MSU Getting Back To Roots Under Dantonio

"It's always interesting when there's change. Some people want to change and bring a five wideout offense in others want to bring a defensive coach in, so its just where you're at." --Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio

EAST LANSING - For the past four seasons under John L. Smith, Michigan State employed the spread offense that was designed to create mismatches and get players into the open field in space. But Big Ten opponents quickly figured out that MSU might have skilled players, but it didn't have anyone in the trenches. They were running a finesse offense designed to try to outscore the opponent with no grit up front. Once exposed, the results were predictable. MSU stayed in games early, even leading several high-profile opponents, but without the physical presence to run the football and stop teams from running it against them, the losses mounted. New Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is changing the scheme to more of a pro set offense with a lead fullback and a more conservative scheme.

We asked the coach if Michigan State went through an identity crisis, not knowing who they really were or what their philosophy was.

"It's always interesting when there's change. Some people want to change and bring a five wideout offense in others want to bring a defensive coach in, so its just where you're at." "I can only speak from what I know, in the past of Michigan State - and that's from having been here, that's from having looked at it, from growing up in a Big Ten area and (having) the familiarity there - we'll try to get back to that."

When MSU had success in football in the 80's and 90's, it has mostly been being a balanced team offensively with a strong running game. Even when the Spartans made their Rose Bowl appearance in 1988, it was being all-time great Lorenzo White who rushed 35 times in that contest.

Dantonio said he doesn't believe Michigan State has a losing culture, but just needs to get back to doing the things that made them successful in the past.

"Because I have been here before for six years and because we've had some success, limited (success) but bowl games and then the '99 team (which defeated Florida 37-34 in the Citrus Bowl, they've won Big Ten Championships in the '89s and 90s that it hasn't been that far away, it has not been that long.

"I still get the sense, because I recruited in the Big Ten when I was at Ohio State or even at Cincinnati being in the Big East school, you still got the feeling that (the name) 'Michigan State' carried weight in recruiting in terms of atmosphere, in people who wanted to watch the game, it was still important to the people who were here. It was still important to the people here," he said.

Dantonio said, Michigan State just went through a lull, they were not way down as some other teams in the Big Ten have been.

"(The Michigan State program) was not something that died off and now you're trying to regain something. It has never been to the extent that Wisconsin was before Barry Alvarez came and they were drawing 36,000 fans. It's never been to that extent where they were 1-10 and to that level. They've certainly built that back up."

While Michigan State makes the conversion to Dantonio's system, the coach is confident that soon they'll be back in the mix, challenging for the Big Ten Championship.

But until then he says, "It's going to take everybody here. Have a little patient. (It's going to take) everybody on the inside and outside going forward as a group."

NEXT: How does a coach change the mindset of players and get them adjusted to a new style of play? Coach Dantonio explains how that is being done at Michigan State

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