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Spartans Officially Begin Preseason Practice
 
 
 
Coach Dantonio and the Spartans officially opened the season Saturday afternoon with the team's first practice of 2012.
 
Coach Dantonio and the Spartans officially opened the season Saturday afternoon with the team's first practice of 2012.
 
 

Aug. 4, 2012

Practice Report | Preseason Camp Blog | Photo Gallery

EAST LANSING, Mich. - As head coach Mark Dantonio walked through the Duffy Daugherty Indoor Building and out to the practice fields for Michigan State's first official practice of 2012 on Saturday afternoon, he did so with a name tag across his chest.

"We all start over, so everybody has a name tag - every coach, every manager, and every player has got one on his helmet," said the sixth-year Spartan head coach of the preseason camp tradition. "It's important that we all just reassert ourselves and understand that we're all starting over. So it's just a little mental thing we do every year."

One might think Dantonio and his staff would be exempt from wearing name tags after leading Michigan State to back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history. But for the program, there's more to accomplish, and it all starts on day one.

"The single most important area to me is always getting back up," Dantonio said. "Refocusing who we are and trying to move forward, regardless of how many games we won last year, or didn't win. It's that presence of mind that you have to go to take the next step."

In a 10-minute media briefing prior to practice, Dantonio touched on several topics, including the young players at wide receiver, which players are emerging as leaders, and what the goals are for the first few practices before putting on full pads.

Dantonio also gave updates regarding the 105-man preseason roster released Saturday, which did not include seniors Arthur Ray Jr. and Corey Freeman.

Ray, a cancer survivor who returned to football during spring practice in 2011 for the first time in four years, lettered last season after playing in three games and also participated in spring drills this season. He was named the winner of the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl/Football Writers Association of America Courage Award.

"Arthur right now is not in the 105," Dantonio said. "That's a conversation that's relatively private between he and I. He will be in school. He will play football again. So we'll see.

"Well you never say never (on Arthur returning to the 105-man roster)...At this point in time, this is the decision that both of us have made."

Freeman, a two-year letterwinner at defensive end, is still recovering from knee surgery. Freeman suffered the injury in spring practice and missed the Green-White Game on April 28.

"(Corey's) able to do some things, but not all things," remarked Dantonio. "We can't put him in a contact situation right now. He'll have to rehab it and see where it comes. Hopefully he can come a ways. That's a decision that's going to be made at a later time, not now."

Below are excerpts from Dantonio's briefing on Saturday:

Opening statement...
"It's great to be out here again today. Every year you have guys coming into a college program, you have young freshman, new guys taking the next step, so it's exciting. It's a chance for a new beginning for a lot of football teams; we're just one of those with a new beginning. It all starts over. It doesn't really matter what we've done, we have to concentrate on the task at hand and that's practice No. 1, and we'll try and move from here."

On what he wants to accomplish on day one...
"Day number one is just a little bit of retention from our older players; for our young players, to see how they move. It's our first time really seeing them out here relative to our other players, so that's exciting and we'll look at that. I'm sure there's going to be some things in practice that we're going to say, `hey, we need to do this differently' in terms of the format or just the structure of practice, so we'll just re-evaluate and constantly trying to get back up to speed. But our guys came in in shape. They ran this morning at 6:30 and they looked very good. So we'll take the next step."

On the morning conditioning test...
"We're never 100 percent (on players passing the conditioning test). You got some guys out there at 315 pounds, 320, and it's difficult to run and make the whole test. But for the most part usually we're in the 90 percentile, which is good and were we've always pretty much been. We've held a couple of guys back a little bit because of a hamstring or whatever, so there's those things as well. I would say 90-plus players made the 20-interval test."

On injury rehabs from the spring and summer and if they're going good...
"Yeah, from what we've seen. Corey Freeman is the one guy that really hasn't been able to make the turn. So here's not here right now. We're going to see how he transitions for the rest of August before we bring him in, really that triggers his scholarship. So we're in that mode with him where is he able to continue to play football or is he not? So we'll figure that out as he makes his way through August here. But he'll have to do that outside the framework of this. We want him here though."

On incoming freshman Aaron Burbridge, who is in preseason camp but did not participate in summer conditioning on campus...
"Obviously he's not going to be in the shape that some of these other guys are in, although he ran pretty well this morning. But you're just looking at him relative to the other guys. We're looking for athletic ability and the ability to catch the football, and he's been doing a lot of that down in Farmington."

