Sep 8, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio held a media teleconference Sunday evening to discuss his team's performance in the 21-6 win over South Florida in the second game of the season.
The Spartans (2-0) will take on Youngstown State (2-0) in Week 3 on Saturday, Sept. 14 in Spartan Stadium. The game, which starts at 2 p.m., will be televised on BTN.
The following is a complete transcript of Sunday's teleconference:
Q. After looking at the film, your thoughts on yesterday's game against South Florida?
COACH DANTONIO: As I said yesterday, I thought our defense played outstanding, obviously, to come up with the scores, and get the shutout.
Obviously concerned about some of the penalties but I think active penalties are not penalties that are unforced, and so that's a positive thing in that regard.
Can't fumble a punt return, as we all know. Can't miss a field goal, as we all know. And offensively, we have got to find our identity. I did think we ran the ball effectively, had some big runs in there, but we have got to find our passing game and we'll begin to work on that today.
I'll take some questions, but we are 2 0, we look for the positive in things, we always have, so we are 2 0 and we need to be able to move forward against Youngstown State.
Q. After watching the film, real quickly, just let us know how you evaluated the three quarterbacks, each of them.
COACH DANTONIO: Well, we went with the first, with Connor Cook initially. Felt like he did some good things. We have got to move the football down the field. It's pretty much that simple.
We inserted Tyler OConnor, double reverse, came down the field, and I think he made two mistakes inside the 5 yard line, took points off the board. He had a couple series.
So we went with Andrew Maxwell. I feel like I owe that to that young man; if we are not getting production from the other people, then that's the direction we will go. Then came back with Connor Cook in the fourth quarter.
I think all of them have their points of positives. They also have their points of negative. From my standpoint, probably all three need to be a little bit more relaxed in the pocket. I think protection is an issue at times, maybe not so much with the offensive line, but protection is such a unique situation, because sometimes there's fullbacks and tight ends and tailbacks involved in that protection.
So it can't just always be on the offensive line; the quarterback has to step up in the pocket. I think Cook created, and it was great to see him take the ball on fourth-and-1 and get the first down; and that was all him in terms of, he ran through a tackle and got the first down and that was a positive thing.
I also think that the other guys did some good things, but we have got to find more explosive gains in the passing game. Right now, this is a day to day thing, as I said yesterday.
I really wish I could be more concrete on things, but it really depends on how a guy practices, because we need to see the production. Like I said, we started today and normally we don't practice on a Sunday but we have our skill guys out there right now; as a matter of fact, I came in to take this call.
Q. I know you said guys have to perform in practice; do you think Damion Terry is going to be ready to practice this week, or he's still a little behind?
COACH DANTONIO: He's throwing right now, so it looks to me like he'll be ready to compete.
Q. You are a man who strives to be prepared you talk about Tyler and you talk about his mistakes, but the weeks going forward, Cook almost threw an interception in the end zone; do you think got a fair (assessment of) Tyler, his first game and he only had two possessions?
COACH DANTONIO: Good question. I'm not sure. I just have to make these decisions at game time. I can't make them after the fact. After the fact, may feel a little different by but I'm dealing in the present. The ball is on the 5 yard line - the biggest concern was the play before where we took the 5 yard loss. I didn't think that he called the play correctly in the huddle, and that's a part of all this.
It's not to knock on Tyler. It's just that I felt like at that point in time, we would go back in a different direction, and bottom line is, we've got to score points. And somebody has got to ignite a flame to this football team offensively, whether that be a wide receiver or a quarterback, whatever. And I do think we have some explosive runs to put on our tailbacks; that was a positive.
I have to live in the present on game day, so that's what I felt like I needed to do at that point in time, because systematically, in my mind, that's the direction we were going to go.
Bottom line is, someone needs to seize that opportunity when they have it and make good on it and not come up empty; not in the situation that we are in now. And in all honesty, I'm going to become more impatient as time goes, and I expect more. As time goes on, I expect more. When they get opportunities, the next time he gets an opportunity, he'll be more at ease and he'll make better decisions.
Cook got to play almost - he played over a half. He played one half of the game and a series. Cook played almost an entire quarter with the exception of one series, and Andrew Maxwell played the entire quarter, as well.
I have a sense of urgency in this process. I want to try to formulate it and get it handled as quick as possible. So I have to give people opportunities, as I continue to say, there's oppositions and there's opportunities, as well, and I understand that, but we have to go forward.
Q. As far as Andrew and how he moves the ball, it appeared that he threw a pretty nice ball that a receiver could have made a play on, and then I believe it was a fourth-and-4, and it looked like he was maybe strapped with a shovel pass. Maybe in hindsight, wrong play called, and he didn't stop that drive; did you feel like he did pretty good and he's still in the mix?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, he is still in the mix. He's still in the mix, but there's some other things, he has a bigger history here in terms of what's gone on and because of that history, the expectations are quite high, to be frank, with everybody.
We can't apologize for wanting to move forward. We need production. I know this press conference seems to be all going in one direction, but at least we can answer the questions before Tuesday and you guys can think of some new ones.
Q. Are you intending to divulge anything, or will it be the same thing this week, you'll make a decision this week after practice and announce it on Saturday?
COACH DANTONIO: I think in all fairness to the players, the players should be allowed to compete and they should be the first people that are informed.
We have made the decision, basically, if you are inside of our program, I think our players understood the way and the direction we were going with it. But until we say in pregame, this is where we are at, I think in all fairness to them, I need to be able to sit down, talk with them and let them know what's going on as we move forward.
