The practices are crucial, and often times you will find teams struggling as you break in new players at new positions. Coaches are quick to label it as a time for everyone to improve, and to grow as football players.
But for Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, who will be entering his ninth season this fall, the confidence has never been higher in his team.
When you have players like Connor Cook, Jack Conklin, and Shilique Calhoun returning, that confidence is justified, and Dantonio may have offered the quote of the spring today at his weekly media briefing.
“I know this … we could go out and play a game tomorrow,” Dantonio said. “We’re going to make mistakes, but we’re game ready because we practice enough, we do enough things from the live standpoint to tackling. We do the things we need to do.”
Those are strong words from the head coach, but given the success and talent around the program, you can see where he is coming from.
“There’s risk in that, it’s a catch-22 situation with that at times,” Dantonio said. “But when we hit the field, we are moving. We’ve got a lot of guys with experience, we have a large senior class, we have a lot of guys with experience because we play a lot of people.”
The Spartans finished their seventh of fifteen practices today, and from all indications, things are moving smoothly with the team. Although the Spartans will work to replace the production of guys like Tony Lippett, Jeremy Langford, and Trae Waynes, there is still a solid core returning for the team.
Coming off of an 11-2 season and a Cotton Bowl Victory over Baylor, the expectations around the program have never been higher. But Dantonio and staff are working to keep the group humble, and their attention to detail at practice has been the biggest improvement this spring.
“A lot of live reps,” Dantonio said. “We’re learning how to play the game, and sometimes it’s a little ugly when you do that. I think that more or less, you have a feeling that you're able to move forward and teach with live reps, things of that nature. We’ve been able to get done what we need to get done.”
Labeling the team as “game-ready” in the spring is a bold statement, but if you ask any of the players, they understand what their coach is saying.
“I would say a big thing he means by that is how we practice,” said redshirt junior tight end Josiah Price. “We practice live, we scrimmage hard, even on normal practices we’re going live several periods throughout the day. We’re game ready, we’re football ready.”
With the continuity of the coaching staff and the players that are returning for the Spartans, all of this is more than just talk.
According to Price, it’s the amount of guys returning in the trenches on both sides of the ball and the team chemistry that has the coaches and the players feeling so game-ready.
“We have a lot of guys that are coming back that have chemistry together,” Price said. “When you have the core front-seven on both sides of the ball intact, that makes you feel pretty comfortable, like game-ready.”