EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State held its annual media day Monday afternoon in the Izzo Family Media Center inside Spartan Stadium.
Below are quotes from the assistant coaches that spoke at media day.
Associate Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator/Secondary Coach Harlon Barnett:
Q. Some of the other guys talk about how the seniors didn't go out how they wanted to, how do you feel about your depth this year?
I feel like it's pretty good. We're young, far from experienced in some cases, but it's a good thing we had that extra week allowing us to help develop our guys and get them ready. They are coming along really well and they are still developing as the depth is concerned, but it's moving in the right direction.
Q. With so many young players, do you know what the strength of your defense can be?
As you look at it, Chris Frey being a senior, and I know Joe Bachie is going to be a sophomore is playing really good for us, and Andrew Dowell is playing for us. You probably will see linebackers are good as far as the strength and experience, but other positions are coming along just fine.
Q. Can you tell already there's a lot changed in the attitude and the chemistry of the team?
You can. It's a different feel. I can't describe it, but it is a different feel out on the field and when we're in meetings and things like that and it's a good feeling. Chemistry seems to be there, comradery, and the guys looking to work together.
Q. Is it different because there are so many young guys? New faces, new energy that kind of thing.
I think it's a combination of new faces, new energy, and some of the guys that have came back that don't want some of the same energy that was around toward the end of last year. So it's a combination I think.
Q. What do you see out of Byron Bullough?
Byron is all work. He's like all the Bulloughs, they are going to give you everything they got. They are going to come to work every day, that's just who they are. Byron is working hard and he's getting better every day and I'm glad he is a part of our team.
Q. Has he taken a leadership role in any kind of scenario with the linebackers?
That is part of the strength of the defense. With Chris Frey, Joe Bachie, Andrew Dowell and he is part of that as well. It's a collective thing, and as far as leadership is concerned, he will speak up and find his niche where that is. He is definitely one of our leaders on the defense.
Q. Coach Dantonio stressed how young the team is, how do you guys as coaches go about combating that inexperience?
First of all, it was good that we were able to get them here in June. A lot of the freshmen were able to come to what we called a mini camp in June for a week and that's the earliest that they have ever been able to come. We got a chance to meet with them a little bit and then they came back in early July. We actually changed up our vacation schedule a little bit while we were here in the month of July for a couple weeks, allow us to be with the guys and meet with them. That allowed us to get them caught up a little bit and so when we started camp everything wasn't all brand new.
Defensive tackles coach Ron Burton:
Q. From Raequan and Mike especially later in the year, have you seen that progress from two young players?
Yes, there is no doubt about that. At the end of the season, we started to build up a lot more sacks and the ability to scramble the quarterback. As we get ready here everyone has a strength and everyone has a weakness. We want the best players to play. We also had a lot of missed sacks and now we need to be able to finish on the quarterback, not only getting to him but finishing on him.
Q. Are people underselling Raequan and Mike?
Not our concern. Our concern is to get the best out of them. I think based on having the experience of last year will dictate that. I think that will be a feeder for them as far as being overlooked. I don't want them to look at those things. I hope they are not concerned about what everybody else is saying. They need to be concerned about what is best for this football team and to improve what they are doing.
Q. What kind of shape did Naquan hit camp with, and is he a guy that Ron Burton in his head is saying I'm expecting him to contribute big this year?
Yes, that's the expectation for him to contribute. He is getting in better shape that's for sure. He's already improved and he's going to have the ability to be on the field. Right now he's building for that time because we are going to use four or five defensive tackles. He has improved upon last spring that's for sure.
Q. What is your biggest concern with your D tackles?
My concern is to keep the best people on the field, that's my concern and that concerns all of us on a daily basis. Who is going to play well consistently that's my concern. What we control is how to be the best on the field and who are my best five guys that I can trust.
Q. Did you come into camp with a five guy depth chart in your mind? Has it changed at all? Has any guy moved up at all and maybe earned a spot in the five that wasn't there before?
