There is no way to sugarcoat it. The Michigan State football team had a disappointing season, but linebacker Chris Frey Jr. believes the team is ready to move forward into next season with a tightly knit group of guys and an improved mindset. The almost certain Spartan captain and unquestioned leader talked about this 2017 squad.
“A lot has changed and we’re ready to get going,” Frey told Spartan Nation. “We were pretty upset after last season, but we were excited to put it behind us. Our mindset has completely changed with how we’re going to succeed next season.”
One of the major changes Frey was referring to was a change in mindset. Many players on the team were quite upset with how the season went so they have adopted a mentality of giving it all on the field and in practice. Then, when it comes to game time, not only do they want to win, they want to crush their opponents no matter who it is. He even picked up a phrase from Philadelphia Eagle’s safety Malcom Jenkins to help describe this new mentality.
“I heard Malcom Jenkins say this on ESPN today, ‘Every time I put the pads on I come to win,’ and I think that’s a mindset everyone on our team has.” He went on to add, “We don’t go into games thinking we’re going to lose. Next season we’re planning to dominate whoever we’re lining up against. We’re going to dominate every facet of the game no matter who we are playing.
It was clear players were upset after last season as this new mindset was evident to Frey during spring training as he saw how active and engaged the other players were. It seemed like the season should be getting ready to start rather than the off season as the team was working on almost everything to improve. Frey is glad spring ball is over, because it just gets the team that much closer to the next season.
“It was like going right back into fall practices as guys were really getting into it and getting after it pushing each other to get ready for the season.” He added, “It’s nice to get spring ball done with as we’re just ready to move on and get into next season.”
One of the other changes Frey discussed was on how close he feels he is with his teammates. On top of the roster changes, this past spring and winter have been completely different from the past ones Frey has experienced and he believes these changes have allowed to team to come even closer.
“This is not the same team from last year, we’re completely different and putting that behind us,” Frey told Spartan Nation. “We’ve had a completely different spring all the way from winter work outs. It’s a different set up and I think it’s allowed us to come closer as a team and get ready for what’s next.”
Frey even discussed the impact of all the off the field issues that have been surrounding the team for the majority of the off season, believing that it has actually brought the team closer together. It is a difficult situation for the players and the whole team, but it allows them focus on who is around and make sure they trust each other.
“I think the off the field stuff brings us closer together. The guys that are on the team don’t talk about that stuff,” Frey told Spartan Nation. “It’s whose in our team room and those are the guys were focusing on because those are the guys we trust and we’re going to have their backs on game day.”
Frey continued and added that he will always view the players that are in trouble as brothers, but his focus needs to be on his brothers in the locker room and how they are developing as a team.
“I love the guys that have gotten in trouble, they’re my brothers and they always will, but we’re focusing on the guys in the room right now” Frey told Spartan Nation.
According to Frey, it sure seems as if everyone on the team is coming together as a unit. They have become close to each other and all share this new mentality. Frey sees the both the hunger to improve and the comradery at every practice. It is a great foundation for the team to build upon.
“I love everyone on this team and I think everyone of the guys comes out to practice and gives it all they’ve got every day,” Frey told Spartan Nation. “I think we’re really close as a team and we’re going to keep building on it every day.”
As the only senior starting on defense right now, Frey has been thrusted into a major leadership role on the team. It is a lot of responsibility to be that type of leader, but it is something Frey believes has developed into during his past couple years at Michigan State and part of the natural process of the team.
“I’ve become more of a leader every year I’ve been here,” Frey told Spartan Nation. “It’s something that’s going to happen.”
While Frey might have expected to take another jump in leadership responsibility this season, it did not truly set in for him until he could not answer one of co-defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Mike Tressel questions.
“Being a senior really kick in this spring during practice when coach Tressel asked me a question I didn’t know and then asked me who’s the only senior starting on the defense,” Frey told Spartan Nation.
He does not think the leadership role will change him much as a person or his individual skills as a player, but it means he has to take his teamwork up another level. He needs to make sure he knows as much about the defense as possible and be able to communicate and help other around him improve.
“I don’t really think it changes much of who I am but it means I have to pick it up,” Frey told Spartan Nation. “It comes down to me learning more about our defense every day to make the guys around me better.”