Aug. 19, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The morning practice of Friday's two-a-day had a little different feel to it for the Michigan State football team as the Big Ten Network stopped by to shoot footage and interviews for a 30-minute "Big Ten Football Preview" special on the Spartans.
Hosted by Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith, the "Big Ten Football Preview" provides on-the-field analysis of each team's top newcomers, rising stars, important position battles and 2011 schedule.
The show gives an inside look at a Spartan practice and also includes interviews with head coach Mark Dantonio, offensive coordinator Dan Roushar, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, quarterback Kirk Cousins and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. East Lansing was the 10th stop thus far on the crew's tour of the Big Ten.
"This looks like to me the best freshmen class that (Coach Dantonio) has signed - and yet, maybe not a lot of freshmen will play," said DiNardo after taking in practice on Friday. "So it's the best of both worlds. It's a sign of consistent leadership and consistently building this program. I think when you talk about Mark Dantonio, you talk about consistency."
DiNardo also had high praise for the Spartan offense.
"Michigan State probably has the most skill of any other offensive team in the conference," he said. "Kirk has great skill on the flanks and great skill behind him. I think his ability to take the audible package to the next step and his accuracy are really going to be two very important factors in MSU having a great offense."
Griffith paid close attention to the trenches while attending practice.
"No question Michigan State is more athletic and more physical at the point of attack, particularly on the offensive line, which I know was a point of emphasis going into the spring," said the former Illinois fullback and nine-year NFL veteran. "It looks like it's really paying off."
Michigan State's preview special will debut on Tuesday, Aug. 23 at 8 p.m.
Prior to the morning practice, Dantonio met with reporters to give an update on the team, as the Spartans get ready for their second jersey scrimmage of preseason camp on Saturday.
"Going into practice 15 today, I think the goal is to really push through these tough times," said Dantonio. "When you first come to camp everyone is very excited, there is a lot of adrenaline. You move through those first five days and then you get into pads where there is more adrenaline. Now is the time, right now, where you have to be able push through."
Following the first practice, running backs coach Brad Salem, secondary coach Harlon Barnett, quarterbacks coach Dave Warner and several players met with the media in the lobby of the Skandalaris Football Center.
In the afternoon, the Spartans held their 16th practice of preseason camp in preparation for the scrimmage.
"You're looking for execution and attention to detail," remarked Dantonio on what he wants to see at Saturday's scrimmage, which he said will be very active and include up to 130 plays. "You're looking for great effort, and you're looking for a particular unit to win a situation a lot of times. You look at all those different things. Individually, you have to break it down after that and look at each player and see how they're operating individually in that unit."
Head Coach Mark Dantonio - Complete Transcript
"Going into practice 15 today, I think the goal is to really push through these tough times. When you first come to camp everyone is very excited, there is a lot of adrenaline. You move through those first five days and then you get into pads where there is more adrenaline. Now is the time, right now, where you have to be able push through. Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, those are the tough ones. We have two today. We will scrimmage tomorrow. It will be a very active scrimmage tomorrow. We will probably go 120 plays or so, maybe 130. Everybody will get an opportunity to play. After that, we will start getting ready for Youngstown State a little bit more and start concentrating on finishing camp healthy. Thus far has been good. We have remained healthy. The players have a good attitude and they continue to progress."
On Jairus Jones' ability to scrimmage tomorrow...
"No (he won't play). We haven't really talked about too many injuries, other than that. We have not lost anyone for the season. Jairus continues to progress very well and should probably be running by the end of August here a little bit. But you're looking at the end of September until he probably has an opportunity."
On if tomorrow is the most important scrimmage of camp and if starting positions are on the line...
"I think jobs are won daily out here, really. The depth chart sorts of fluctuates as we go. We have the opportunity to go over to the stadium a little bit tomorrow which they haven't been in because of the new grass. So we'll go over there a little bit. The closer you get to game day, you want to see how players continue to play and progress and pick up things. Obviously there are more things in now, so there will be more situations. So you have a little bit more. I think we always try to take the standard of what have you done for me lately? Just in terms of on the field every single day, we evaluate."
On if they get better adrenaline and emotion in the stadium...
"I think you do because it is the first time going over there. It is a little bit more game-like. I think you do get a little more of that. We will do a portion of the scrimmage over here as well just because you don't want to be on the grass for 130 plays. We will certainly get there. They will get enough to get their feet wet over there."
On the new grass at Spartan Stadium...
"Beautiful. Tight. Very low, very fast surface. Looks great. We'll play on it tomorrow and see."
On what he is looking for out of the team in tomorrow's scrimmage...
"I always look for execution and what we want to put a premium on, a lack of unforced errors, offsides, and those types of things. You're looking for execution and attention to detail. You're looking for great effort, and you're looking for a particular unit to win a situation a lot of times. You look at all those different things. Individually, you have to break it down after that and look at each player and see how they're operating individually in that unit. It becomes a little difficult just because the offense doesn't succeed or the defense, you have to look within that and see the reasons."
On if he is focusing on special teams...
"We are working on special teams. We have gone some live periods within that, in all capacities. We will get a little bit more tomorrow. We are beginning to fine tune the special team areas in terms of doing certain things, whether it is kicking it off after a safety, those types of things. We have worked them. We have two good specialists. Snappers seem to be doing a good job and the holders seem to be doing a good job as well. You have to execute that as well. Big part of the game."
On how many of the true freshmen have shined in the practices...
"I think they have all had sort of their moments. You have seen R.J. Williamson play very well and then it catches up to him a little bit at safety. I have been impressed with Connor Cook but obviously there are a couple guys in front of him. But he has a live arm. He has done a nice job as well. Offensive line is tough. (Fou) Fonoti has played pretty well and is battling for the number one position with (Skyler) Burkland (at right tackle). He is a very good athlete for his size, with great speed. Wide receivers, we have experienced guys there...Taiwan Jones is playing well and Ed Davis is playing well at linebacker. Those two guys look like they will have an opportunity to play here this season."