Q&A with Mark Dantonio (Pt. 3)

We have one more installment today of quotes from defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio. In today's article, he discusses Robert Reynolds, Will Smith, and more.

One last question about 2001, what is the reason they are impacting the game now as opposed to then when they were not such a force?

"Obviously our players have learned the system a little bit more. We tried to help ourselves by simplifying some things. We have been together longer as a defensive staff and as a defensive unit. You haven't had the errors in calls or errors on the field. You know, again, last year I think our players recognized the fact that the difference between winning and losing is so close. They can be a difference maker, that they, themselves, can be a difference maker. You took on guys like Mike Doss and his attitude and effort. Guys like Cie Grant had a great year, and Kenny Peterson had a great year. Our seniors had great years. We tried to focus on that, and I think so far I would say our seniors are having pretty good years. Will Allen is playing as good as – very, very well."

What has Jim (Tressel) been like his whole time at Ohio State - from the first season until now?

"He has been consistent since the day I met him. He is consistent. As I said before, he is a very composed person. That gives you an opportunity to be successful."

Has he changed at all with a more veteran team versus with a younger team?

"Well, I think you are around someone, the more you understand his philosophy, and understand what he is trying to do. Leadership comes from within. As they grow up in a program, I think your seniors tend to lead. So, your leaders on this team, you know the coaches certainly try and implement that, but our true leaders on the team come from within. They're our seniors. That is why you are able to be successful. Our seniors last year did a great job."

What kind of responsibility is it for you -- how does it feel that Coach Tressel pretty much leaves the defense up to you?

"Well, it is a good feeling because it makes you feel like he has confidence in us as coaches, but you know, he still has his thumbprint on it when he talks about playing fast and knowing what to do and simplifying things as much as we can as we go through it. It's always – don't think that he is not there. He is always there. It's more quality control I guess I would say, but he…as a defensive coach, he gives us the opportunities to do what we need to do. He gives us the players we need to have to be successful, Chris Gamble for example, or whoever we need to be successful. He's always going to be in sort of a help mode to try and allow everybody on this staff to be successful as a coach and as a person."

Robert Reynolds is back this week, what is the final lesson there?

"I hope our players take from it that you need to play with great toughness and effort, but you have to play within the rules. You cannot lose your poise and composure in the game itself. You know, that's a high intensity atmosphere that we are in out there, and it's a very competitive atmosphere, but you need to keep control of your emotions. We live in a fishbowl. Everybody's watching, and you need to keep control of your composure. Only in that way will you be successful ultimately."

Some have questioned the punishment, can you talk about that?

"Rob Reynolds in my opinion has paid a very, very big price in this whole thing. Obviously he did not do the right thing, and we are not condoning that, but when people talk about number 44, there is a black mark on his name right now. No one wants to have that. No one in his family wants that, and I sort of feel like we are a part of his family. We want to protect him from that, but right is right and wrong is wrong. It is a difficult situation for him, and I think he has paid a price. We all have because he is one of our better players.

"He's an integral part of our defense. From that standpoint we played without him. It's just a whole…there is no winner in this. You could say he was suspended for a whole year. There's no winner. There's going to be people upset at him being suspended for a year. There's going to be people upset at him not being suspended for a year, so there's no winner in this. It's just a bad situation. It's a disappointing situation, and to me, it's just one of those things in college football that you don't want to see. It's just like something negative happening again in athletics. You see it every day. It's a shame, but you have to move on and try and make the best of a situation."

Is Will Smith having his best year?

"Will Smith had a great year last year, and I just keep saying we evaluate at the end of the year, but he has been a dominant football player for us."

Has he risen higher than last year?

"I hope so. It's hard for me to say that because I see him. I remember last year how hard he played and some of the plays he made. I see him this year doing a lot of the same things. Whether he makes a couple more tackles or a couple more sacks, you know, he played awful well for us last year too. He was a champion last year, so we'll see."

Have you ever come up against an offense you don't think you can stop?

"Oh, I've seen some that make us nervous."

