April 13, 2010
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio answered questions from the national media Tuesday afternoon on the annual Big Ten spring football teleconference. Dantonio talked about the importance of having an experienced quarterback and shared his thoughts on running a 3-4 defense. The Spartans will complete their 10th practice of the spring on Tuesday.
We just came off about a 150-play scrimmage on Saturday, so we got a lot of things done and we go into practice number 10 today. When you look at our football team right now, I think the first thing you have to do is look at our offensive situation at quarterback. We moved Keith Nichol to wide receiver. It's been a luxury for us due to Kirk Cousins and Nichol and then Andrew Maxwell coming on as well, so Keith's done an outstanding job and it gives us a lot of versatility out there. Certainly Greg Jones is an outstanding player and a force on defense. He's sort of the catalyst there but we have other players back as well. So we're having an excellent spring and we look forward to competing for a championship.
On defensive lineman Blake Treadwell and his development...
He's an outstanding young man that I've really known from birth, going all the way back to Youngstown, Ohio, when (offensive coordinator) Don Treadwell, his father, and I worked together. But Tread has been unbelievable: a role model for our players, extremely hard worker, does not take a play off. He's very committed, not just on the football field, but socially and academically as well. He's an outstanding representative for our football team and he'll be a great leader for us and just a freshman, so he continues to go but he's had a very, very solid spring.
On his thoughts on conference expansion...
I think expansion in a conference is always very exciting, for the people that are involved in it and certainly from an outside perspective. That decision has to be made by people at a much higher level than myself. I think it would be good for the conference to sort of allow people to play across the board. I think it would be very exciting for not only the Big Ten Conference, but for the nation as well. I would think probably one team would be the thing from my perspective. But, again sometimes you're not qualified to speak on things, you're just better off listening.
On dabbling with the 3-4 defense and how it's affected Greg Jones...
We've always had a sense of a 3-4 but it's been in the nickel area. We have moved to that some. We can move him (Jones) around in various places. So you'll probably see a little bit more of that this next year. Obviously, we do those things to try and get our best football players on the field. There are some young guys coming that the possibility of that situation will help them play quicker. Our linebackers seem to be one of the deepest positions on our defensive field and that lends itself to using more of them.
On if going to the 3-4 is a reaction to the spread...
I think some of the adjustments are easier in dealing with the spread. I would think for us it would be more about putting as many players on the field with speed as we can, because it would fit a little bit more of our strength in terms of the number of linebackers we have...We're experimenting with it, how much we do with it depends on how successful we are with it.
On early enrollees and players practicing in the spring straight out of high school...
We have four this year. Max Bullough, a linebacker, Nick Hill, a tailback, Joe Boisture, a quarterback and Le'Veon Bell, a tailback, and all four of those guys are having great springs for us.
I do however think that it has to fit the young man. These individuals come into a major college football program and they're hit with the social issues immediately of being in college. They're hit with the academic issues of competing in college and they're hit with winter workouts and lifting and conditioning and playing at this level immediately. It's a difficult transition. Their teammates and their class that they've been recruited with aren't here as well.
I think it takes a special young man to handle all that and be successful. I would say that that individual has to have a certain amount of maturity. He also has to be disciplined and he has to have a good support system at home to be able to handle that. Difficult, but I think it helps them in the end. It gives them an extra year of school which allows them to graduate earlier and it gives them a head start on the football field as well. There are transition issues as you can imagine because it comes at them fast.
On if he feels if there is extra pressure or high expectations this year...
Well, I think there are always high expectations, but those expectations are placed on us by ourselves. I firmly believe we will play and compete for a Big Ten championship. I do that every year.
I think that every football team we played against last year, we had an opportunity to win. The game was close. Certainly the Penn State got out of hand, and Wisconsin opened it up a little bit. We lost four games at the end of the game last year. I think there is room for improvement there.
What we have to do is make the plays at the end of the game as we move forward. I guess in a perfect world you would like to see us go 6-6 the first year, 7-5 the second and 9-3 the third. But we are building the program and there is a foundation here. We've stacked great recruiting classes on top of each other and that's a positive. We have experience back.
One of the things that you have to recognize is that the quarterback plays such an important role on a football team. When that quarterback does not have game experience at a level of starting eight games or more, it's difficult sometimes and it's a transition. This year, we will have a young man that started eight games or more (Cousins started 12 games last year). We have another young man that we moved to wide receiver that has started a couple games for us. That's a positive for us. Even though Keith Nichol is playing at wide receiver which gives us another dimension, he's doing an outstanding job. That's a positive. In 2008 we had an experienced quarterback and we won at the end of the game, and I think that's what you usually see.