EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State football opened the 2017 season with the Spartans' first preseason camp on Monday at the John and Becky Duffey Practice Fields. With clear skies and temperatures in the mid-80s, the Spartans practiced for two-and-a-half hours in helmets, jerseys and shorts.
Following practice, 11th-year MSU head coach Mark Dantonio addressed the media to talk about the first day and what he saw from the mindset of his team.
MSU returns to the practice field on Tuesday for its second practice of preseason camp.
Michigan State will be hosting Meet the Spartans on Wednesday, August 23. Gates at Spartan Stadium will open at 5 p.m., with autographs starting at 5:30 p.m. and the event concludes at 8 p.m.
The following is a transcript from Monday's post-practice media briefing:
COACH DANTONIO: I thought today's first day of practice was, again the first day of practice always sees everyone come out with their best foot forward, as we always do. A lot of retention as there always is, but it's tough to judge people when you're in shorts and things of that nature, but I thought that we did a lot of things out there and came back healthy. I'll take some questions.
Q. What do you want to get out of Brian Lewerke in camp and his first camp kind of as the guy? What do you want to see from him?
COACH DANTONIO: I think any quarterback's got to take control of the football team. That's what you look for in whoever the starter is, and Brian's the guy right now, and I thought he did a nice job today, but we'll take it with a step by step approach. That's for all those guys.
Q. Can you talk a little bit more about the retention - are you seeing it a little more from the freshmen who got a little indoctrination earlier?
COACH DANTONIO: I thought the game moved a little fast for the freshmen because you're doing a lot of different things. They have a good head start based on what they were able to accomplish this summer, but again, they're out here in shorts, so it's hard to say in shorts and there's a lot of things going on, so until you're able to really evaluate the practice film and see who did what, you sort of have a lot of questions.
Q. There's a lot of people in this program with a lot to prove, do you sense the enthusiasm level is higher maybe because of that factor?
COACH DANTONIO: I think every year we come out here ready to go, very optimistic about the opportunities we have in front of us and that's the game of football. I think our guys have done that every year, I think they did it last year and will continue to do that. I think the key to all of this is to be able to stay constant with what you're trying to do, stay convicted with what you're trying to do and be able to do that day in and day out and get better, and then take that with confidence into games.
Q. Were you more anxious to get out here this year than others?
COACH DANTONIO: Yes, I was ready to get rolling on 2017, I don't think there's any question about that.
Q. Every year, obviously before he passed, you called your old coach, do you talk to your players on the first day about memories and how big this is going to be over a lifetime and not just for a season?
COACH DANTONIO: Yes, I mention that to people, I think the big message this year has been hey, we've got something to prove. We need to come back in here, get ourselves right and do the work. You've got to do the work. There's always going to be resistance to doing the work, resistance whether it's an injury or somebody else trying to prevent you from doing that on the field. So that's the main message right now, but yeah I was sitting up in my office the other day making the practice schedule and remembering way back, so yeah, I do those things.
Q. How do you feel today right now, as opposed to a year ago as this opening day of practice goes?
COACH DANTONIO: Oh, I don't make comparisons like that. Last year I felt great too. It's how you handle problems as you move forward. Every year has some different adversities you've got to go through. There's been years past that we've been able to go through that adversity, but this past year we kind of hit a wall a little bit. We kept playing, but things didn't always work out.
Q. With the run test, did everybody pass the run test or are there still a couple guys that still need to pass?
COACH DANTONIO: I know they're going to call out from the past, but we're coming in a week earlier so we did the run test a little differently, so yes, everyone has passed thus far.
Q. You did it earlier in the offseason?
COACH DANTONIO: They've been 20 or 30 of those things during their summer workouts, and we came back today after giving them a week off and didn't want to stress them today on that. We're doing it piecemeal, but we're working it in.
Q. Is part of that from the longer camp and to prevent burnout?
COACH DANTONIO: From the longer camp, our guys are ready to play football, and they condition pretty much year round, we just don't want any pulled muscles.
Q. When do pads go on?
COACH DANTONIO: Shells go on on Wednesday and Thursday, and then pads come on on Friday.