A lot of people talk about OU being so proficient this year, what about them?

"I haven't watched OU enough to…I watched them with a bowl of chips sitting on the couch, but you know I can't sit there and watch them and say…It's just like Miami. When you watch Miami on TV, you see something, when you watch them for a lot of games, you see something else sometimes. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses and the key is to find out what the weaknesses are and attack those."

How much more do the players and coaches take to the Big Ten style?

"Well, I think that…I don't know. I just want to be successful. What do you say…I don't know about that. But it is more of what you would think of as football. There's two backs back there a lot of times trying to run the football. It's not so much spread it around as much. So there is that toughness and effort factor back there. Maybe it suits us. We'll see at the end of 11 games, I'll let you know whether we want to play against those spread teams or not."

From a coach's perspective, what is a bigger deal: The controversies surrounding the program or the Wisconsin loss?

"Well, I don't read the papers that often, so I would say the Wisconsin loss."

How does it affect the coaching staff that they have been trying to build something here and through the poor decisions of a few players much of that is torn down?

"Well, I think sure that affects you as a person. Like I said before, you're disappointed, but you know, this game is about handling disappointments and going on. Whether you lose or whether you win or whether you have somebody have a problem. You know, that's why they call you coach. So, you try and rebound. If everything was great, they wouldn't need people. They would just put them out there and let them play."

Did you put John Kerr under the microscope this week to get information?

"Nope. We haven't done that."

He has nothing to add?

"Well, I'm sure he has some things to add, but I haven't done that."

You're not going there?

"Not today."

What is the most thankless part of being a coach?

"You know, unwarranted criticism. How's that?

What would you consider unwarranted criticism?

"Well, some times your hands are tied. Sometimes it can become frustrating when you're doing everything you can and something doesn't work. That is frustrating. Sometimes you are criticized for that, but you just move on."

(one reporter missed the early portion of the conversation) How does what is going on with the offense impact the defense?

"I think I was asked that question before, but we don't look at the other end of things because things could be reversed very quickly. What I said earlier was – the third game of the season it was 24-7 and all of a sudden it is 24-24 against NC State. Then we go into overtime. We can't stop them, and it becomes 44-38. So, we've been on both sides there. The important thing is you do what you can to win the football game. It is all relative as the game comes down the line. I sort of feel like the Wisconsin game is 10-10. It is right there. They are on the minus 11. If we stop them, we probably get the ball on the 50. We are probably going to win that football game, but we didn't stop them. So, whose fault was it? (defense implied). It goes both ends…you just do your job and keep playing. I have a lot of confidence in our offensive coaches that whatever we need to do, we'll get done."

Have you ever seen a team struggling offensively just suddenly turn it around?

"Well, I've been coaching for a long time so I am sure I have…(laughter)"

But you can't think of any?

"Let's see…"

Well, my question and what I am getting at is how would that happen?

"I've seen it happen, but it happens the other way too defensively. Or it can happen in the reverse manner very easily. I think a lot of times success has a lot to do with confidence. You know, when you are confident, you're playing fast, you're playing more aggressively. When you are frustrated or you are not confident, then you know, you're playing a little bit more hesitant. All I can tell you about this game is you can't hesitate. You have to play at a fast level."

Coach Daniels said that he has seen it happen, and it's almost like a light going on.

"Yeah, I've seen that. A guy gets a hot hand or all of a sudden, there's (his) confidence back. So, I've seen that happen."

"I just think it has to do with what I've said. When you're confident. When you're writing a good story, and you know it's a good story, you're rolling. You're rolling. When you're working on things to say, you struggle a little bit. I think that is the biggest thing that probably would be…if I could say anything."

You talked some about Coach Tressel's patience. Ultimately what caused you to come back and work with him?

"Well, it was a chance to come back with Coach Tressel. The added responsibility. I was secondary coach up at Michigan State, so added responsibility, and then I used to be here as a graduate assistant. I am from Ohio, so I've always thought of myself as an Ohio State Buckeye person. It was a great opportunity to come back basically to my home."

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