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Spartans Enter Second Week of Spring Practice

Nick Hill is competing for the starting position at running back this spring.

March 26, 2013

Practice Update

EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State football team conducted its fourth spring practice on Tuesday afternoon inside the Duffy Daugherty Building.

Prior to practice, Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio provided an update on the team to reporters. Dantonio talked about the position battle at running back, why he's having the quarterbacks go live this spring, and what position he feels is the strength of the offense.

The Spartans will return to practice field on Thursday.

MSU head coach Mark Dantonio

Opening statement...
We're going into our fourth day of practice, and the key is always to continue to try and get better. We have to continue to harp on our players to make it through practice, going 15 out of 15, just in terms of practicing; it makes a huge difference in success and failure I think for each of our football players individually. I like where we're at.

On how the running backs can separate themselves without playing a game...
Well, I think you have to have the ability to run behind your pads, create explosive plays, (and) hold onto the football; ball security is so big. We only had one practice in pads, but we went 40-50 plays live, so they have an opportunity to show out. But then as you get to scrimmages, I think things get a little bit more clearer for you, and then certainly the spring game, and fall camp as well. The competition will get a little more fierce as summer rolls around.

On tight ends Evan Jones and Josiah Price...
They're true freshman in their first spring, so they're going to have a learning curve a little bit. I think at the same time, both receive the ball very, very effectively, they're both big, they have a tremendous upside, they have a lot of `want to', and their attitude is very good. But there's a learning curve. They're seeing some things for the first time out here.

More on the running backs...
I thought Nick Hill did some good things on Friday, then also I thought our defense was very good...(Nick Tompkins) is active, he's getting opportunities; right now, he's getting touches. I think the biggest thing is with Nick Hill, he's working at No. 1, he's confident. With Nick Tompkins, he's a young player getting his first opportunities really there, with significant carries I think with the 1's and 2's. They have a ways to go. They're young players. Like I said, we went one practice, and ball security is going to be huge. They put the ball on the ground too much the other day.

On the offensive line
I think it's a position of strength for us. I think it's a position we have leaders in place with (Fou) Fonoti, Travis Jackson and Blake Treadwell. Dan France is at right guard, new position, a little bit of a learning curve, same with Fou at left tackle right now. (Right tackle) Skyler Burkland, is a big, physical guy. We've got depth at that position. As I count it, there are 17 guys on the offensive line in the spring, which is a luxury.

On the quarterbacks...
Again, first practice in pads. We made our quarterbacks live the other day, so you got to see them do some different things. I thought they played pretty well in pass skell, as far as team situations. When there starts to be a breakdown, you gotta create. We'll measure that every day as we go. There was no big, earth-shattering news from Friday.

On any progress he saw from the quarterbacks...
It's the first day back, so you see progress. You see Tyler O'Connor stepping up, I think he made some plays this past week. He's a young player. Also, I thought Connor Cook and (Andrew) Maxwell, they did good things. They did some other things that need to be better as well. I think that's the nature of it.

On the advantage of making the quarterbacks live...
You get a feel for who can make plays when they're being chased all over the field, and they know they're going to get hit.

On young defensive linemen Damon Knox and Brandon Clemons...
I think (Damon) Knox is a guy who's improving. Brandon was nicked up a little bit and didn't go the first day in pads. He'll be out here today. Clemons is really like a red-shirt freshman. He's been hurt the last two seasons. He's a guy that's 300 pounds now and moves pretty well. I think Knox took some steps forward the other day, but again, consistency is the most important thing that we look for. We have some depth at defensive tackle.

On sophomore cornerback Trae Waynes...
Trae Waynes will be a very, very good player for us. He's active, he can run, he has great ball skills, he can tackle, he's gotten bigger and bigger as he goes. I expect him to be a very good player for us.



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