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Preseason Football Camp Update
 
 
 
B.J. Cunningham makes a leaping grab at Friday's practice.
 
B.J. Cunningham makes a leaping grab at Friday's practice.
 
 

Aug. 8, 2008

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - Under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-70s, second-year Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio sent his football team through a three-hour workout in full pads on Friday, Aug. 8, as the Spartans completed their fifth preseason practice.

The team is set to begin two-a-day workouts on Saturday, Aug. 9, with a practice in full pads scheduled for 9:15 a.m. and a practice in shells at 5 p.m. Michigan State will conduct its first preseason scrimmage Sunday, Aug. 10 at 3:30 p.m. in Spartan Stadium. Under NCAA legislation, prohibiting consecutive two-a-days, the Spartans will alternate between double sessions and a single workout through Thursday, Aug. 21 before taking a two-day break, Aug. 22-23. All practice sessions are closed to the general public.

Michigan State opens the 2008 season at California on Saturday, Aug. 30, with kickoff set for 8 p.m. EDT/5 p.m. PDT on ABC.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio

Opening statement...
I thought we got a lot done out there today. We went for quite a while. We got the ones and twos reps, but we were able to get our freshmen reps as well. It was a good practice. Our guys are approaching this with a lot of discipline and toughness and we are trying to make it as realistic as possible, with refs and clocks and crowd noise. I was very encouraged with some of the things I saw out there. I like the way Hoyer and Ringer are practicing. Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham are making some nice plays and defensively we looked sharp.

On the excitement of the first day of padded practice...
It's always fun the first day, you get out there and actually have a chance to get out there and tackle. We went live for about 35-40 snaps, so we got a pretty good dose of live work.

On the progression of the freshmen...
There are a couple of freshmen out there that are doing nice things. It is a little early to be able to really judge them. But I see Keshawn Martin making some plays out there, Steve Gardiner as well. The offensive line needs a little bit of way, but Jerel Worley is doing a nice job and Brynden Trawick seems like he's a guy that will figure into playing some. It is a little early; they are just trying to get their feet on the ground, so it's a little early to judge, but they all have skills.

On `playing fast'...
Obviously there are guys that fit into our system really well. They are playing fast and when you play fast you play more aggressive and tougher. I think if they add another dimension, they can carry that to our younger players. I think that there is teaching being done in meeting rooms, on the sidelines and away from the field. I gave Otis (Wiley) a whisper to coach them up a little on a certain thing yesterday. Our older players are really sharing that information.

On coaching speed...
My sense of it is, when you know what to do, you play faster. That is where speed comes into play. You tell a guy to run down the field as fast as he can, that's one thing. If your defender or receiver knows how to do it and knows the little things about a pattern, that is when you see speed become a factor.

Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell

On B.J. Cunningham...
He has come back with a great attitude. He was a young man we redshirted last year, and he was very close to playing last year, and he could have helped us last year, but Devin Thomas obviously stepped up, so that gave us a little breathing room. We had enough guys and enough depth that we didn't need to play B.J. for just a few plays a game, so we were able to redshirt him. He has come out strong. He had a very good winter, good spring, and he has come back hitting the ground running and making some plays out there.

On who will be the next Devin Thomas...
We are always hoping, there is no question about that. We just talked about B.J. Cunningham, he is kind of untapped so we will see how he emerges. We have some true freshmen coming in that are fighting. We have been very excited about Fred Smith and Keshawn Martin, so one of those could emerge, and Mark Dell could just keep getting better and better and become that guy. There are a few guys fighting for that.

On who has stood out to him...
Keshawn Martin has really jumped out at us as a true freshman. He is explosive and he catches the ball tremendously well; he has very soft hands. If you look at his background, he wasn't really a wide receiver coming out of high school, he was an athlete at a lot of positions. Being as raw as he was coming in, we have stepped back a few times and have taken notice of him.

On the offensive line...
The line, you have some veterans back in there, certainly the right side. With Roland (Martin), Jesse Miller and (Joel) Nitchman there in the middle. Those are some solid guys that have have been in the trenches, and as I look at those guys they are bringing the power, and they know what they are doing so you see them playing with that confidence. That stands out, and begins to separate them.

On what can be expected so far...
I think it all starts at the top. We are all disciples of the head coach. We want to see great effort, great toughness, and we want to make sure we coach our players in knowing what to do. If they can bring the energy to the table, then it works both ways for both us and the players, and they have tremendous work habits.

On the size of Fred Smith...
Fred has been a good sized young man all along. What's going to be exciting with him will be is where he ends up. Once he gets a full year under his belt with Ken Mannie, with all the proper nutrition, the weightlifting and conditioning, that kind of remains to be seen. We will be able to use his size wherever he ends up being. Obviously he has good size and strength, so we want to be able to use that to our advantage.

