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Spring Practice Update: Spartans in Full Pads to Start Second Week

March 29, 2016

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- It was a perfect day to get the pads back on for the Michigan State football team.

With plenty of bright sunshine beaming on the John and Becky Duffey Football Practice Fields and temperatures in the low-50s, the Spartans held their third practice of the spring and their first in full pads on Tuesday afternoon.

Following the 2 ½-hour workout, MSU head coach Mark Dantonio and several players met with reporters to give an update on spring practice.

"Typical first day (in pads)," said Dantonio. "(I saw some) good things, especially toward the end of practice. A little rust on us initially, but we'll get better. A lot of guys got opportunities to play, so it was a good day.

"We're in shorts for a couple of days, and then all of a sudden you put pads on and you put noise out there and you got people moving around, so things become a little bit more difficult."

Dantonio mentioned three players who suffered season-ending injuries last season -- cornerback Vayante Copeland (neck in Week 2 vs. Oregon), offensive tackle Dennis Finley (broken fibula and tibia in Week 5 vs. Purdue) and safety Jalen Watts-Jackson (fractured hip in Week 7 vs. Michigan) -- were all back and in action for the first day in pads on Tuesday.

"He's very confident, he's got great ball skills, he can move, and he's a great tackler," Dantonio said regarding Copeland. "He'll be an outstanding player again."

As for Watts-Jackson, Dantonio said, "I know he's a tough guy and I know that he wants to be out here. He's worked extremely hard, therapy, etc., to get back out here. And he looked good. He ran with the 3's today, but that may change tomorrow. He looked good."

After showing promise in his first two games as a starting cornerback in 2015 before a neck injury sidelined him for the final 12 games of the season, Copeland was excited to be back in full pads on Tuesday.

"Being out, it kinda hurt, for me personally," said Copeland, who will be a sophomore in eligibility in 2016. "It felt good getting back out there, because I haven't tackled in a while.

"We have a lot of DBs coming back from last year (12 returning letterwinners). I think the core is even stronger (than last year)."

The Spartans are looking to replace three starters (Jack Allen, Donavon Clark and Jack Conklin) on the offensive line, but one of the mainstays from last season, Brian Allen, is back and taking on an expanded leadership role as he prepares for his junior season.

"Like everyone's heard, we lost some depth," said Allen, who can play both center and guard. "Now is the time to put in the work. Today is just another step forward for some guys who haven't got the chance to play, and for the guys who have played, it's a time to get better and move forward as a unit.

"(We have) to keep working together, keep getting in the film room, and get used to working with each other and different guys who we haven't played in games with before."

Dantonio said the team went live during three short periods of practice.

"It's the only way you're going to get better," commented Dantonio on his practice philosophy. "We can keep it generic and look crisp and everything, or we can let everybody go, and we tend to let everyone go at least early in the process here and we try and control it."

Michigan State returns for its fourth practice of the spring on Thursday; the team's first spring scrimmage is scheduled for Friday.



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