Aug. 3, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - It was a picture perfect day for the Michigan State football team to officially begin the 2013 season.
Amid partly cloudy skies, plenty of sunshine, and temperatures in the mid-70s, the Spartans held their first practice on Saturday, working out for two-and-a-half hours in helmets, jerseys and shorts.
Following practice, seventh-year MSU head coach Mark Dantonio met with the media to give his assessment of the first day and what he wants to accomplish during the first few days of camp.
"It was a typical first shorts practice," said Dantonio. "You watch your guys come out and see how they move, you watch your freshmen to see how they move. There's a lot to grasp for them. It's hard to say who's ahead of the curve there among the freshmen. But there was a lot of retention by our older guys. We were running around fast and good things were happening."
The Spartans usually conduct their first practice in the afternoon following a morning conditioning test, but Dantonio flipped the script in 2013.
"I wanted to `eat the frog,'" remarked Dantonio, referencing a Mark Twain quote. "We got things done first today."
The players, however, might disagree with the classic quote from Twain - "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day" - since the grueling "Bottom Line" conditioning test marks the unofficial end to the summer workout program. But the point was clear - Dantonio wanted his team ready to work, right from the onset of the day. No waiting around.
"I think our guys are in condition, especially our older players," said Dantonio. "I think there's a renewed focus, which occurs everywhere right now. I think the key thing will be how we sustain."
Although the weather was near perfect, the team was split into working both inside the Duffy Daugherty Indoor Building and outside on the grass practice field. But the long term gain is well worth it. The new FieldTurf surface, which was installed this summer, is near completion and should be ready to practice on in a couple of days. In addition, a permanent 50-foot video tower was constructed during the summer between the two practice fields.
"There's no shortage of a conscious effort by our athletic administration to continue to improve us in every way," said Dantonio when asked about the new football facilities. "We came out and talked to Mark Hollis and (said) `hey, we gotta get that turf field down this summer,' and it was done. Same with the (video) tower. Same with the new facility across the street (Spartan Stadium north end zone project). Things are moving in the right direction. It's a great place to be, but it's because of the people."
Following the conditioning test on Saturday afternoon, the Spartans will report for their second practice of preseason camp on Sunday. Dantonio outlined what he wants to see from his team before it puts on the pads for the first time on Wednesday.
"Keep everybody safe, so we have no injuries; retention by our players in terms of what's being taught; technique work in terms of the things that we can do in shorts; and how they're playing, just their physical conditioning," said Dantonio. "I think those are the goals that we have in mind moving forward."
NEWS AND NOTES:
Freshman Delton Williams (6-1, 220) enters preseason camp listed as a running back and linebacker, but Dantonio said that the Erie, Pa., native will first get reps at running back.
"I think we have to find out if he's going to play running back - that's the most immediate need," Dantonio said. "From there, you make an evaluation on special teams, and then linebacker. He's a football player. We want to find out what he can do. When he runs around over there, he's got a twenty-number on (No. 22), he looks a little bit like Le'Veon (Bell) when he runs through there. Now, that's shorts. That's a big statement to make. I'm just saying physically, his physical size looks a little bit like that."
Freshman Michael Geiger, who was rated the No. 1 kicker out of high school by several scouting services, was thrown right into the fire during his first collegiate practice.
"I had (Mike) kick with the ones today," Dantonio said. "He did a nice job. Unless you're going to stick him out there and pressure him, you're never going to know. That's as big of pressure as we can give him, he's standing there and everyone is watching him with the ones."
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