Michigan State secondary coach Harlon Barnett

On the depth in the secondary...
Some of the coaches and I were just talking about the depth and experience that we have returning at cornerback. The good thing about it, they all like each other. At the end of last season we had a little rotation going with the corners and the safeties playing different guys each series. It's a good problem to have.

On Chris L. Rucker...
He's doing really well and having a really good camp. Playing last year really helped him. Unfortunately he had to miss the second half of the season, with the exception of the bowl game, with that injury that he had. But getting that experience really helped him. He has always been a quiet kid, but he's coming out of his shell a little bit because he is comfortable in his surroundings and with the other players and it is starting to show on the field as well.

On the safeties progression...
They are doing pretty well. Brynden (Trawick) in particular is doing real well. That's a big boy; he's going to be a big man. He's athletic, he can run and he's tough. Safeties swim a little bit when they are learning a new system, they are really doing a lot of things that they never did in high school, so the mental part of the game has been tough, but all of them are coming along.

On the corners' offseason conditioning...
Coach Mannie did a great job with them. Now they know what our defense requires. We press up so much with our corners that they run more than most. It is important to have those four new guys to be able to rotate in and out of games. You are running, doing a lot of sprints down field all while running at the ball at the same time. Those guys understand that and they came back in great shape.

On running different schemes...
Things have changed a little bit for us. I was just telling the kids today, we used to run a dime defense with six DB's and we would even run seven DB's out there, we called it quarters at the time. This year it has changed, we won't run more than five out there because we are so skilled at the outside linebacker position. The game has changed a lot to me from that stand point.

Michigan State freshman linebacker Steve Gardiner

On learning the playbook...
We don't have everything in right now, but it's just a lot of stuff surrounding you real fast. You need to make sure to go to your dorm every night and look at it and do your homework, but it's going well so far.

On where he is in the depth-chart...
Right now they have all the freshman playing third team. So, right now I am on third team, but they are starting to put some of the freshmen up with the second team in order to get them some experience with the older guys.

On the adjustment in speed to the college game...
The speed is definitely a lot different. The offensive line is a lot faster, and the backs are obviously a lot faster too.

On the veteran linebackers...
I think I fit in well with them. I have similar qualities that they do, but I also have to learn a lot from them. I think watching them a little bit will make me a lot better.

Michigan State freshman wide receiver Fred Smith

On his body size...
I am a bigger receiver, and I am learning how to use it to my advantage. I am just learning how to use my body to go up and make big catches in traffic.

On experiencing his first hit...
Coming out I was a little nervous, but I was excited also to come out in the first day of pads. Once you get your first hit, it's not that bad. Everyone talks about what it's going to be like to get your first hit, but once you experience it you think to yourself that you can deal with it. It helps to get the nerves knocked out of you a bit.

On coming in as a freshman receiver...
I'm staying focused and just trying to learn the routes. I'm working hard and trying to contribute.

Freshman safety Brynden Trawick

On practicing in pads...
It's always fun to get into pads and practice, make some big plays, make a couple pass break-ups. It's fun, you wait all summer for it.

On adjustments from high school...
Everyone says that from high school to college that the game is faster, and it was. It was fun. The coaches told me that I was playing at a good level and that I should be here.

On learning a new playbook...
I feel like I am making strides and getting the playbook down pretty well. The upperclassmen safeties, guys like Otis (Wiley), they are doing a pretty good job helping me out, pointing out the mistake I am making. They have been a big help so far.

On playing free safety or strong safety...
Right now, I am just switching out, so I don't know which one I am going to be playing. I like to switch out, but I just don't know whether I will be playing free or strong safety. I don't have a preference; either way is fine with me.

Freshman defensive end Tyler Hoover

On his progression in the first week of camp...
I am improving, but I still need to get after it. I really need to work on my technique still to make sure that I can play my best.

On expectations and upperclassmen...
I expect big hitting, a high intensity and a fun experience playing with the defense. Brandon Long and Trevor Anderson have been helping me out a lot. They are always working on technique, always telling me the tips and helping me with my defense. They have helped a lot.

On the adjustment to college football...
It's always been fast. That's just the intensity and spirit of football. It feels good to get out there and play.

On overall excitement about camp...
I feel like I am more comfortable with the defense so I can play it at a faster rate. It is exciting to know that now we are preparing for our first game. It's all about speed, and once you know the technique of the defense and where it is going to go. That helps you know where you need to go and you can make that decision faster.

Red-shirt freshman wide receiver B.J. Cunningham

On his strengths...
Some of my strengths would be catching the ball in traffic and being able to block downfield - that is going to help our running backs out a lot this season. Going into the offseason, one of my main goals was to be able to improve my deep ball a little bit and be able to make plays downfield. That will really help the team out a lot. I need to get more big play ability out of myself.

On the receiving corps and Devin Thomas...
Blair White, Deon Curry, Mark Dell - they're all standing out. We're all one, and we're all doing the same thing and helping each other. We're all trying to be like him (Devin Thomas). He had all the attributes of a great receiver, and we're trying to provide that together to equal one person.

 

 

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