Football is here and for the first time heading into the 2016 college football season Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio spoke with members of the media. Here are some of the key highlights from his time at the podium.
LOSS OF MIKE SADLER
From the start Dantonio expressed the feeling he, his team and the college football world have from the loss of former Spartans punter Mike Sadler and Nebraska punter Sam Foltz over the weekend.
“I'd like to express our condolences to the Mike Sadler family and also to Sam Foltz and Husker nation as well. What occurred on Sunday is very tragic in regards to Mike. He was a giver. He lived life. There was no take in Mike Sadler. He made everybody's life around him better. We'll miss him terribly.”
STRENGTHS ON DEFENSE
For Dantonio defense has always been the name of the game and in 2016 the Spartans head coach feels he’s got several players ready to continue the program’s success especially at linebacker where the Spartans are loaded.
“We have extremely talented linebacker situation. Ed Davis can be thrown into that. Andrew Dowell. They're all starters. We have what I consider five starters. Shane Jones is another guy I think can go in there and start. Byron Bullough is another guy that had an outstanding spring.
“I think we're very deep at the linebacker position. Depth charts are depth charts. It's a starting point. Why that occurred is up to Coach Tressel, but as far as I'm concerned Chris Frey is a starter as well. He plays multiple positions. He plays Sam, plays star -- multiple.”
BULLOUGH COMPARISONS CONTINUE
When asked about the comparisons between Max and Riley Bullough, Dantonio stressed they are different but share a common trait.
“They're two different people. They're two different players. But then with that being said, they're from the same line. Football is very important to them. They're going to study the game hard. They're going to know where they're supposed to be at and be at that place at the right time.
“But different players, Riley is a more sideline-to-sideline guy and Max more has power and a thumper a little bit. But both guys are extremely great leaders and we're going to look forward to what he brings us this year. But he's ready to go.”
OPPORTUNITIES CONTINUE AT QUARTERBACK
When the Spartans left the field following their annual spring game many penciled Tyler O'Connor down as the Spartans starting quarterback. Dantonio knows the Spartans lost a lot in Connor Cook. However, he also feels the Spartans have four guys that can become Big Ten quarterbacks.
“I think our quarterback position is -- lost a lot of experience, obviously, but I think it's a very talented position. We've got four guys that I think are Big Ten-type quarterbacks that are big, athletic guys that can move, run, and also can throw the football. So Tyler O'Connor is a fifth-year senior. He's been in the system four years, been behind a great quarterback. He's been waiting for his opportunity. Performed very well down in Columbus last year.
“And Damion Terry, 6'4", 235, very athletic. Brian Lewerke, very talented, he was a redshirt freshman this year. And Messiah deWeaver is a true freshman that was here this semester. All four of those guys have great ability.
“But we're going to keep the pressure on our quarterback position and on our quarterback coach, Brad Salem. I think that's the thing to do right now. Not dependent on one guy. Not to say, hey, he's our guy. That will be defined through August camp and early in the season. But we're going to give people opportunities.
But Tyler obviously is in the lead right now, but I'm not going to have the pressure put on one position to say this is the make or break guy. That's just the way we're going to do it at this point in time.”
MALIK McDOWELL READY FOR STARDOM
Coming off a great sophomore season Malik McDowell is considered one of the best defensive players in the college game. For Dantonio, this is just the start of what McDowell can do as he’s ready to take another step forward.
“Malik is a playmaker. No question about that. He's big, athletic, physical. He comes to play every game. And with all that being said he's only going to be, you know he's going to be a true junior. He had a big sophomore season last year. Played some as a freshman.
“So I think that this is the year that sort of catapults him. So he's got to have a great year and I think he's poised to do that. I think we also have some other great defensive players on our football team that we can build around.”