March 19, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State football team opened spring practice on Tuesday inside the Duffy Daugherty Football Building with a two-and-a-half-hour workout in shorts and helmets.
After weeks of winter conditioning, the Spartans were more than ready to hit the practice field for the beginning of spring drills.
That was especially the case for two Spartan offensive linemen, as senior tackle Fou Fonoti and junior center Travis Jackson practiced for the first time since suffering season-ending injuries last fall.
"It felt good - I really missed being out there with the guys," said Fonoti, who started 11 games at right tackle in 2011 but only started twice last season after a foot injury before the Notre Dame game sidelined him for the year. "A little rusty on some things, but at the same time, Travis and I spoke about it, and we're just blessed to be back out there with our brothers."
Fonoti begins spring practice as the starting left tackle, as previous two-year starter Dan France has made the move inside to right guard. Fonoti received a medical redshirt due to his injury, giving him one more year of eligibility with the Spartans.
"I know it's my last opportunity with these guys," he said. "I just want to give it all for them and sacrifice it all."
After earning Freshman All-America honors in 2011, Jackson started the first five games at center in 2012, but had his sophomore season cut short as he broke his leg and injured his medial collateral ligament against Ohio State.
"I was nervous today coming into practice because I hadn't been on the field for so long," said Jackson. "It's just an honor and a privilege to be out here wearing the green."
For Jackson, not only was the injury difficult to overcome, but he had to do so from the sideline while seeing his teammates fight through adversity all season long.
"We just want to get team chemistry going," Jackson remarked. "We had a tough season last year; 7-6 is not acceptable around here. It was tough to watch the team go through it and not be a part of it. We're just going to get after it this year. Our goal is the Big Ten Championship. That's where we want to get back to."
In order to reach Indianapolis and the Big Ten Championship Game for the second time in three years, the theme throughout the offseason in the Duffy Daugherty Building has been about one simple word: finish.
Last season, Michigan State lost five Big Ten games by a combined 13 points, including one in double overtime and two within the last 10 seconds of regulation. During one stretch, MSU had seven-straight games decided by four points or fewer, the longest such streak in school history and the longest by an FBS team since at least 1996.
"Finish and find the inches," said two-time All-Big Ten linebacker Max Bullough. "Coach D always says those things, and really it sounds cliché, but it's the truth. We lost a couple of games by a few inches last year, and we won a few by the same. So it's just finding those inches and finding a way to make up for those in the offseason. We can't necessarily play a game tomorrow, but we can do something today to make sure we're in better position next year."
The Spartans will return to the practice field in shorts and helmets on Thursday before wearing pads for the first time on Friday.
"It's always good to be back out there playing football instead of running around doing winter conditioning," said Bullough. "It's fun, but I can't wait until Friday. That's when we really start playing again."