Big Ten Football Kickoff Coverage: Day 1
July 24, 2013
CHICAGO - The annual Big Ten Football Kickoff began Wednesday at the Hilton Chicago. Seventh-year head coach Mark Dantonio, senior linebacker Max Bullough, senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard, and senior offensive guard Blake Treadwell took part in several interviews throughout the first day of the event, which is being covered by more than 500 media members.
Bullough, Dennard and Treadwell began the day meeting with television crews from ESPN, CBS, Fox and BTN for one-on-one interviews. During the player interviews, Dantonio held a 15-minute press conference to preview the upcoming season before opening the floor to questions. The press conference was covered live by BTN and ESPNU.
Among various topics, Dantonio talked about his excitement for the upcoming season, the team's depth at quarterback, and the experience returning to the team in 2013 on offense and defense.
Following Dantonio's formal press conference, he met up with the three players and proceeded for one-on-one podium interviews. Dantonio completed his day by also meeting with BTN, CBS, ESPN, Fox and SiriusXM.
Bullough, Dennard and Treadwell also took part in photo shoots with BTN and ESPN.
Day two of the kickoff continues Thursday morning with roundtable interviews with newspaper reporters, followed by an hour-long autograph session with fans. The event concludes with the 42nd annual Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon at 12:30 p.m. ET.
A complete transcript of Dantonio's press conference is below:
COACH DANTONIO: Great to be here again. This is our seventh year here as a staff. I always consider our staff as one. But 2012 was the year I think of the inches that we didn't come up with and the year sort of resolved. We're excited about 2013 coming, and look forward to it. We sort of feel like our football team has a little bit of an edge to them right now. We've got a lot of experience back. We brought Blake Treadwell with us, really a four-year starter for us, offensive guard for us. We brought Max Bullough and Darqueze Dennard with us, so they'll be exciting to talk with as well.
Six straight bowl games for us. The last two we were able to win. There is a feeling, I think, among our football team of a foundation has been laid but we're still chasing a dream right now. So as we move forward, we're looking forward to our first football game against Western (Michigan), and I'll take some questions at this time.
Q. Mark, could you talk about James Kittredge and his weight gain and recovering Brandon Clemons and then Jack Conklin coming out of the spring. Several defensive players said they thought he was the number one offensive tackle, and he's third on the charts.
COACH DANTONIO: Beginning with Brandon Clemons, healthy to go, ready to go. James Kittredge, I don't really want to talk too much about our injuries as such, but he'll be set to go. He'll be coming to camp lingering a little bit, but he'll be fine, get his weight back as we move forward. But Conklin, I think Jack is an outstanding young player for us. He's a young man that we actually brought in last year as a recruited walk-on and put on scholarship in January. And he's 220 pounds, 6-6, runs it very well. That's what really attracted us to him. He has probably put on about 30 pounds or so since he's been there, good solid weight, and I think he's going to have a tremendous career at Michigan State. How he plays this year is going to be dependent on a lot of people because we've got a lot of experience back at that position, offensive line in general, and so the competition should be stiff.
Q. It's been publicized that (Connor) Cook recently has been working with a quarterback guru. Could you talk about that and how the quarterback battle will play out in fall camp.
COACH DANTONIO: Our quarterback position, first of all, is much stronger than it was last year. Last year we really had a couple of young players. We had a true freshman coming in, Tyler O'Connor, redshirt freshman. He's had a lot of reps in spring. We had Connor Cook coming in at that particular time with one year under his belt. Now he has experience. We had Andrew Maxwell as our starter, but he had limited experience. Now he has 13 games of starting experience. Damion Terry comes in as a true freshman. Outstanding athlete and big body, (220)-pound guy. And a lot of these guys, they all go about 220 and about 6-3. What they do collectively in August will really determine as we move forward.
Right now Andrew is our number one quarterback. He's got a great deal of experience and a lot of confidence right now. With that said, Connor Cook has played as everybody knows, and I think that's a big positive for us. As far as Connor working out, I think the question was as far as he's working out with some people this summer, he took a week and went out and did some things, much like a lot of our players have done in the past, spending a week with a specific quarterback coach or group of punters or those type of things. So he's excited about where he's at as well and his confidence is very high. So we're looking forward to the competition.
