Honeymoon Still In Effect Part One

I had the pleasure of covering Mark Dantonio while he was the head coach at the University of Cincinnati. Now I catch up with coach to get the latest on how things are going at Michigan State. We touch on several subjects during our conversation and this is part one of two that you can only find on GoSpartans.net.

For Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio the days have come and gone since taking over the Spartans program ninety days ago.  As Coach stated during our conversation the "Honeymoon" is still ongoing but will heat up very shortly.


With the Class of 2007 signed, sealed and waiting to be delivered on campus this summer things are full steam ahead to finish out the fourth-quarter and get spring practice in full gear.


GoSpartans.net caught up with Coach Dantonio on Monday night for a little one-on-one conversation about the Spartans program and the transition that continues to be a daily affair in placing the Spartans back into the running for a Big Ten and National Championship.


Coach how has the transition gone since taking over the program ninety days ago?


"Dave as you know it was very important to keep our staff intact and we did that.  Things were very hectic from day one because it was very important for us to get our people on the road recruiting while also getting them visible to the people of Michigan so they knew we cared about those in the state."


"When we took over we got on some of the names the previous staff recruited while also getting to work of those we knew about along with some new names.  In early December we had lots of names on the board and as it became January some of those names changed while we added some new ones and removed others." 


"I'm very excited about the class we signed but wish we could have added another defensive back.  We felt we had one committed who ended up signing elsewhere and if we would have known he was going to do that we would have recruited another player at that position.  We also signed a great quarterback late in Nick Foles out of Texas who is considered one of the top quarterbacks in the country.  We also signed Kirk Cousins who is also considered a very good quarterback by those who do these types of things"


"We also got a great player in Antonio Jeremiah who is a difference maker.  He's got all the tools to excel at the college level and we expect a lot from him.  We also signed a very good linebacker in Greg Jones to go with several players who can line up on either side of the ball."


One of the things you did at Cincinnati was to sign players that others backed away from because they looked as if they wouldn't make it on the academic side.  A couple of times you found players like this and were able to sign them late after they learned they had achieved NCAA approval.  Is this something you'll be looking to do this spring or summer to pick up a few extra players in the 2007 class?


"I don't feel we'll be looking to do that this year.  We'll have 21-24 scholarships and as a staff we feel confident in the players we signed.  We had a great Junior Day on February 3 with 30 of the top juniors from the state of Michigan along with many other top prospects and have also held another Junior Day since then.  I feel we're a little behind in these but feel we got the most out of them."


How hard was it for members of your staff to get things together with work being in East Lansing while home is still Cincinnati?  


"I'm not going to say it's been easy.  We work hard from early in the morning to late into the night and then try to get out of here early on Friday to spend some time with our families.  Some on our staff have already sold their homes and have or will be making the move here very soon while others are still in the process of getting all the loose ends finished up.  Sometimes our families come up here for a weekend while others we return home."


With spring practice just around the corner where are you with the players who'll return for next season?


"We held a winter workout early to allow the players a chance to get to know us and we know them.  We since have been doing our winter workouts, as you know we call this our fourth quarter before heading into spring practice.  We've sat down with our seniors and are doing the same thing with our juniors right now.  We're breaking down the offense, defense and special teams to see what we have.  We've also been looking at some film from last season while also looking back at the things we'd done at Cincinnati to make sure we cover all bases.  Our transition has been a very easy and smooth one since we've got great staff continuity and everyone's on the same page."


"Not only did we bring almost our entire staff from Cincinnati, but we also picked up Dan Enos who was a member of the previous staff but worked with us for two years at Cincinnati and knows what we do.  We also have some great support people on staff I've known for several years.  Our Director of Football Operations is Mike Vollmar and I've known Mike for several years and had worked with him at MSU before.  I've also known and worked with our Director of Player Development Dino Folino as well as our Football SID John Lewandowski.  So we have a great staff that is all on the same page."


Since the 2001 season the team has gone 33-39 overall.  Have you looked back on these seasons to get a feel for where the program has gone since the 10-2 record of 1999?


"To be honest we don't really look back because it's all behind us now.  We know we've got a job to do in bringing Michigan State football back to where the fans and we expect it to be."

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