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Spartans Conduct First Preseason Practice

The 2011 football season is officially underway as the Spartans held their first practice of 2011 on Sunday.

Aug. 7, 2011

Preseason Camp Central | Video | Podcast | Photos

EAST LANSING, Mich. - For the first time in 20 years, the Michigan State football team hit the practice field on Sunday as defending Big Ten Champions.

The Spartans held their first official practice of the 2011 season under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low-80s. With players in helmets and shorts, fifth-year head coach Mark Dantonio sent his team through a 2 1/2 hour workout on the practice fields outside the Duffy Daugherty Building.

Prior to practice, Dantonio met with the media and talked about his goals for the first day of the season.

Opening statement...
"The first day of practice, as usual, is very exciting I think for everybody to come out here. It's the start of a new season; there's a lot of expectations, a lot of different things going on out here. It's great to see new faces out here. It gives you an idea of what to expect, even though it's just shorts today. We're looking forward to getting back on the field. Our goals are basically to stay healthy during this process of August, not lose our freshmen in terms of the installations, and allow our older players to get their feet up underneath them as they begin to get back in the flow of things.

"I like the way our guys came in, they ran very, very well this morning. They tested very well before they left from a strength standpoint, but I'd say probably about 95 percent of our guys made the run test this morning. It's a difficult run test, so all is good. It's as good as we've done."

On his message to the team during the first practice...
"We always try and focus on one aspect every time that we go to practice - today is about team. It's about doing something together. I think that's the beauty of having a team. We want to try and put the team first, that's the message we always talk about, and then we have an intangible that we focus on every single day. Today is about the team, all coming back for one purpose, for one cause, and moving forward in one direction."

On preseason expectations from the media...
"Really, right now it's about Michigan State. To look beyond that, we're trying not to do that. It's all about who we are and how we come back in shape, how we're going to perform out here today, what kind of carryover is there going to be from the information we were able to give those guys last year. It's all about us; we're going to concentrate on who we are."

On any trouble spots on his team...
"There's always trouble spots, whether it's because of injuries or inexperience. There's always going to be opportunities for other players. Certainly our offensive line has some youth to it, so we'll look at that as we move forward and make some decisions. Fou Fonoti ran very well today as well, so he's a guy that we're looking for to do good things as he comes in and (he'll) have the opportunity to play early. We're going to find out. That's what we're here out at practice for."

On kick returners...
"Keshawn (Martin) and Nick Hill are two guys off the top of my head. Bennie Fowler has some experience doing it as well. Larry Caper's been back there. But I think as important as anything is that off-returner guy, can he get returns? A.J. Jimmerson did that a couple of years ago. Because a lot of times it's his (off-returner's) block that's going to spring people, so that guy is just as important.

"Our punt returner will be Keshawn, but Nick Hill will figure into it as we move forward. We have to see (if Nick can block), but he's certainly an exciting ball carrier."

On Tony Lippett...
"Tony will start at corner, and then we'll move him to the wide receiver position intermittently throughout practices. We think he has to get his feet on the ground at corner. We did that the opposite way last spring, so we're just trying to make sure he gets an opportunity to learn the basics of the defense."

On freshman Lawrence Thomas (6-3, 275) and if he'll remain at linebacker or possibly move to defensive end...
"I think it could go any way. He's a good football player, we've seen that. The biggest thing is getting guys on the field as quick as possible. We'll see how it all shakes out. The first place for him is at linebacker, and we'll see how he does."

On the special teams unit and replacing punter/holder Aaron Bates and long snapper Alex Shackleton...
"Andrew Maxwell can do it (be the holder), he's been doing it. Brad Sonntag is a guy that I thought did a great job in the spring (at holder). We've also used (Kevin) Muma as a holder. Our snapper Steve Moore looked very good in the spring and did an excellent job in the spring game as well. He has the lead at that position. (Mike) Sadler is our punter, and I think (Kyle) Selden will be a great backup. At the kicking position, although (Dan) Conroy had a great season last year and a great spring, I think Muma is very much improved."

On the offensive line heading into camp...
"I think that will come as we get into August here. With the addition of (Blake) Treadwell and Dan France (in the spring), there was an opportunity to move people around a little bit to see where we were at. There's some young players coming along as well (Travis Jackson). (Jared) McGaha has played right tackle before, he's played guard before, he's played left tackle. So we got some pieces to move around. Ethan Ruhland is a guy that's played center and left guard. (Chris) McDonald has floated in and out of guard and tackle. I think that shows there's a good understanding of what they need to do. We just have to settle on the pieces, and that's going to be determined as we move forward."



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