Q. You said that without pads, it's hard to get a whole of takes from these practices, but was there any one or two guys that stood out to you?
COACH DANTONIO: We pretty much stayed separate as much as we good, we don't want a lot of banging and hitting, but when we did go team, it was `let them run,' - let them disengage and let them run. We only went about seven minutes against each other, just trying to keep everybody healthy.
Q. What's the intangible about Lewerke that you like?
COACH DANTONIO: I think it's that's he's been here and knows our offense, he's in his third year in our system and I think he has a calmness to him and he's a quick learner, and he can create, which is tangible, but I think that intangible is that he can bring that sense of calmness to our football team.
Q. Has there been much change to the routine this year, or is it trying to do the same way, just a little bit better?
COACH DANTONIO: We're always going to try to change some things up as we go, but you know there's so many different ways you can line them up and so many different ways you can practice, so we're always going to have A-B-C periods, and teach periods, and group periods and team periods, pass skelly and inside and those type of things, but we've got to stay separate right now because of the non-pads.
Q. Is there any update on Demetrius Cooper's status? I saw he was out there, is he still on stage two?
COACH DANTONIO: He's stage three. We'll get through camp here and see how he does, but he's done everything he's supposed to thus far.
Q. With Paulino-Bell, was there any surprise seeing him came back and getting on the field this quickly?
COACH DANTONIO: He's lost some weight, so he's got to get out here and there's some things he's got to make up so he's really starting from scratch. He's got to get back to 250 or so, and it's going to take a little bit of time, but there's a big learning curve, so we'll see how he does when he puts pads on, so we'll see.
Q. Will you do your captains or leadership council any different this year?
COACH DANTONIO: No, we'll still take that same approach and let our players pick those 12 guys and then take the captains from there.
Q. From a coaching standpoint, what are some of the strengths that you see in Gerald Holmes?
COACH DANTONIO: I think Gerald as a fifth-year player brings a great deal of leadership to our football team in general. I think he's tough, he's an outstanding special teams player, so you see in him in nearly every phase of the game, he plays offense and is in the mix on being a starter. I think all three of those guys are starting tailbacks with him, LJ Scott and Madre London, they're all good enough to play as a starter. I think one of biggest things is that he's been there, he understands what he needs to do. You know, he's a tough guy, and a tough guy that is very athletic and he's explosive.
Q. What do you want to see from the true freshmen, either the ones that enrolled early or are here for the first time that could maybe put them on the field right away?
COACH DANTONIO: The first thing that have to do is learn how to play with their pads on, which we haven't got to yet, and also they also need to be able to cross those spectrums of learning. You've got to walk through things, and then talk through things, and go through individual and reps, then take it to group and take it to scrimmages, and those type of things. So right now they know a little bit of what they're supposed to do, but they don't know it unconsciously, they can't make these decisions on habit and it's got to become on habit, so they just need reps.
Q. Do you guys as a staff, with such a young team and so few veterans, have to be more teachers now at this point?
COACH DANTONIO: Yes, we've got to be teachers, we always have had to be. We spend the entire day with these guys so they'll get it from A to Z, just over and over.
Q. You always say you sleep well. Was last night a restless night before day one?
COACH DANTONIO: No, I slept fine. I'm ready to go, ready to go.
Q. How's the tight end situation with Matt Sokol? Does he look like he's ready to take that next step?
COACH DANTONIO: I think Matt is an athletic guy and he catches the ball very clean, and I think he's ready to take that next step as one of the premier guys and Noah Davis as well. Matt Dotson and Jack Camper are two young freshmen that athletically, they fit the bill, they can run, they can catch, they're both around 240 pounds and 6-4 or so. All those things are very positive with all of those guys.
Q. It looked like Matt Morrissey had a good spring and offseason, how is he looking?
COACH DANTONIO: Yes, Matt is a fourth year junior for us, he's a strong leader for us. He knows what's expected of him and he knows exactly what to do and he does it with a lot of confidence. He's an explosive guy, he's a good jumper and he's got good range and good ball skills.