Honeymoon Still In Effect Part Two

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 in Part Two of this story that you can only find on GoSpartans.net.

You have a tough schedule ahead of you in 2007, have you looked at how it lays out?


"We open the season with UAB a Conference USA team.  Western Michigan is set for week two but we'll see what happens with that one.  We then take on a Pitt team we know something about since we've gone against them the past two seasons in the Big East.  We then have Notre Dame and Wisconsin on the road and return to take on Northwestern and Indiana before road games against Ohio State and Iowa.  It's then Michigan week at home with our final road game against Purdue before we close out the season with Penn State at home.  It's a tough schedule but as you know we'll take it one week at a time."


Coach I've been to winter workouts while you were at Cincinnati.  How are the players taking to them at Michigan State?


"Dave you know what we expect our players to have when they walk through the door.  They better bring a great attitude and work ethic along with physical and mental toughness each and every day.  We change things up every day to make it interesting and just like at Cincinnati we start at 5:45 in the morning and go until around 7:05.  You've seen what we do and you know it's very physical and hard work we ask our guys to do.  We have 105 players going through drills right now with our scholarship and non-scholarship players and everyone is doing the things needed for us to be successful."


Talk some about what you'll be doing scheme wise at Michigan State.  Will it be much like you ran at Cincinnati or will there be a few more wrinkles?


"On offense we'll expect toughness and for our players to know what to do.  We'll use the players we have to the best of their abilities. Depending upon what we see from them will have an effect and determine what we do.  If we have great backs we'll be a strong running team, if we have a great quarterback and receivers we'll be passing the ball more.  You know I really would like to be more diverse and multiple running empties, 2 tight ends and so, but it'll really depend on the players we have and how they execute that will determine what we do."


"I feel we have good skill players and an offensive line that is big and powerful.  The program was not bone dry when we came in and we're looking to see why things unraveled during the course of last season."


"On defense we'll continue to run our base packages and work our players into the schemes based on what their strengths are.  I don't know if we have championship caliber players at this time as I see our talent level being in the middle of the pack. But we'll see once we get on the field and make our adjustments from there."


Can you talk about the talent you have returning this spring and who do you expect to see standout?


"We will start at point "A" and everyone will have a chance to show what they can do and earn a position.  Michigan State has a great football tradition and we've talked with the players about this.  We've also talked with them about what we expect from them in terms of attitude, character and ability.  So right now every job is open for competition."


Michigan State and MSU football are not new to you, how have you been received from former players since taking over the program?


"As I said Michigan State has a great tradition and I've heard from many of the players I coached or who was part of Michigan State teams when I was here the first time. Former players like Julian Peterson and Flozell Adams have been in touch and it's been great to catch up with each and every one of them.  I think it was easy for them since they know me." 


"Things go in stages and Michigan State has a great tradition with many great players.  I think you'll have some players who'll feel more comfortable with me just like you'll have guys who may feel more comfortable with Coach Perles or Saban.  Just like we did at Cincinnati we'll reach out to all of the Spartan family and work to get them involved with the program."


So what lies ahead in the days leading up to spring practice?


"We'll have a couple more days of winter workouts and then we'll have a break for spring break.  We'll return from break and have a few more days of workouts leading up to our first spring practice on March 20.  We'll then spread out 15 practices over about a five week span until we take the field for our spring game on April 21."


Coach as always it's been great catching up with you and hearing about the state of the program.  We'll talk again soon and tell Becky and the girls I said hello.


"Thanks Dave and we look forward to seeing you up here for a practice."


As the calendar counts down the days and the weather starts to change, those who love football start to get the feeling it's time to strap it up and get going.  This spring Michigan State will see many changes take place on the practice field that will reflect how the team will perform in the fall.  With a tough schedule ahead in 2007 the staff will have their work cutout for them.  GoSpartans.net will continue looking at the Spartans program as the opening of spring practice gets closer.

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