While the focus has been on running backs Edwin Baker and Larry Caper, could another of those young players, like say a Dion Sims of Orchard Lake St. Mary's or a Chris Norman of Detroit Renaissance break into the playing group?
"Our freshmen, the opportunities that they'll have, getting caught up to speed, the learning curve, who's going to emerge as some of the freshmen that are going to be playing, that's always interesting to me," said Dantonio.
"We had six play in '07, I believe, and I believe we had six or seven play last year, as well. Those young players I think will make their mark. We've got some exciting guys, I can already see that, who can do some things."
But he was non-committal on which players might be able to get into the action.
"I think it's difficult for an offensive lineman to get in there in the two deep as a freshman. But with that being said, they're going to have some opportunities, but there's so many different moving parts for an offensive line with all the pressures and fronts and different things that you tend to see in the different protections which complicate that even further," he explained.
"Then there's the physical (side)-- even though you may have the physical side, you may not have the physical strength. Ishmyl Johnson now benches 470 pounds. He's strong, okay? You're benching 320, still strong for a high school player, but there's a big difference there. So you're talking about the physical maturity of a young person"
But Dantonio didn't rule out the possibility that one or more of his young linebackers could figure in the mix.
"Chris Norman (Detroit Renaisaance), Jeremy Gainer (Livonia Clarenceville), TyQuan Hammock (Ft. Wayne Bishop Luers), those are our three freshmen and I think they're very talented, but we're going to see what we have when they put the pads on.
There's still a learning curve there. (Redshirt freshman) Steve Gardiner (Dublin Coffman) is a young man who was sidelined with a toe injury before that's been sort of keeping him out pretty much the whole year, so he's going to have an opportunity to show what he's got."
Dantonio commented on those three freshmen linebacker urging Coach Mike Tressel to stay late with them to point out schemes and teach.
"I think our freshmen are hungry. I think all of them are. They're used to being high achievers, high achievers on the football field and in other areas of their life. So when they come in and now they're a third-team guy, they want to get themselves up to speed, they want to try and beat that learning curve, they want to understand what they're supposed to do so they can play at a high rate of speed."
"They're going to try and catch up, but it speaks to the type of people they are. That's what we've tried to recruit, and hopefully we're seeing evidence of that."