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Preseason Camp Update: Spartans Practice in Full Pads for First Time

Coach Dantonio has been impressed so far with the play of freshman safety Demetrious Cox.

Aug. 8, 2012

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - After five days of buildup, the Michigan State football team finally practiced in full pads for the first time this season on Wednesday afternoon.

In some respects, this day feels like when preseason camp truly begins.

"Guys made plays on both sides of the ball I thought," said Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio after sending his team through a two-and-a-half hour workout on the grass practice fields behind the Duffy Daugherty Building. "Guys looked crisp; there was a lot of hitting out there and they were very active. We'll look at things on the film and move forward and try and get better. It's important we begin to carry our pads again and be able to be active out on the football field."

Putting on the full gear and going live for the first time is one of the most anticipated days of the year for the players after months of summer conditioning. Not that it's easy. But it's why they play the game.

Just ask red-shirt freshmen defensive ends Shilique Calhoun and Joel Heath.

"It was rough and tough in the trenches," said Calhoun. "We all got beat up - but it was a good day though."

"It's competitive," said Heath. "People are flying around and it's exciting. Basically, we've been training and running drills every day. We're finally to be able to get out here in pads and hit each other."

For the true freshmen, their week-long crash course on Spartan football intensified to even greater heights.

But the one theme Dantonio reiterated time and time again in his media briefing was that it was almost too soon in preseason practice to be making predictions on playing time and which newcomers could see action, especially at wide receiver.

"We're in day five," said Dantonio. "It's too early to make those assumptions. As long as they continue to progress, we'll continue to allow that to happen. We'll scrimmage twice before we decide who's going to be where in terms of depth chart. Those guys have a lot of ability, we'll just see how far they can raise the bar.

"I think all of our guys catch the ball very, very well. It's basically who's going to be able to step up there and learn what they have to do the fastest. I think Macgarrett Kings has shown some things; he's exciting to watch after catching the football. Tres Barksdale has made some very good plays down the field. Also, (Monty) Madaris has been solid. We've seen Kyle Kerrick and DeAnthony (Arnett) in the spring, and they're picking up...I think they're going to play a lot of football here. But they're young, so they're still learning how to get lined up in the huddle, let alone sometimes on the field in the various formations that we have.

"Everybody's in the mix right now. People have to separate themselves; we've got a lot of new guys."

Freshman quarterback Tyler O'Connor

Defensively, Dantonio cited safety Demetrious Cox as one of the freshman who has stood out during the first week of camp.

"Just the way he focuses in on things, and really his level of play in terms of adjustments in talking and moving," Dantonio said on what has impressed him about Cox. "He just seems to understand conceptually what we're doing a little bit more back there, not more than any of our other guys, but as a normal freshman. I think that's a big positive.

"He's definitely a player. If you're looking at guys who may play early, he's one of them I would expect."

"It's definitely fun, just coming in and being with some of the guys that I watched on TV last year is great," said Cox, a native of Jeannette, Pa. "I'm just soaking it up as much as I can."

The biggest difference for the freshman from high school came down to one word: speed. It was mentioned often among the new players after practice on Wednesday.

"The speed and size when you get to this level is just different from high school," said quarterback Tyler O'Connor. "It's two steps quicker. Your rates and your progressions have to be faster, and you can't stare the receiver down with your eyes, things like that."

"It's more reacting," Cox said. "You can't be out there thinking too much, you have to go make plays."

"That's what it is - the speed," commented wide receiver Monty Madaris. "It's a big change. You have to think quicker, move faster, be in different places at different times."

Although Dantonio and his staff are excited to work with the new players - he labeled this a "great recruiting class" again on Wednesday - they also understand their limitations.

"A lot of terminology is being thrown at these guys for the first five days of practice - it probably feels like they've been here a month," said Dantonio.

But in reality, it's been less than a week. And two-a-days start on Thursday.



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