April 1, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State football team conducted its fourth spring practice and second in full pads Tuesday afternoon, splitting time inside the Duffy Daugherty Building and outside on the turf field.
Prior to practice, Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio provided an update on the team to reporters.
"There are perfect conditions when you go inside, and the game is not perfect," Dantonio said on why the team practiced outside for a portion of Tuesday's practice, despite temperatures in the low-40s with steady 25 mph winds. "We have to practice throwing into the wind, practice on catching the ball as it moves in flight with some wind, and we have to tackle. We've got to do the things we've got to do."
Dantonio also talked about why he looks forward to spring practice every year.
"I think it gets you back to your roots a little bit," said Dantonio. "The pressure is not on for you to play a game, the pressure is on to try and get better. I think that's what every football program does in America, they find out a little bit about their freshmen because they're freshmen when they come in; the transition is difficult for them to handle. So you have an opportunity now to see what they've got. You find out who your leaders are and what your senior class is going to be like a little bit. You set new goals for your program and try and move it forward.
"So it's always been a thing that we try and get better at. We've always tried to use the adage `get three percent better every practice.' That's what was told to me, way back when I was playing by my college coach."
SCHEDULE UPDATE: Michigan State's 2014 football season opener vs. Jacksonville State has been moved from Saturday, Aug. 30 to Friday, Aug. 29. Game time and TV network will be announced at a later date.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio:
On the linebackers...
Taiwan's (Jones) doing well (at middle linebacker)...It was the first day in pads the other day, but you can see that he's a thumper, he can play in there, and he can get off blocks and run and hit.
We have certain guys that can play in and out of certain positions. For the most part, we'll try and stay with what we've got (on the depth chart). We lost a lot of experience at linebacker, there's no question about that - Max Bullough, Kyler Elsworth, Denicos Allen - three guys really that were in the program for four and five years. Now we've got guys like Chris Frey, who is a brand new freshman, Shane Jones and Jon Reschke, who are true freshmen; Frey has come in at midyear. So you have three freshmen in there playing. So there's a big difference when you're talking about the first day in pads from an experience factor. But they'll be good players.
On what he wants to accomplish early on in pads...
I think the biggest thing is that you want to get your feet up underneath you and reaffirm who you are as a player fundamentally. We want to see quick reactions and guys that play with power, guys that play sudden, guys that catch the ball, and really do the fundamental things that allow you to be successful. After one day, you can see that we're not as good of a football team fundamentally as we were at the end of last season, but that's to be expected the first day of spring practice. But there were good things to see as well. We went long and hard on Saturday.
On who has stepped up early on in spring practice...
I think Jamal Lyles is playing well; he's taken a big step forward. I think LT (Lawrence Thomas) is playing well. He's a guy, you remember last year, he had a shoulder injury, missed all of spring ball; then he had a back episode, which took him into the season and he really didn't start playing until October. So this is the first time he's been able to get his feet on the ground fundamentally, in a spring practice, summer practice type of format.
On early enrollees Matt Sokol and Chris Frey...
Like any freshman, it's a faster game, but Sokol has great ball skills and can run. Remember, he's not only transitioning to college, he's transitioning from a big quarterback to tight end, so there's quite an adjustment there, but he can catch the ball and run. Chris Frey is a good football player, but it's a faster speed to the game.
On the younger players in the secondary...
I think Darian Hicks is a guy that plays the ball very well in the deep part of the field, he's a tackler, has great attention to detail, and right now he's the other starting corner opposite of Trae Waynes. That could flip back and forth a little bit; those other corners are talented.
Demetrious Cox will be a very good football player for us (at safety). RJ (Williamson) has some playing experience and is extremely coachable. Demetrius is a talented player; he'll be on the field for us.
On where Lawrence Thomas will play on the defensive line...
It's one day in pads, but I think he showed some flashes. We're going to play our four best defensive linemen. He can go inside and play - he's 290 pounds, and he's sudden. As long as he stays active, and he stays healthy, he's going to be a very good football player for us...He'll probably get a little reps today inside, but a majority of his reps will stay outside on the end right now.
On backups at middle linebacker, behind Taiwan Jones...
Jon Reschke is in there. Shane Jones will play in there a little bit today. Those two guys will sort of have it right now, but Riley Bullough could step in there as well. We're going to play the best guys that can run and tackle. That's going to be the deal. When we get them ready to play, the guys that run, tackle and hit you and play with great effort, they will be the ones on the field for us.
On going live in spring practice...
We went live on the first day, absolutely. I think you have to do that. You have to find out who can play. The quarterbacks are not live, but we're going to run and tackle. There's going to be some guys nicked up because of it, but this is spring, and we've got to find out who can play. We're a relatively young team in certain positions. On the offensive line, Kodi Kieler needs to play; he's a good football player and he needs to play. We've got other guys that are sort of secure in their positions, but he's a guy that's got to figure into it. Those tight ends are young; Josiah Price and Jamal (Lyles) need to play. Our wide receiver situation, we've got some young guys in there battling as well. It's a good situation.
On practicing outside...
I just try and get outside. I think the game is played outside in the environment. There's going to be wind out there; it's going to be November, and there's going to be wind. I don't know if the sun is going to shine in our eyes today (laughing), but it's just sort of a sterile environment when you go inside all the time - too many perfect conditions. So we're going to go outside and just make a statement and go outside a little bit, but we may be back in before you know it...It's the way we are. I think they expect to go outside. You can spread out a little bit more, you try to make it a little bit more realistic. There are perfect conditions when you go inside, and the game is not perfect. We have to practice throwing into the wind, practice on catching the ball as it moves in flight with some wind, and we have to tackle; we've got to do the things we've got to do. It's a long way up to the top, I can just tell you that.
On the reps at quarterback...
We're splitting all the reps. Right now in spring, I think it's important we try and rep as many players as we can to give them opportunities. They pretty much split the reps with the ones, twos and threes. Damion (Terry) will go with the twos some, Tyler (O'Connor) with the threes some, but for the most part, Tyler remains a two. But they are both improved players, they both have talent, and as a coach you see some things with both of those guys that give an indication that they're moving forward, and they're both not where they need to be yet. They're certainly functional and they've made plays out here...Not much (separates them). Just depends on how they come to practice every day.