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BUY TICKETS

Football Media Day: Defense

Aug. 7, 2018

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State held its annual media day Monday afternoon in the Izzo Family Media Center inside Spartan Stadium.

Below are selected quotes from the defensive players and coaches that spoke at media day.

Junior LB Joe Bachie

On how good this defense can be and putting pressure on themselves…
Yes, it’s always something I look at, if we get better, all around. We have all our guys back with experience like you said, great competition at linebacker, DB’s. We’re going to need someone to step up now that Josiah (Scott) is down for a little bit of time. So, we will see what happens, we got some young guys that can play too, the D-line is looking good, so I’m excited for this year.

On how important chemistry is to this team’s success…
Chemistry is big for any team and when you find it and have it, you know it, so this team’s got it. A lot of the guys love messing with each other, we hang out outside of football and outside the building and that’s when teams become great. With that, we have to keep moving forward with this camp, keep building that chemistry.

On if on defense there is a whole another level they can go up…
Yes, definitely. A lot of young guys last year, you know for some of us it was our first time starting, so we got a year under our belt. There’s definitely another level we can take it to. We want to be dominate, we want to have those games. Going back to Ohio State, we don’t want to have that type of game and collapse like that, the Northwestern game, we can’t have that. So those are the things that we look at, what we can do to get better, little things. That’s what we’re trying to correct right now because everybody is back out there, we’re pretty healthy right now, you know knock on wood wherever it’s at, but it’s a fun time right now in the camp and we’re trying to up our game.

 

 

On what has to happen to get to that level…
Everybody knows what they need to do. Every day you go out to practice you got to have things on your mind that you want to get better at that day. Whether it’s the D-line, your first step or a linebacker knowing where your hands got to be, a DB, your reads. So, it changes by position, but everybody knows what they have to do. So that’s why the leadership on this team is great as well, because that’s kind of how we patrol things

Senior LB Byron Bullough

On the family tradition...
I have two older brothers who have already played here, one younger sister, my dad played here, my grandpa played here, two uncles and that is about it. It is a lot. It is a family tradition.

On pressure from the tradition...
I don’t really think about it like that. I just try to my very best and what I am capable of.

On a lot of returning players...
We have leaders coming back, playmakers coming back. The sky’s the limit for this team, and we are just trying to get the season rolling.

On the linebacker core...
We have depth and starters coming back. We are really a close knit group. We like to have fun when we get out there, but we have depth so we will have a lot of guys playing this year.

On Dantonio and camp...
This is my fifth camp believe it or not. We stick to the status quo. We have won around here; we know what we need to do and every camp we pretty much do the same thing but have different vibes from the different teams. We plan on winning more and this camp just starts it.

Senior LB Andrew Dowell

On playing with his brothers...
It’s special. Playing with David at the same University has been special, but now for our little brother to be here...my Dad has had that dream and emotion for a long time now since little league. To see it all come together has been beautiful.

On Raequan Williams...
Rae is a great player. As Coach D always says, each position room needs to have a bell cow in that room. He’s the bell cow in the defensive tackle room. Guys really follow him, and he’s a great leader. As a person he’s funny, just a great guy to have as a teammate.

On the mentality of the team after following up a tough 2016 season with a better season in 2017...
We still have that chip on our shoulder. It’s always there. As a defense, we know there’s things we can improve on; the offense knows they have things they can improve on. That’s the mindset we’re taking into each practice each day. We try to block out the outside noise and things to better ourselves as a team and take it to where we need to be.

Junior S David Dowell

On what he’s working on in practice...
For me the biggest thing I need to improve on from last year is playing with better leverage. I’m making sure I’m coming down and tackling with the right leverage and driving my feet through the tackle. Really some of the little things I can clean up from last season and bring them into this season.

On looking forward to anything this season...
For me, I just need to take everything one game at a time. Right now I’m just focused on tomorrow and getting better. You know, like Coach D always says, “Get 3% better today.” That’s the mindset I have right now.

On playing with his brothers...
Coach D always prides himself on the atmosphere we have around here, so just to have that with my brothers is something special. Having three of us now as opposed to two like it was before is really unique to college football. I’m excited to have my younger brother in camp and see how he progresses.

Senior S Matt Morrissey

On how this Michigan State team looks…
I just think we got a lot of guys back with experience. The last couple years we haven’t had as many veterans on the team, so I think just being a smart group, always have the Michigan State toughness as always, and you know just bringing it every game. We’re going to start with the first one and we just have to get through camp. Everyone hopefully stays healthy and gets after it.

On preparation for the season…
I mean, it’s tough you know. We always watch a lot of film, in the summer even, on a couple different teams. Obviously, we looked a lot at Utah State in the summer, but really just honing in on our craft and trying to get better each day is all you can ask for.

