four representatives strolled around the Chicago Hilton on Monday, it was impossible to miss the rings on their hands.
A combination of the Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles earned last season, the rings served as a reminder that the Spartans are the current top dogs of the conference.
With that distinction, though, Mark Dantonio pointed out the Spartans have shifted from being hunters to being the hunted.
”That's a good place to be,” he said, “but it's also a very precarious place to be as well.”
Dantonio has been quick to toss out the phrase “handling success” in recent memory, especially last season as the Spartans continued to build and build toward arguably the best season in school history. He did so again Monday in Chicago.
”We've gotten to a point where we've done some special things,” he said. “What's on our agenda next, how do we handle that success, and that's really going to be one of the biggest things we'll have to deal with this year.”
Now, with Michigan State’s first 13-win season in school history behind them, it is easy to understand why a target would be on its back as expectations are high.
But while Dantonio sees the Spartans as hunted now, his players still see themselves on the hunt.
“We are still the hunters,” safety Kurtis Drummond said. “We have got a lot of guys that are hungry and lot of guys that want to eat and still need to accomplish things.
”You guys may look at us as the hunted, but we still are hunting, too.”
Defensive end Shilique Calhoun voiced a similar sentiment to Drummond, but adding that the focus on being a hunter lies in the big picture now.
”We did a good job of proving to the Big Ten that we can play and we are contenders, but I feel like still nationally we need to prove ourselves,” he said. “There are a lot more goals we still have ahead of us and we can still attain those goals.
”I don’t feel like we are the hunted, I feel like we are hunting and we still have that edge and that chip on our shoulder to be the best.”