EAST LANSING – It's nearly spring and pigskin is in the air. Yesterday, Michigan State began preparing for their 2008 campaign on the field at their indoor practice facility.
Head coach Mark Dantonio, entering his second season as the leader of the Green and White, says, at this point, it's back to basics.
"The biggest thing we have to stress is fundamentals," Dantonio said after practice. "Return to fundamentals, trying to master our concepts and mastering the fundamentals that allow you to be good and prove yourself."
Heralded freshmen Tyler Hoover and Johnny Adams (both early enrollees) got their first taste of how much quicker the pace is at the collegiate level.
"Tyler and Johnny looked alright out there for freshman, they moved around," Dantonio said. "I think winter workouts really helped them in terms of understanding the tempo."
Making a bowl game last year, and subsequently practicing for an additional month, provided the Green and White with valuable learning experiences.
"I think bowl practice helped us, it helped us with our younger players," Dantonio said.
Players like wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, a red-shirt freshman who is expected to compete for position on the depth chart, used that time to continue to learn the intricacies of the offense and their positions. But the first real test comes as the team gears up for the Green and White game on April 19.
"I thought there was good recall from our players but you really don't know what they can do until we get into pads," Dantonio said.
One of last season's breakout freshmen, linebacker Greg Jones, who led the team in tackles, appears to be picking up where he left off. "Greg Jones looks like he's moving very well," Dantonio said.
The offense looked sharp, too. The team ran skeleton formations with quarterback Brian Hoyer handing the ball and flicking passes to players such as Javon Ringer, A.J. Jimmerson and converted D-lineman Michael Jordan, who is now working out as a tight end. "Hoyer looked crisp," Dantonio said.
Dantonio also noted a few other players who have stood out and says the time for upperclassmen to show their leadership capabilities is now.
"Otis Wiley had a great practice today and Justin Kershaw is taking some steps," he said. "But all our seniors are going to have a chance to lead. That's the great thing we had last year on this team was great leaders and that is something we have to look for."
Austin Smith contributed to this story.
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