On the veteran leadership of this team…
Yeah, I mean just being here, personally being here for five years, I got the defense down by now and you know it’s just been fun to have the young guys come in and you can really teach them experiences you’ve had in the past that maybe you’ve made mistakes and you hope to tell them not to make the same ones. It’s just nice having a lot of guys that have been here and that I’ve been with for five years. It’s just awesome to have veterans around you.

Senior S Khari Willis

On his role as a captain on the backline…
As a leader, your job is to communicate whatever the coaches tell you as a defense and to make sure that those things come to life in a situation, because sometimes you get the plan and you know you have to look at the down and distance and formation and all those things. I think with myself in the back end we have guys with experience, like David (Dowell) and (Justin) Layne and even Josh (Butler). We all got experience, so we’ve got pretty good chemistry and then we have a leader like Joe (Bachie) up front making it all happen and guys you can trust like Raequan (Williams), Mike Panasiuk, Kenny Willekes, it makes your job a heck of a lot easier.

On Michigan State having good team chemistry…
I still feel like this is the closest team I’ve ever been a part of and like I said, AAU teams included, mini league, many basketball teams, and I feel like we’ve been coming closer as a team even through camp, even though most of the time we’re offense vs. defense. It’s the relationships that we’ve built. Our senior speeches at the end of the year, they’ve all been authentic, they’ve all been real and we can relate. So I think we’re headed in the right direction as far as getting closer. Obviously whenever you’re playing football and you’re going through something challenging, that’s going to bring you even closer. I think as far as our chemistry goes I think it’s just going to keep building and as long as everybody’s open and accept one another and understand where we’ve got to get to, I don’t think we’ll have a problem getting there.

On the feedback from his Big Ten media day keynote speech…
I got a lot of texts and I got a lot of calls. I feel like a lot of people were moved and that was my goal. A lot of teachers that I haven’t heard from in years, coaches, young coaches, older coaches, family members, friends, it was just great feedback. I’m glad it was received the way I was intending for it to be and that people were moved and I hope that it continues.

Junior DE Kenny Willekes

On being without Josiah Scott and who steps up…
We obviously have depth in every position, bringing so many people back. Josh Butler is a guy that can play there. We have confidence in Josh Butler. Kalon Gervin, a true freshman, he’s looked good throughout the spring, and Shakur Brown, he’s balling out there. You know we have guys who can step up, someone goes down, and I have confidence in Josiah that he will take his rehab seriously, and he’ll be back with us real shortly.

On his personal goals this season…
I have two things really, my first one is I have to improve my pass rush. It’s been my biggest focus all off season, it’s been my biggest focus through the spring, through the fall, my number one goal. So being a dominate and elite pass rusher is something that I want to focus on, and then being a leader. Bring the other guys with me and trying to find another guy in the room that can step up and play across from me. Having 3-4 D-ends, so that when I do leave, when I do graduate, there will be plenty of depth coming behind me.

On how he can improve…
Coach (Chuck) Bullough helps me. The biggest thing Coach Bullough is emphasizing for me right now is my foot work, so my initial steps and then the pass rush, pass rush every day.

On what the identity of this team is…
I feel like we are just hard working, hard-working dogs. We’re going to come out every play and we’re going to get after you, we’re going to bring it, we’re going to bring the pads, were going to play violent, we’re going to out-work out, out tough you, every down, every play.

Assistant Coaches:

Secondary coach Paul Haynes

On the new redshirt freshman rule...
The thing about it is a lot of time, again in the secondary, we have the ability to play four, five, six of those guys so we can move them around at corner and safety and do a lot of things. I think it is an advantage for them to be here early just to get a jump on the system. We spend more time with the freshman teaching them signals and terminology than we do anything else. They are talented enough to go out there and play but it is the terminology and the signals.

On Khari Willis’ leadership...
Yeah, and I think all of those guys. You look at David Dowell, Josh Butler and Justin Layne, all of those guys. They have done an awesome job when they are not in and our young guys are out there. They are coaching those guys up. It is easier for me to sit back there and know that. They are not there joking around; they are over there coaching those guys.

On young guys motivating the veterans...
Depth and competition is the best. Those guys know that we have done a good job at recruiting and recruiting athletic guys. You slip up, you may not get back out there.

Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach Mike Tressel

On the emergence of Kenny Willekes...
He’s definitely a great discovery. Anytime you have someone that comes in as a walk-on and produces like he has still early in his career, that’s fantastic. But one thing Coach Dantonio has always done is try to find guys that fit us in terms of motor and their passion for the game of football. And if you find those guys, out of sheer will they pan out.

On potential in a walk-on...
You realize pretty quickly that they have a chance. I mean real quick. You can tell, okay, this guy really has a chance if he develops. It’s how fast can they put on the weight, how fast can they get strong enough and powerful enough. With Kenny, you could tell he can make plays. It was if he’s disciplined enough to do the things he needs to do when he’s not the one making the play. Can he get his feet squared up when he’s engaging contact instead of making the tackle. Some of those fundamental things you have to wait and see.

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