Sept. 28, 2010
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio spoke to the media at his weekly press conference Tuesday at the Spartan Club in Spartan Stadium. Dantonio answered questions for the first time since suffering a heart attack following MSU's overtime win against Notre Dame on Sept. 18.
The No. 24/21 Spartans (4-0) will host No. 11/9 Wisconsin (4-0) Saturday, Oct. 2 in Spartan Stadium. The game, which starts at 3:30 p.m., will be televised on ABC. Dantonio said he plans to watch the game on Saturday from the press box.
The following is a complete transcript from Tuesday's press conference:
COACH DANTONIO: Well, it's good to be back. I wanted to first of all - before I even get started here, I wanted to thank everybody for all their thoughts and their prayers this past week and a half. As former players when you've coached for 30 years you hear from a lot of different people that reach all the way back to my Youngstown State days...Former players, the MSU community, the outpouring of support has been tremendous. I think Tom Izzo has called me every single day regardless of where he's at; Mark Hollis, as well; so many different coaches; Cathy (George) over there. So many different people that have reached out to myself and to my family.
The fans certainly, and I'm not just talking about Spartan Nation, college football fans everywhere. It's been really overwhelming. Sparrow Hospital and all their staff, their doctors, their nurses, everybody who took care of me did it with excellence, and I'm very, very appreciative of everything that they've done.
And then our football staff and our team, what they have done to make it easy, an easy transition for me and everything. So with that, the thoughts, the prayers give me a lot of comfort, my family a lot of comfort, and it's something that I'll remember for the rest of my life.
With that said, we have a system in place. You saw that system this past weekend take place here. Some of our coaches we've worked with for seven years together, so when you have Don Treadwell and you have Pat Narduzzi and the job that they do, there's really no stone unturned; things are going to be run as usual.
Many of our staff have been with us throughout my coaching career as a head coach. Mike Tressel has been with me for 10 years, Mark Staten for 10 years. I look back, Brad Salem, I knew in '95, but all these guys, Ted Gill for seven years now, and on and on and on. Dave Warner I've coached with since '91. So I can't mention all of them, but certainly our staff, our entire staff, Tim Allen, Brad Lunsford, everybody, has really made this seamless in terms of my absence this past game.
I will say it was a little bit surreal watching the game at home. I had no chips, wasn't allowed, but it was different because you know, when you see your football team or our football team playing and you're not there and you've been there for four years, going on the end of the fourth year, it's a little bit different. But it was, as Coach Treadwell said, business as usual, and I was very, very proud of our team and our players in general.
As far as myself, I'm going to ease back into this much like anybody would after any injury. Really we don't discuss injuries, so why discuss mine? Really it's a personnel issue as far as when I come back and when I'm full go. I'm going to listen to our doctors, but I am going to ease back into this and do something daily with our football team, and we'll start at X amount and build back to where it was before. That will at least be the plan as we move forward here.
The reason I came to the press conference today, the reason I was around our football team on Sunday, the reason I was in the office on Monday yesterday was because I think it's very, very important that we focus on Wisconsin, that the focus go from Mark Dantonio and that night to Wisconsin and what we have to get done this weekend.
Coach Bielema has an outstanding football team; they're ninth ranked. When you look at them as a football team, they bring back everybody on the offensive side of the ball except for one player. John Clay is a tremendous player; (Lance) Kendricks is a tight end that they flex out and get involved very, very heavily; (Scott) Tolzien is an outstanding quarterback. Whether (David) Gilreath and (Nick) Toon play I'm not quite sure at this point, but I'm sure that they probably will.
So they'll be at full strength, and so offensively they'll be geared up.
Defensively they return six starters. (J.J.) Watt is a very good player. Their secondary is intact. Jay Valai is back again. So it'll be another outstanding challenge for us offensively and defensively.
But as I think about it, our games with Wisconsin have always been very, very good games, and they'll continue to be exciting, so it'll be a great atmosphere out here this weekend.
With that I'm going to just take some questions here and leave it from there.
Q. Since you said you'll be involved daily, do you expect to be in the box or down on the field Saturday?
COACH DANTONIO: I would expect to be in the box on Saturday. I just think walking around out there for three hours might be a little bit tiring. But that would be my initial plan at this point.
Q. While you want your team to focus on the game, we're not on the team, so obviously your appearance here is intriguing to us. Can you talk about how scary the last two weeks have been for you?
COACH DANTONIO: I think the first thing is that when you get involved in that kind of situation, hopefully it's going to make me a wiser person, more compassionate person, a better coach, and I think - I had an uncle talk to me one time, and I really do believe it, hey, what doesn't kill you is going to make you stronger. So I really didn't know what was happening at that point in time. I've always been in great health. You know, that's just the way it is, I guess. I'll deal with it and I'll move forward.
I really can't answer that question. I'm sure, yeah, I was scared just like anybody would be scared. But I think the key will be moving forward and getting a little stronger every day and dealing with the consequences and dealing with the things that you have to do, and that's all a part of this. So that's what I'll do.
Q. When did you first know after that game that something wasn't right? Did you have any symptoms throughout the day or during the game or even interviewing with us?
COACH DANTONIO: No, and I'd rather focus a little bit toward Wisconsin here, but I think it's pretty well documented at this point where we went, how we got there, what happened. I think it's pretty much step by step been sort of shown throughout.
But in answer to your question, I felt fine after the game. I felt very good after the game, very good at the game. Radio, Will (Tieman) is back there, you guys sat there and listened to my press conference. That's sort of where we're at.
