Dantonio Striving for Consistency as Spartans Push Past Midway Point in Spring Practice
 
 
 
Coach Dantonio and the Spartans held their ninth spring practice on Tuesday.
 
Coach Dantonio and the Spartans held their ninth spring practice on Tuesday.
 
 

April 9, 2013

Practice Update

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Before Michigan State hit the practice field for the ninth time this spring on Tuesday afternoon inside the Duffy Daugherty Building, Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio provided an update on the team as MSU begins its final two weeks of spring practice.

Dantonio stressed the need for consistency from all of his players, gave his assessment of the quarterbacks after the first scrimmage, and talked about what he's most impressed with so far this spring.

"Everybody I think on our football team has certain levels that they have to accomplish," said Dantonio. "When you've played a year, you need to be farther along. If you're a true freshman, you need to come into your own. If you've never played, you need to gain some ground. And I think everybody is looking for more.

"You expect that growth to take place on the field, and you expect to see that on a consistent basis."

The Spartans held their first jersey scrimmage of the spring last Friday at Spartan Stadium, as the defense held off the offense in the 25-23 victory that came down to the last play.

"Our chemistry is always good," Dantonio said. "We come out here and work hard, we're aggressive, we play the game, the quarterbacks have been live, we cut on the edge. So we're playing this game as aggressively and as game-like as we can. And I think with that in mind, our players have done a great job.

"But with that comes more mistakes. If you just go thud and you're not wrapping up, you're not taking him down every day, and you're not making the quarterbacks live, it's a little cleaner. But sometimes you have to get your hands dirty to find out exactly where you're at. I think that's what we have to do."

Michigan State will return for its 10th spring practice on Thursday afternoon. MSU concludes its 15 spring practices with the Green-White spring game on Saturday, April 20 at 2:30 p.m. in Spartan Stadium.

Below are highlights from Dantonio's briefing with the media on Tuesday:

On the offensive line...
Well, we got some guys nicked up. We had three starters really not go in the scrimmage, so it's a little tough to see on that. But we have to run the ball more effectively, and that's the one thing we came out of the scrimmage - we didn't run the ball as effectively.

Tight end and fullback, young players. Again, there's a big learning curve there I think, but we'll continue to make improvements.

On the wide receivers...
I think the biggest thing is consistency. I think if you look at the end of the game, you saw consistency. I thought early on, I sort of felt like we needed to play a little bit better. But the passing game, there's always so much involved, not only catching the football but delivering it, and protecting the passer as well.

On if there's any separation in the running back race after the first scrimmage...
No, I didn't see any separation. We need to be better.

On sophomore wide receiver Aaron Burbridge...
He's playing. Consistency. You know, I think that's what you see in young players. A lot of times a player makes a big jump, and then he'll settle back a little bit. We have some good wide receivers, but they need to be consistent.

On kick and punt returners...
Well, we've been inside so often, it's been tough to really do a lot of that, game-wise, game speed. (Andre) Sims had a nice return (in the scrimmage) in a live punt situation. I think kickoff returns, from that standpoint, we haven't done that yet because of the nature of what's going on.

On if there's a fear that the defense gets taken for granted...>
No. We need to be good on defense, but continue to critique what we do. It's about fundamentals, and execution of fundamentals...Obviously, conceptually you have to be tied together and have a foundation.

On who the best placekicker has been thus far in spring practice...
(Red-shirt freshman) Kevin Cronin.

On how the defense can improve in late-game situations...
That is a focus. I think that's one thing that have to guard against. In the scrimmage, that's what happened. You're playing ones and twos. You try to create situations as well. But I think our offense did a nice job in those situations...But that is a concern.

On the younger players...
I think that's what you hear out here when you have young players - the need for consistency. So when you have a state of the union address a little bit and you talk to your players, that's what they hear.

On Connor Cook and Tyler O'Connor...
I think Tyler O'Connor can make a play with his feet. He ad-libs very well. And when you see big plays from him, a lot of it he's created. So that's been a positive thing. He needs to be a little bit more consistent - again, there's the word - I guess in your everyday things. The things that he should do, and should be able to make a throw, sometimes it's not 100 percent. But he's done some good things.

