Preseason Camp Update
 
 
 
Coach Dantonio and the Spartans held their first practice in full pads on Friday.
 
Coach Dantonio and the Spartans held their first practice in full pads on Friday.
 
 

Aug. 14, 2009

Coverage:
Video | Coach Dantonio Podcast | Photo Gallery

EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State football team practiced in full pads for the first time this preseason camp on Friday, Aug. 14 at the Duffy Daugherty Practice Fields.

The team is set to begin two-a-day workouts on Saturday, Aug. 15, with a practice in full pads scheduled for 9 a.m. and a practice in shells at 5 p.m. The Big Ten Network will visit East Lansing on Saturday for an inside look at a Michigan State practice. The 90-minute "Big Ten Football Tour" will debut on the network Saturday at 10 p.m. EDT, featuring interviews with head coach Mark Dantonio, offensive coordinator Don Treadwell and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. The "Big Ten Football Tour" - hosted by Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith - provides on-the-field analysis of each team's top newcomers, rising stars, important position battles and schedule.

Michigan State will conduct its first preseason scrimmage Monday, Aug. 17 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. 27 before taking a three-day break, Aug. 28-30. All practice sessions are closed to the general public.

Following Friday's practice, head coach Mark Dantonio, linebackers/special teams coach Mike Tressel, tight ends/tackles coach Mark Staten and four freshmen, Edwin Baker, Larry Caper, Dana Dixon and Dion Sims, shared their thoughts on the first week of preseason camp.

Head Coach Mark Dantonio

Opening statement...
After the first five days of practice, I think the guys have picked up where they left off before. We're back to working on basics, as I said earlier. I've been very, very happy with our football team thus far, but there's a lot of work to do. The freshmen are making strides. We're getting a lot of things in - there's a very big learning curve there for them, but they'll catch up.

I think the quarterbacks have done a nice job so far. They're very impressive. I like the way Mark Dell is playing out there, he's doing a nice job...I see a lot of good things offensively. Defensively, it goes back and forth. We played very, very well the first three days on defense. Today was the first day of pads, and we went live a little bit. It goes back and forth. I like were we're going.

On Edwin Baker and Larry Caper...
They've been very, very impressive. Larry is very firm in pass protection and catches the ball well. Edwin does a great job as well. Both of these guys show explosiveness in the hole and the ability to run inside the tackle, as well as hit it to the outside. They're both very good players and they'll figure in. They'll have an opportunity to compete, and they've done a nice job so far.

Explosively, they're college ready. Again, you go back to the learning curve of picking up pressures and doing different things, you have to think long term. There's practices, getting out of camp physically able without getting hurt, all those different types of things you have to account into this, but as far as their size, their speed and their explosiveness, they're college ready in that respect.

On the competition at running back...
We have so many different running backs right now, we almost have to say, `OK, the emphasis is on these three guys one day, and these three the other day.' We're trying to get everybody work...I think the key to figuring out who the tailback is will be to give as many people opportunities as we can to see what they can do. And that means they have to get touches. It's difficult to get six guys touches every single practice, so we'll try and monitor that.

On the leaders on the team...
I think one thing we have to continue to look at is who is going to be the team leaders on this football team. We have a group of seniors, and we have to see who steps up to the forefront. That's going to take about two or three weeks to figure out as we go through the dog days of August camp.

On the team's depth...
What it does is provide a competitiveness on the practice field. If you're a safety right now, we have four guys with game experience, if you're a corner, same thing. You better be playing every day. You better come out and compete every day because if you don't, you're going to flip positions, and the other guy will be a 1 and you'll be a 2. So that's a positive. Same way on game day. I think it provides more consequences to how players play. You look across the board, I think that's a healthy thing for a football team. The main thing is, if we're successful and we win, people are happy, and if you don't, people say you have no depth. So I think what's important is that we win football games.

Edwin Baker, freshman running back

On getting the opportunity to compete for the staring position...
I feel like I'm getting a good opportunity. There are a lot of running backs but we have to make it work.

On the hardest thing to pick up so far...
The gap protection. That is a big transition from high school. College is much faster so you have to read much quicker and have more focus.

On what he's doing to improve since he came to campus in July...
I'm trying to stay focused and really maintain what got me here. I'm trying to keep my speed, power, agility and vision up.

On upperclassmen helping him and taking him under their wings...
A.J. Jimmerson has been a big help, he has been showing me the ropes. Andre (Anderson) coached me up today and I'm very grateful that they help me with their experience.

On what he's trying to do to separate himself in the running back competition...
Pretty much be yourself and play your game. Everyone has their strong suit so you hope yours will stick out. You just have to play your game.

Larry Caper, freshman running back

On running behind a larger offensive line than in high school...
It's amazing. I can hide behind someone if I want to. I can make a cut behind someone if I want to, so it's fun. All I can do is smile when I play.