Q. With the attention that your defense is getting and all of the negativity around the offense, does it affect Sadler's performance this year, going under the radar?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I've mentioned him every game so far, he's been spectacular and if you look at it, he's put our defense in great situations, because we've gotten the ball midfield or we've driven it to midfield and we've punted it down inside the 10.
Again, I can't remember all the times they have come off the goal line in two games, but it's been quite a few and Sadler has dropped a punt in there numerous times. He's been outstanding and he needs to continue to do that, as well as the rest of our team needs to continue to improve.
Q. A question about skill players, I know that you really haven't held anything back as far as using your resources, with Jamal Lyles going to tight end; have you just about used up all the possibilities as far as your skill position players, or will there be more experimentation in the future?
COACH DANTONIO: I think as I said before, somebody needs to seize the opportunity and we need to see productionn and that includes our skill players.
We have great young people here, great young people and I love them all. But we need to be fair with the opportunities that we are giving to; we have a hundred players or 85 guys or so on scholarship, so we need to be fair and we need to see what other people have.
We took the redshirt off of RJ Shelton. I was pleased with RJ Shelton. I thought he performed. He ran a couple ghost plays, he ran a reverse. But he didn't bat an eye and I think he'll be an outstanding receiver for us.
Q. You've got a couple more explosive plays, a little bit out of the running game, did you like what you saw, I know Riley got more of a chance, especially Nick Hill, as well?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I thought those two guys I think Jeremy Langford hit a big one, as well, ran effectively, and I thought really Riley Bullough ran his best and saw a glimpse of what he can be, and I also thought Nick Hill did some great things with a couple big runs himself and popped.
We are getting some production from our running game, that's a positive. Also thought when Connor Cook was in there, he ran the ball pretty well. I think he was the guy that had the most opportunities to run it. But I think that that part of the game was not lacking. I think obviously there will always be big plays, but we popped some.
Q. I wanted to ask the offensive line, you were a little bit injured last year; can you assess what they have been able to do the first two games and what you are looking forward to them doing the next couple of games?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, we do have some injuries up there that we got nicked up and I think we have to move some people around and I think that's the nature of it. We are looking forward to getting Jack Allen back in the lineup, that should be a positive. He brings a very tough mind set and he's a very good player for us.
But I think our offensive line has played okay, but, you know, in the big picture, you can play really okay, but one guy doesn't do what he is supposed to do or gets beat at the point of attack, it really is disruptive to the entire group.
So while we didn't have that happen very often this week, there were, you know, three or four occasions where the ball is going to pop again, but we get beat at the point of attack or have an MA, have a missed assignment. For the most part, we are playing pretty well. Got to be secure on the ends, on the defensive ends in the pass rush, with our offensive tackles, etc., with our running backs, our tight ends, etc.; we have to allow the quarterback to step up in the pocket and make the throws.
So there's a whole big puzzle here that I think we have to recognize and say, how to pass protect, make the throw, step up to make the throw, get loose, have the right concept called relative to the coverage that's involved and then we've got to finish.
Q. Is Fou Fonoti going to be back in the starting lineup? I saw he didn't start but he came in again. What's his status?
COACH DANTONIO: I think his status is basically he's missed most of the summer camp, so he's moved back into condition to play at a higher level. He played more this game and I would expect him to be one week further ahead; does that put him at full go or not, I'm not sure, but he's advancing in getting that time back and getting his strength back.
Q. We talked a lot about personnel and I know you've done a lot of different things schematically; are you at a stage where you are ready to start to pare that down or will we see a few more wrinkles before you settle on the playbook?
COACH DANTONIO: I think we need to see more production with where we are at. We have done some different things and we need to continue to push the envelope I think a little bit, to introduce new concepts as we move forward.
But those concepts have to be productive and also, we have to see the finish at the end of it. There are some things that have been around for a long time with us and there's other things that are a little bit new and obviously we all try to build on our foundation, but we have to do things on our foundation that allows us to be successful.
As I said, at the beginning of this whole thing, we need to find our identity, we need to be more productive and we are going to work at that and that's the beautiful thing about football, you have a week to work on these things and we have the resources on hand to look at these things and evaluate. We just have to make good decisions and execute on the field.
But with all that being said, for the last 15 minutes, to talk about the offense, we are a 2 0 football team, could very well have had a situation where the wheels fell off of a football team and we found a way to win. For that, we have to look at the positive there, and I'm not going to apologize for winning a football game.
So I think that's the bottom line; that we need to feel happy about this, as a team, understand we need to get better, and then grow from it and continue to push the envelope.
Q. Got to finish with the quarterbacks. It was a 7 6 game, because it was so close, did that change maybe what you had in mind in terms of the rotation? I guess I'm thinking in other words, did you have sort of a script in mind of how you were going to play guys and did it change because the game was so close?
COACH DANTONIO: I had a script in mind that I was going to play the two guys that played in the first half and if they didn't get it done, that we weren't moving the football, to what I believed should be happening, me, Mark Dantonio, that it was a possibility that I would go with Andrew Maxwell, because I felt like he deserves that opportunity if nobody else is seizing it.
And I'm just going to call it like it is. People can sit and talk and do all this kind of stuff and refute all these different things, but I'm seeing this on a day to day basis, and I want to make sure that at the end of the day, when I look our players in the eye, they have had an opportunity and I've been fair with them and they feel good about themselves and the opportunity they were given. That's their job to make the plays. It's our job to call it, call the concepts, make sure that we practice hard and do all the different things.
But I don't think that any of them are lacking in arm strength. I don't think that any of them are lacking in size or athletic ability relative to what they have to do. And some may have to be a little bit different than others, but the bottom line is, making plays and having confidence in yourself and stepping up to the plate and seizing the moment. That's really the bottom line. I can't make it any more explicit than that.
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