Q. Over the past few years in the recruiting trail, you've gone into the state of Wisconsin a little more. Could you talk about why Wisconsin, considering the rest of the Big Ten footprint and a lot more players in Ohio and Michigan and everything like that?
COACH DANTONIO: Wisconsin is relatively close to Michigan when you look at it on a map. I know the Great Lakes are right there. But Brad Salem, our recruiting coordinator, the coach that recruits up there, has done an outstanding job. He's got ties up there. Good football. We think we found a little bit of a niche. Trae Waynes will be an outstanding player for us, probably a four-year starter or three-year starter these next three years. Tremendous athlete. And we've won some on some players up there. We've got some other guys, like Mark Scarpinato, R.J. Shelton is a guy who has come down. So we've got some guys that I think are going to make a mark on our football team and we're going to continue recruiting the Midwest as a level-one recruiting area for us that's relatively close for us, and if you take the ferry you're 60 miles away, so we're good to go.
Q. Why did you decide to bring Jim Bollman onto your staff? What does he bring do you think to the table? Number two, as you look forward into the future, how much of your scheduling is going to be sort of predicated on trying to be in the mix for the Final Four, so to speak, as the playoff situation changes?
COACH DANTONIO: With Coach Bollman this is the fourth time he's been on a staff where I've been: Youngstown State for five years; at Michigan State, when I first went there the first time around with Nick Saban; down to Ohio State with Coach Tressel; and now back up here. So he brings a tremendous feeling of security, I guess, in terms of knowing him as a person, knowing his credibility and his character, first of all, and then also knowing what he knows as a football coach. He's been an offensive coordinator at the highest level. He's coached tight ends in the NFL. I think he's a guy that brings new ideas and a new dimension. We needed a guy to offset with Coach (Dan) Roushar leaving, leaving as an offensive line, tight end guy. We wanted to bring the same type of position coach in, and all of those things, and then just the credibility really as a person I think is so important. So been like a brother to me throughout my coaching career. And I trust him explicitly to do the very best he can and I trust him with players in terms of how he treats players and what he gets out of the players. So a lot of experience there.
As far as our scheduling I don't think there's any question that as the years progress things are going to start to get more and more complicated, I guess, in the scheme of things as far as the college football playoffs and all the different things that are going on in college football right now.
As far as scheduling, I think we'll play nine (conference) games. We'll always have a big opponent out of conference to play versus our schedule is going to be strong. And it will always be our hope to chase the dream as I said, to go to the Rose Bowl, to become a champion at the highest level, to get into the championship format. And while we were close last year, we lost some games to some great football teams by very narrow margins. The two previous years, though, if you look at those two years, we're right where we needed to be to be in a format like that to be able to be realistically playing in a game in a championship venue.
Q. Have you finalized how you'll use Jairus Jones and his talents?
COACH DANTONIO: Jairus is a guy that can play outside backer for us. He had a great spring. If you look and you always point, I think, to your football team you ask yourself who is the guy that's really popped out and really had an impressive spring, I think Jairus Jones is one of those guys, especially on defense, weighing (213) pounds or so. He's got the ability to go back and play safety. He's got a lot of experience back there, both safety positions. He can play what I call the star position, the outside backer, a will linebacker, and he's made a lot of plays for us. So he sort of figures right in there with Taiwan Jones playing that other linebacker position. We'll see how it shapes out in August. But as I said earlier, we have competition on this football team. We've got a lot of guys back with experience, too many to talk about really. The defensive side of the ball is loaded with seven starters, back with a lot of players ready to make their mark.
Our offensive side of the ball, a lot of players back, a lot of experience back at wide receiver. We don't lose a quarterback really. We don't lose a wide receiver. We did lose a running back and outstanding tight end. But everybody's losing somebody. So we've gotta just pick up the pieces there and get after it, with those guys playing.
Q. I see Skyler Burkland is number two in the depth chart at right tackle. How is he? Is he going to stick it out? And is he the reason France has moved back to left tackle and Fou to right tackle?
COACH DANTONIO: Right now Skyler is a guy a little up in the air. We'll talk about him probably next week, see how all this falls out. He's been a guy who has been a starter for us, but he's battled some injuries.
Q. Does this year have a slogan or mantra like P4RB, Prepare for Rose Bowl, and what would that be?
COACH DANTONIO: This year's mantra? Chase it.
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