Aug. 4, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Under mostly cloudy skies and temperatures near 90, sixth-year Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio sent his team through a 2-hour and 40-minute workout in helmets, jerseys and shorts on the grass practice fields behind the Duffy Daugherty Football Building on Saturday, Aug. 4, as the Spartans completed their first of 29 scheduled preseason practices.
"Our older guys showed great retention," Dantonio said. "They also came out here and practiced aggressively for more than two-and-a-half hours, and although we practiced in shorts, those older guys really competed. The energy level was good too.
"As for the freshmen, we're just trying to watch and see how quickly they're picking things up. We evaluate how the young receivers run routes and how the defensive backs close on the ball - all of those types of things.
"Since we're not practicing in pads yet, we don't do much team work against each other. Today, we scripted a lot of one-on-one drills and some pass skelly because we certainly don't want to get anyone hurt. We're just trying to get back into the swing of things. We expect the guys to be a little sore, but tomorrow's schedule will be a lot of the same. The tempo picks up when we put shells (shoulder pads) on in another day."
As preseason camp opens, all eyes are focused on the quarterback and wide receiver positions. Fourth-year junior Andrew Maxwell is the heir apparent to replace three-year starter Kirk Cousins (27-12 record in 39 career starts), the winningest quarterback in Spartan history. Michigan State also must replace three wide receivers with starting experience (B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol).
"Overall, we had a pretty good day," Maxwell said. "We had good energy and intensity. The first practice always provides an opportunity to knock the rust off. Offensively, all of the timing has to come back, so we just need a lot of reps. The execution will improve a little with each practice, so we're going to be fine.
"I can only talk about the receivers I worked with today, but Bennie Fowler, Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery all performed well. Their retention was good and they brought a lot of energy to the field. They broke the huddle and lined up with a purpose, so they played fast and they all looked good.
"Bennie has regained the form he displayed two years ago. He really started coming on strong about a month-and-a-half ago, during our summer 7-on-7 workouts. I'm happy for him to be fully healthy and back in the lineup. He's been battling that foot injury for a long time, so it's great to see him running around again and making plays down the field. Bennie will be a key playmaker for our team."
"Bennie Fowler, Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery all looked pretty good," Dantonio said. "It's also obvious that DeAnthony Arnett really benefitted from being here during spring practice. So those are big positives for the passing game, as those four guys figure to play important roles in our offense."
"In terms of what I observed from a far, the freshmen are playing fast, but it's all about timing and route running," Maxwell said. "Their attention to detail will improve each practice. It's going to take some time to get a full grasp of the offense, but they're off to a good start."
The Spartans will practice again in shorts on Sunday, Aug. 5. Michigan State will conduct its annual Media Day on Monday, Aug. 6 followed by its first practice in shells. After one more day in shells, the Spartans will don full pads for the first time on Wednesday, Aug. 8.
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.