We are making progress right now. We haven't gotten to our first scrimmage so let me wait until then. We have five or six guys that we really think could help us up front. Our guys are all moving around, they showing some perfection as far as the ability to get more games and be on the field. There is some running for the position and we want the best guys on the field
Defensive ends/special teams coach Mark Snyder:
Q. What are your expectations for creating things?
There's a whole formula to it that I was talking to the guys about earlier. I have a whole chart. We have to be realistic, if there's not a sack opportunity even though there's a pass I'm not counting that as a sack opportunity. It has to be a sack opportunity and we keep track of it and I've got a percentage that I want from the guys and I'm going to demand it.
Q. What have you seen from Kenny Willekes that could take him from a form walk-on to a potential starter?
Kenny is a tough guy. He's got a motor that doesn't stop and he's trying to lead. He was in a room with me for a year so me and him can talk. He's got a little bit of a jump on the other guys maybe from that standpoint. He's doing everything I've asked him to do and that his team asked him to do. He quantifies what Michigan State defense is about. He's a tough guy that plays really hard.
Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach Mike Tressel:
Q. What's it like to get back with the linebackers everyday?
I love coaching every day. I love to have a group of guys that I feel like I can really put my hands on but that the bottom line is it's great to have four coaches working with those 50 guys. On an individual coaching and meeting day basis, the teacher player ratio isn't as good as it could be, so guys are getting more individual coaching. Defensive ends need to be coached like linebackers in today's world.
Q. Because offenses are changing rapidly, defenses must be changing rapidly too?
We got a couple different things. Some of them involve the fronts. A lot of it has to do with coverages, but the bottom line is that's become the offenses of today and you better have some answers. You can't be so stubborn that you're just going to say `this has always worked for us so that's what we're going to do.' We'll still be known for our effort, toughness, knowledge and speed, but we've had to tweak some things.
Q. How is the sideline to sideline perimeter quickness on defense looking right now?
I think first of all, our linebackers, Joe Bachie can run and Andrew Dowell and Chris Frey they've been out there. The defensive ends are playing really fast right now. Sideline to sideline guys are running and there's no doubt about it. Raequan for an interior guy, he can run. We forget he was just a freshman last year. He's just a sophomore this year, so I feel like sideline to sideline should be a strength of ours.
Wide Receivers Coach Terrence Samuel:
Q. Do you see that with a lot of receivers?
Oh, yeah. You have to block. You have to be efficient at blocking. Trishton (Jackson) is learning that as well, too. He's learning to take angles away from a defender, understanding where the play is going and putting himself in a better position to get blocks. Those things come. When you're a freshman and you're in high school, you just go out there and run into the guy. Right now it's best, it is in his best interest to learn how to take angles away to have an appreciation for that.
Q. Talk about the three receivers, (Darrell) Stewart, (Felton) Davis and Trishton (Jackson), are they the three that are leading the group right now?
Coach Samuel: Well, it's all been open, but Felton (Davis), Trishton, Darrell (Stewart) and Brandon Sowards, they've all done a really good job of leading this group. Those are the leaders I lean on right now. Anytime those guys take over, their personality takes over, and they lead. It's really been good. I don't have to direct as much, I can let them handle it. They can see things and address things so that's been great. That's the icing on the cake when dealing with a group.
Quarterbacks Coach Brad Salem:
Q. How difficult has the process been to (Brian) Lewerke back after his leg injury?
I think initially in the offseason, maybe in January, you're just maybe more cautious and tentative. Once we got into February there really wasn't, it was more us holding back rather than him. He kept saying, `I can go' and we kept saying, `No, don't do this.' We had him stay out of the bounding and doing certain movements but obviously he's had confidence and it really was all spring.
Q. What growth can you see in him (Lewerke) going from last year to this year?
Coach Salem: I think it's the comfort level of getting in the right play and out of the wrong. Maybe just the command of going from signals to calling the play and understanding what formations we do certain things out of. The more you're in it there's more comfort. He can fix things real quick, and you just see that confidence building inside of him.
