Aug. 3, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Sixth-year Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio welcomed 105 members of the 2012 team back to campus for physicals, compliance and drug education meetings, and a media workshop on Friday, Aug. 3, as the Spartans opened preseason football camp. The first preseason practice is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 4 at 3 p.m.
"There's always an air of excitement when players report for preseason camp," Dantonio said. "It doesn't matter if it's your senior season or your freshman year; the players are anxious to hit the practice field.
"Our team chemistry has been special the last two years, and we expect that will continue. There's a good blend of youth and experience on this football team. We have a relatively small senior class and a very large junior class, so combined those classes will provide most of the leadership for this team."
"I'm happy the reporting date is finally here," junior running back Le'Veon Bell said. "It's been a long off-season, and we're ready to get back to work.
"This is a relatively young team, so I know I have to take on a greater leadership role. I'm not afraid to become a more vocal leader, but I also want to lead by example and focus on doing everything exactly right. And when the defense takes the field, I have to help motivate those guys to play at their highest level."
Following a 6 a.m. wake-up call Saturday, the players will report to the indoor facility at the Duffy Daugherty Football Building for a series of running tests.
Over the next five days, the Spartans will practice in shorts for two days and shells for two more days before donning full pads for the first time on Wednesday, Aug. 8.
"Physically, our guys look good, but it's always exciting to check the results of the Bottom Line test," Dantonio said. "It's a demanding exercise, so it's a great measuring stick to see where the players are from a conditioning standpoint.
"Over the next four days, it's important for the players to get their feet back underneath them. Our veteran players haven't participated in an organized workout for three months, so we need to evaluate their retention of material as well as get them reconditioned to playing the game. We'll begin the installation of our base offense and defense, so we'll have a chance to see how quickly our freshmen pick things up as well as how well they move around. We'll maintain a reasonable installation pace to guard against information overload. We're really just looking for a starting point."
In 2011, Dantonio had the luxury of red-shirting nearly the entire class of incoming freshmen, as only two first-year players earned letters.
"We're very impressed with our group of red-shirt freshmen, especially on the defensive side of the ball," Dantonio said. "We expect that group to take a big step forward this season, so you're going to see a number of those guys work their way into the (two-deep) lineup."
Given the inexperience at wide receiver and in the secondary, Dantonio does expect more true freshmen to work their way into the playing rotation this season.
"We're an experienced football team (48 lettermen return, including 16 starters), so it's tough to say how many true freshmen will have an impact," Dantonio said. "We do have a greater number of skill players in this freshman class, and skill players are definitely going to find their way into the playing rotation faster than offensive and defensive linemen. At the back end (secondary) and wide receiver, we do expect to see those guys make a push for playing time."
Gone is three-year starter Kirk Cousins, the winningest quarterback in Spartan history. Cousins compiled a 27-12 record (.692) in 39 career starts, including a 22-5 mark over his final two seasons. His understudy the last two seasons, fourth-year junior Andrew Maxwell, is ready to assume the reigns.
"I'm very anxious to watch Andrew Maxwell as a leader and our starting quarterback," Dantonio said. "His patience will be rewarded, as he's waited for this opportunity to take control of our offense. He's a gifted athlete, with great leadership skills. We believe Andrew will do an outstanding job in his new capacity."
Michigan State, ranked No. 13 in the Preseason USA TODAY Coaches' Poll, opens the 2012 season and home schedule against No. 22 Boise State on Friday, Aug. 31, with kickoff set for 8 p.m. on ESPN.