Connor Cook is much the same. He's just a year removed from (high school), so at times it's a little bit...I don't want to say disoriented, but a lack of consistency. But he makes plays. He made some plays with his feet out there. He's got a big, strong arm.

So all three of those guys (Andrew Maxwell, Cook, O'Connor) are good football players. I think we're farther along this year than we were last year with our quarterbacks due to the nature of the experience that Maxwell has, the experience that Connor Cook has, and then, we've got a third that can play himself into playing time. So we have three guys I think that have good ability, raw ability, throwing ability, but the consistency needs to be there. But that has to be said when you look at the whole offense. But we're playing against a good defense.

On Andrew Maxwell...
I think when he has time and everything is good around him, I think he's very efficient. When things break down, which is usually like most quarterbacks, when things break down, the separation is not as great. When I say that, the separation is not as great between the other two.

On what he's pleased with this spring...
Our chemistry is always good. We come out here and work hard, we're aggressive, we play the game, the quarterbacks have been live, we cut on the edge. So we're playing this game as aggressively and as game-like as we can. And I think with that in mind, our players have done a great job. But with that comes more mistakes. If you just go thud and you're not wrapping up, you're not taking him down every day, and you're not making the quarterbacks live, it's a little cleaner. But sometimes you have to get your hands dirty to find out exactly where you're at. I think that's what we have to do.

On if the team is still implementing the offense...
We're still adding things. We've been going slow because the tight ends are young, and some different positions, but in the spring what I think you need to find is who can play the game? It's not so much what we do, it is that to some extent, because you want to experiment with things, but we need to find out who can play, and then get those players into the game and get those players in the right positions. So there are some positions, quite honestly, that are still up for grabs on this football team.

On wide receiver AJ Troup...
He took a slant to the house (76-yard touchdown in Friday's scrimmage) against the twos. He also caught a fade against the twos for a touchdown. So he's had a good spring thus far. He's a big-bodied guy, he's still a young player who can run, and he's caught the ball pretty cleanly.

On creating explosive plays...
I think explosive plays and turnovers on the offensive side of the ball, and then you can just look at the opposite on the defensive side. You're sort of sitting there in a Catch-22 situation sometimes as a head coach. I think that's natural.

On Keith Mumphery...
Keith is a good player. Everybody I think on our football team has certain levels that they have to accomplish. When you've played a year, you need to be farther along. If you're a true freshman, you need to come into your own. If you've never played, you need to gain some ground. And I think everybody is looking for more.

I just think that we need to check ourselves, including myself; check yourself, where are you at, what are you doing, what are you trying to do to get better. I think we all need to always improve, so I'm looking for improvement. That's a roundabout way to answer that question, but just keep pushing.

I think Keith is one of those guys that does push himself, he plays hard, but he needs to mature, just like a lot of our players. They've been in the games, they need to mature, they need to grow. You expect that growth to take place on the field, and you expect to see that on a consistent basis. Now, I'm in the business of critiquing it, so again, a little bit of a Catch 22. I'm not dissatisfied, I just think we need to be as good as we can.

On if he's seeing the three percent increase in getting better he wants to see in practice...
I do see the three percent, but it's not on everybody, and that's the problem.

On who would be the starting wide receivers at this point...
I think you're looking at Bennie Fowler, you're looking at (Tony) Lippett, (Keith) Mumphery, and you're looking at (Aaron) Burbridge, the same four that you saw show up last year a lot. I think all four of those guys have made plays here. You see some things from (Monty) Madaris and AJ Troup, but we haven't risen to a player like B.J. Cunningham - and that is the standard. And we can't except anything less than that. That's the standard.

On how the co-offensive coordinators (Jim Bollman and Dave Warner) worked together during the first scrimmage...
As I said when we did this, Dave Warner will be the lead guy, he'll be the play caller, and I think Jim Bollman serves more as a consultant in that area. I don't think you can have two guys calling the plays. But you can have a consultant, and say, `hey, what about this, what about that, we're getting this, we're getting that.' I think all of our coaches do that, but I think that's where (Bollman) is looked at at this point right now.