On if the first week is critical in establishing leaders for the team...
"It's a transitional type of thing. We have 29 practices before Boise (State). We have four games before we go into the Big Ten season. During that process, I think our guys are going to show who are the leaders. So that's difficult to say when that time comes. Usually leaders are formed in tough times. That's when you see them emerge. So we'll wait for those tough times to see who emerges. We'll try and create some of those, but certainly you can't create them all. Somebody will rise to the occasion. We have a good nucleus of seniors and really a good group of juniors, probably 20-plus juniors. A lot of those guys are ready to assume that leadership responsibility."

On whether Max Bullough, Andrew Maxwell and Chris Norman are among that group of leaders...
"Yeah, they're a pretty good example. We choose what we call our Eagle Council now...we choose that council about five or six times a year. So it's pretty indicative of exactly who is leading on our football team. Those are three guys that have demonstrated that they can lead."

On if he could feel the energy pick up in the football building today...
"I feel that (energy). But it's too early to tell. Everyone's excited on the first day. Things will start to move a little bit slower after day five. We'll see how we come. But we have a good nucleus of players here, we have good skill, we have some big guys that can move, so we're looking forward to great things. But with that being said, we have to understand that injuries play a part in this, how you reflect each day, and how you get better in certain areas, so we'll continue to try and put our emphasis there."

On using preseason predictions as motivation...
"I really don't. We put it up there for people to see, but a couple of years ago, we went 11-1 (in the regular season), and no one picked us at all. I think in 2009, we were picked maybe third in the conference, and we didn't do so well. So I think those predictions are for people who don't play the game right now and who don't see us up front and personal. The people that can make the predictions are these people out here. I say all the time to our guys, the only thing that's important to me is what we think about in this room, and what's being said in this room with 105 players and how we feel about each other. We can build on those things."

On making sure the defense stays focused in preseason camp...
"We've got talent waiting in the wings to play and they're going to provide some immediate competition. Otherwise, you need to be self starters. You got to create that situation in your own mind and we want our guys to be self starters. We want everyone here to overachieve. The only way you can overachieve is by going past where you were before, so we'll work on that."

On the receivers and if anyone has emerged...
"We're going to find that out. We've got a bunch of young guys. It starts today to try and figure that one out. That's a good question."

On the first few days of practice not in pads...
"It's a teaching time, but it's a little bit more of an up-tempo type thing...You can still make a play on the ball and things of that nature. You still see skill. But the big guys, we have to keep them separated a little bit. It still is a teaching moment, but I think it's necessary to acclimate our players in terms of getting to that point where they're using to carrying their helmet again a little bit, and carrying their pads, so it's structured, and I think it's good structure that we have."

On if more true freshman will play than last year...
"Probably. At wide receiver, we're going to have younger players. Are they red-shirt freshman, are they true freshman, are they sophomores, I'm not quite sure, but we're just young overall at that position. We lost some older players, but we've got good talent at that position. It will be interesting. "We're going to make sure everyone gets some reps and make sure that our guys are moving in there so everyone can get an honest evaluation. No different that we usually do."

On Andrew Maxwell and working with the wide receivers...
"I think he's very comfortable. It will be the young players to get them up to speed, the guys who haven't been here...Guys that have been here two and three years, like Tony Lippett, (Keith) Mumphery and Bennie Fowler, those three guys, they've got definite rhythm.

On Steve Moore's injury situation (Moore sustained a season-ending neck injury in July) and the long snappers...
"I talked Steve this week, a couple of days ago. Tough situation for Steve. But he's walking, he's coming around. He's probably able to get back over here in a week or so. That will be promising for him. Our hearts go out to him and our prayers stay with him. The glass is half full and he'll make a full recovery. That's the thing that we need to recognize.

"In regards to our snappers, we've got Taybor Pepper. He was brought here to be the guy. He was going to have to compete with Steve, but we've never taken a guy (at long snapper) and put him on a scholarship at once. So that ought to tell you how we feel about him. We brought another guy (Leland Ewing) into camp to compete with him a little bit, so it will be interesting to watch him (Pepper) today because he'll be able to snap a little bit and show us what he's got."

 

 

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