On if he senses he's in the running for a starting role...
All of us right now are contending for the starting spot. That is what camp is for, we are trying to see who is going to play. We are all competing every day, so we'll see.

On how he feels he is doing so far...
I feel like I'm doing pretty good. I need to make sure I tighten down some of the plays so I know what I'm doing on every play and every audible. I'm still learning.

On picking up the offense...
It's not too tough if you focus on it. You have to focus and make sure you go through everything slowly. As a freshman you can go in there and everything can look like chaos. But if you slow yourself down and think about everything, it's ok.

On how he describes his running style...
Smooth. I am more of smooth runner, not like a rabbit that jumps in and out. I think I'm pretty smooth.

On the competition to be the starting tailback...
Honestly, I really try not to listen. I'm not trying to feed into that. We don't have a TV in our room so we're all closed off from the media. We just go out everyday and work hard.

Dion Sims, freshman tight end

On his offseason workout regiment...
I just tried to get myself in the best shape possible. I did whatever I could to get ready for camp. I didn't exactly know what to expect. They gave me a book with all the workouts to do and I followed it.

On initial reaction to camp...
The practices are intense. It's totally different from high school. There are no plays off in college. In high school you can do certain stuff if you are the best player on the team but now you are surrounded by everybody that wants the job. You have to go all out every play and you can't take any plays off.

On the differences between high school and college...
The guys are smart and very helpful and bigger. You don't see many guys in high school that are as big as college players. They help you out, give you a shoulder to lean on. They are just good guys.

Dana Dixon, freshman cornerback

On what he did to help transition into college football...
It's been a pretty smooth transition for me since I started back in July with the Bottom Line program where we had weight lifting and running. That was three weeks and then I went home and came back. The upperclassmen have been pretty good mentors at my position. They have been pretty good friends off and on the field.

On coming from a great high school program in Detroit Renaissance...
It definitely helps coming from Renaissance - great program, great coaches. It has definitely helped me transition.

On earning a scholarship this summer...
When Chris (Norman), my teammate committed, I was working really hard to get a scholarship. I really wanted to go to Michigan State even before he committed. After I got it, it was a weight off my shoulders but I knew I had to work even harder to have a spot on the team. Now I'm working even harder to earn my jersey and stay on the team.

On feedback from the coaches after the first day in pads...
All the freshmen have been going in groups of threes so we are all getting equal reps right now. Tomorrow in the scrimmage we'll really see where we are at the on the depth chart.

Assistant Coach Mike Tressel, linebackers

Any surprises so far...
No surprises. It's good to see the freshmen linebackers are as athletic as I thought they would be and have as much football savvy as I thought they would. I think it is exciting the second team developing. I think we will be a little bit stronger in terms of our depth and that is exciting to see. All those are things that I thought would be the case but it's sure good to see it.

On who would be on the second unit right now...
Adam Decker, Jon Misch and then there are a whole bunch of people battling for the other outside linebacker position. Steve Gardner has been in there some, (Chris) Norman, Drew Stevens and even Jeremy Gainer. So that last linebacker spot is a little up for grabs still.

On Adam Decker's improvement over last season...
He is leaner, he's stronger and your clock is only so long in college. It is hard when you are a junior and you have been starting to then not be starting anymore. But, obviously when you're a senior you come to the realization that this is it and I'm going to do whatever it takes. He has been going over to do some pass rush on third down situations and said he will even put his hand down if necessary. He says he will do whatever it takes on the field and off the field so he has made a commitment.

On what the play he made in last year's Iowa game did for his confidence...
I don't think he has ever been a kid that has lacked confidence but I was happy to see him do that. I was fired up for him. I thought he had given enough to the program that he deserved to have something like that he can always hold on to for the rest of his life, so I'm fired up that happened for him.

On Chris Norman being impressive...
Physically, he is definitely impressive. There is no doubt about it, he is that special. We'll see how fast we can get him ready to play Big Ten football.

Assistant Coach Mark Staten, tight ends/tackles

On having a number of capable tight ends...
It's nice, you can move guys around and really get them going. It's really nice because they push each other. It's like any other job, you are constantly having to learn and to further yourself to stay on top of your game. They are doing the same thing so it is exciting.

On his impression of Dion Sims...
Dion is an athlete. He looks like Tarzan and plays like Tarzan. He is an exciting player. He's responding, he's learning like a lot of young guys. We got a lot of stuff in so he is swimming a little bit but he's swimming, he's not drowning.

He ran a hitch the other day and it was like `Whoa.' He took the ball and its like now you're asking a six-foot, 180-pound corner to tackle him. So, it is exciting and a lot will depend on how he does on special teams and what we ask him to do there.