Aug. 11, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - It sounded a little bit more like football Thursday afternoon on the grass fields outside of the Duffy Daugherty Building as the Michigan State football team practiced in full pads for the first time this preseason.
"I thought we did a nice job out there hitting," said head coach Mark Dantonio, who sent his team through the fifth practice of preseason camp. "(It was a) physical practice, a lot of live work. Guys played hard out there and there were some good things. Obviously we have to watch film to evaluate everything, but we're on track."
After being on campus for nearly a week attending round-the-clock meetings and practicing in shorts, suiting up in full pads is one of the most anticipated days of preseason camp. Several of the veterans undoubtedly are ready to go, but for some of the newcomers, it can be an eye-opening experience.
"It was pretty exciting," said freshman linebacker Taiwan Jones, an imposing 6-3, 234-pounder out of Anchor Bay High School in New Baltimore, Mich. "It got crazy today, a lot of big hits and you heard a lot of popping. It was way better than the first days without pads."
Jones wasn't the only one who noticed the increased intensity of practice.
Four other newcomers - quarterback Connor Cook, right tackle Fou Fonoti, linebacker Lawrence Thomas and safety RJ Williamson - greeted the media on Thursday for the first time and echoed Jones' statements.
"The speed of the game was so fast, everyone was flying out there," said Cook, who has been taking reps with the third team. "It's definitely been an adjustment."
"I would have to say the speed," Fonoti said on the biggest difference from playing in junior college. "My junior college was fast, but up here at the Big Ten level, it's intense. The speed is something I need to transition to."
But for only five practices, and just one in pads, Dantonio likes what he sees thus far.
"As a football team, I think we look good physically out there," Dantonio said.
The fifth-year head coach also mentioned that retention and the quality of depth on the team has stood out to him during the first week of practice.
"The focus is very good, the retention is very good," said Dantonio, "but we got a lot in, so there are mistakes being made. That's all part of it. There are a lot of moving pieces out there when you're trying to block things up front. (There are) different pressures and different movements defensively, and on the other side of the ball, there are a lot of things offensively by formation and everything that creates adjustments that you have to be able to make.
"We have some depth - with that being said, can we stay healthy, and how are our 1's going to play against other people's 1's? But we have some depth, and the program is going in the right direction because of the depth."
INJURY UPDATE: After five practices, Dantonio gave an update on the health of his team. He informed the media that freshman linebacker Lawrence Thomas has a contusion on his shoulder and will "probably be out for a couple of weeks." Dantonio also said junior cornerback Johnny Adams is out due to his ankle and will be withheld from practice most likely until Monday. Freshman Juwan Caesar has yet to practice this preseason camp due to an undisclosed injury.
TWO-A-DAYS NEXT, FOLLOWED BY SCRIMMAGE ON SATURDAY: The Spartans will conduct their first preseason scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 13. Under NCAA legislation, prohibiting consecutive two-a-days, the Spartans will alternate between double sessions and a single workout through Thursday, Aug. 25 before taking a three-day break, Aug. 26-28. All practice sessions are closed to the general public. The team is set to begin two-a-day workouts on Friday, Aug. 12, with a practice in full pads scheduled for 9:15 a.m. and a practice in shells at 6:30 p.m.
Head Coach Mark Dantonio
"I thought we did a nice job out there hitting. A lot of live work today, guys looked good. I thought we ran the ball pretty effectively, we ran well behind our pads. I thought Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper both ran very well, Nick Hill as well. We held Edwin (Baker) out a little bit.
"We have a couple of injuries. Johnny Adams is out with an ankle right now, but he'll be back, probably after the weekend. Lawrence Thomas got a contusion on his shoulder, so he's braced up right now and will probably be out for a couple of weeks, so we'll have to work him back in easy.
"Physical practice, a lot of live work. Guys played hard out there and there were some good things. Obviously we have to watch film to evaluate everything, but we're on track."
On Lawrence Thomas coming back...
"Sure, you're hopeful. I just don't know when he's able to hit on a sore shoulder, so that remains to be seen. The positive thing is that there's no labral tear or any kind of dislocation. That's a positive."
On Johnny Adams...
"He's been having a good first three, four days. Very competitive. He'll just miss three days or so, but he should be back probably by Monday. I don't know if he'll scrimmage, but probably by Monday."
On his initial impression of the first day in pads...
"It's tough to say until you watch the film. I thought we ran effectively, so obviously some good things were happening up there, but there are always breakdowns in protection or things like that as you install and are getting back to basics. (It's the) little things (that) are going to create big problems, especially on the offensive line. So it's about being a technician. We'll have to evaluate the film as we go, but we're in our fifth practice. But I thought things looked pretty good."
On Fou Fonoti...
"Fou looks good. (He) works extremely hard and his retention from what we installed is very, very good. You can tell he's played college football before. You can tell he's played against big people, against athletic people, and he can run. He's working as the No. 2 right tackle. If he stays there, it remains to be seen on how everyone else works around there."
On the freshmen...
"When you look at the freshmen, you have some guys in the secondary that I think they play pretty well for freshmen. They fit the profile that we have: guys that can run, that can tackle well, they hustle around and they have good change of direction. Our linebackers flow very well, they're big, they can run well. Defensive line, probably a little bit farther behind because the maturity level, just playing against guys that are so strong that are older, but guys like Joel Heath, he's going to be a good player. Damon Knox did some good things.
"Offensive line wise, again, a lot of installation, a lot of things going on, so those guys are always the last ones really to pick up on things at the end of the day just from a physical stature. (Donavon) Clark and Jack Allen are going to be good players. Wide receiver, Juwan Caesar is still banged up, so he's out, but (Andre) Sims has done a nice job. He's a guy...you notice No. 21 is out there. He's catching the ball very well, he runs good routes, he's tough. He's tough minded. Quarterback Connor Cook throws the ball effectively; he has a quick release. But a lot of things coming at them. Lot of things coming at them very quickly. If you can imagine, one day install, the next day more install, the next day it starts to pile up on you. When you compile that with all of the different defenses you're seeing and coverages, things tend to roll up on you a little bit. But they've done a nice job."
On what has stood out to him the most after five practices...
"I think retention. There's good retention and the guys are moving quickly. And we have some depth. With that being said, can we stay healthy, and how are our 1's going to play against other people's 1's? But we have some depth, and the program is going in the right direction because of the depth."