Co-Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach Jim Bollman:
Q. How different is it for you, having lots of talent in the tight ends group, but lots of inexperience?
Matt Sokol is the one guy that has a lot of experience from being in the program and for so long, this is his fourth year. He's been behind some pretty good guys through the years, but has really stepped his own game up and knows what we need from him and has done a great job improving. Great confidence in all aspects of things, in blocking, in receiving, in all different things. He's a little bit bigger. He's really a strong guy. Noah Davis, being his second year in the program, he was pretty exceptional coming in knowledge-wise. That has carried over and you could see that right away last fall. He was able to pick up some things a little bit faster than most guys. Those two guys have a lot more knowledge for their relative experience shall we say. So that's really good. Those two guys aren't holding us back.
Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Coach Dave Warner:
Q. Matt Dotson is a freshman tight end that could be given a chance to play this fall. What is giving him the chance to compete?
Coach Warner: Athletic ability. He was a stand-up tight end. Basically a receiver in high school. His experience putting his hand in the ground has been limited. His greatest asset right now is route running and catching the football, but he's showing that he's willing to put his hand in the ground and be a blocker. Certainly what he's done in the past and what he's done this camp has been the route running and catching the ball. He can get down the field pretty well.
Q. When you come off of a 3-9 season, people are going to want some changes to be made. What does it mean to you having Coach Dantonio stick with his guys and say, `No, these are my guys.'
I think it's always been his philosophy to have continuity. I think he hopefully looks at the success we've had over the years and understands that last year was a breakdown in a lot of areas. This area, my area, being one of them. We appreciate his loyalty to us as staff members, and we're going to do everything we can to get things going back in the right direction.
Q. With a new quarterback, young wide receivers, what's it like to have all of that flexibility in the backfield?
It's a blessing to have those guys, to have that talent. It's also challenging to find enough football to spread it around. That's a positive but with our running back situation, obviously we feel great about all three of those guys, and whoever the main guy becomes or the second guy, we feel good about all three of those guys getting in there. Handing the ball off a lot, we need to be able to run the football. I think our wide receiver group is very talented as well. We can throw our tight ends in with those guys. So at the same time we need to spread the ball around a little bit and find a way to get the ball in the outside where guys have space to make guys miss and make big plays throwing the ball down the field. Whatever the case is we have some ability there. We have to find, as coaches, we have to find ways to spread it around and get the ball in everybody's hands.
Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach Mark Staten:
Q. What's different from last year on the O-Line?
Coach Staten: Well, you have David Beedle who's playing right guard who was playing left tackle last year so that's really different. Then you have Luke Campbell, a young redshirt freshman, who's, I don't want to say learning as he goes, but is just discovering a lot of things and looking back if we had known that last year would have ended up like last year did with the injuries, then Luke probably would have played some last year and he would have been ahead of the curve there. I think that we're doing a really good job of taking some of the pounding off these guys. I think, knock on wood, we will be able to stay healthier throughout the season. We've been really dedicated as a whole staff to make sure we are conscious of that.
Q. Getting injured can be by chance, but to prevent it does that have to do with better stretching?
Not only stretching but just having your body in the correct position. If you freak out and put your arm back to the right, you've got Kenny Willekes running at 100 miles per hour through your right arm, that thing might get bent back and then you have some labrum issues. I think just attention to detail, focusing on technique, doing it right, has all helped.
Q. With David (Beedle) moving from the left side to the right side, has he been able to adjust pretty smoothly?
David's a very smart football player. That was never the problem. Last year when David had just had a confidence thing. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now. He's using his hands and is a big, powerful guy in the weight room. That really transferred, that power, over to the field and it has really helped him. And he's more of an interior guy anyway. He can still jump back out and help us if need be, but he's really starting to believe in himself and you're seeing it in his play.