Q. Before Wisconsin is brought up, there is one more question, though. How will this change your life a little bit here?
COACH DANTONIO: I hope for the better.
Q. But some of us, let's say, who have been genetically medicated for genetic cholesterol. I don't know if that's been part of the package with you.
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, it has been.
Q. So what will change in terms of either diet or lifestyle habits here at all?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, I think I'm on my - right now I think, last check, I think I've had six of my eight helpings of vegetables this morning, so we're working at it (laughter). I'm sure you've got to make some changes. But yeah, I'll make some changes. I guess I won't be eating ribs on Mondays; wings on Mondays at lunch are out. But those are small things.
Q. You talked before easing back into it. How difficult is it going to be to not jump right back in where were before?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, that's difficult as a coach, but I also think that there are guidelines that I have to follow based on my family, my doctors, my wife, my other coaches, and so I'm going to do it the right way.
Q. Coach Bielema yesterday in his press conference talked about Michigan State's penalty situation this year. You can't beat them and beat yourselves at the same time. What do you have to do to make it stop?
COACH DANTONIO: I think that first of all we played with some younger players this past weekend in the second half, but we can't beat ourselves, there's no doubt about that. We can't line up wrong, we can't tie up a guy down the field and hold on, and we can't do some of the things that we've been doing. But that's attention to detail. I'll continue working on that, but we have to get it right on the field.
But the nice thing about penalties, the nice things about all these things is that you only have to play one game at a time. The penalty situation doesn't carry into this game. When we walk into the game we're not automatically penalized 50 yards walking in. We'll start from scratch on Saturday and we've got to play a great football game, and our players understand that.
Q. How much do you expect to learn about your team from a game like this?
COACH DANTONIO: I think first of all when you look at Wisconsin and you look at us, I think we've played very similar schedules, three games at home, three very similar type teams that we've played against that they have played against, as well. They've played one marquee game at Arizona State that was very close; we played one marquee game here that was very close at home. A lot of similarities.
They've run the ball very effectively in the past; we have, as well. Their passer is very good in terms of completion percentage and things that he has done in the past; ours is, as well. Defensively they lost some players up front from last year and some linebackers, so we'll see how it all plays out. But it'll be interesting. Our guys will be ready to play, and that's a positive thing.
Q. Only because so often in the past Wisconsin has had so much heft and such strength physically, where are you right now in matching up with that team in your estimation?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, they've always been big and powerful up front, there's no doubt about that. Where we're at, I guess we'll find out on Saturday. I do think when you look at us as a football team we're a very strong football team when you look at us across the board physically, when you look at the weights and different things. But we can play a lot of people on the defensive front.
I think when you look at them, you're really looking at them on the offensive side of the ball at this point. I mean, they've got good players on defense but their offensive side of the ball is big, powerful. John Clay is a very good player, big, powerful. They run downhill. I think Paul Chryst, their offensive coordinator, does an outstanding job getting players to the point of attack, and he always does it a little different way every year. So there will be some challenging adjustments that have to be made.
But where we're at, that's why we play the game.
Q. As you said, you didn't see the full Northern Colorado game; you weren't even in the house for part of the time. But what did you see from the players or some things in terms of progress in certain areas that make you optimistic for this week and other things to work on?
COACH DANTONIO: I thought Kirk Cousins played his best game in terms of getting the ball out, time, caught the ball well down the field. The passing game was very crisp. Our running game has been crisp all season thus far, so we had great balance. And this is the first time that I think our balance really showed. You saw a lot of different receivers catching the ball, a lot of people getting touches in different areas. And we've got skill. We've got skill across the board, receivers, running backs, tight ends. So I thought that that showed.
Q. Is there still a problem getting a pass rush? Anything done at this point in time after four games to help develop a stronger pass rush, and the defenders on the back end?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, we are a young defensive front if you look at us, and we have one senior. In all those guys out there, there's one senior. So we get progressively better and better every week. William Gholston is going into his fifth game as a true freshman. He's getting better and better. Tyler Hoover is a young player still. He's a red shirt sophomore. So when you look at our football team, we're a young football team from the defensive line. Even when you look at Blake Treadwell, he's a true sophomore; Rashad Anthony-White in his first year playing; Dan France is a red shirt freshman; (Kevin) Pickelman is a junior, he's played a lot of football; Jerel (Worthy) played last year, so this is his second year playing.
So we're getting more - we should be getting better and better as we move forward, and at some point in time we're going to be better than the guys that we're playing against in that area. But what we've got to do is stay fresh, work it. You've got to stop the run against these guys, so that means you have to transition into a pass rush when they do pass it, and that's tough sometimes.
And then in the back end down the field we've got to play the ball in the deep part of the field. We came up with some interceptions this last weekend, four of them. Our turnover ratio or turnovers in general is very positive at the end of four games. You know, I think we have (11). So that's a very positive thing for us right now, and we have to build on that and continue to play every single play. We have to continue to play to the best of our abilities.
But as I said earlier, our guys will be ready to play. I don't feel like Wisconsin is coming down here and we're saying, oh, my gosh, Wisconsin is coming, we can't play with them. I hope we're not thinking like that. It will be a great football game out here. They always have been.
Q. Where is Keith Nichol at right now as a wide receiver and how much room is there for him to grow?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, he's in his fifth game as a wide receiver, true game, and it's one thing to practice at it, it's another thing to play in games. He had a big catch this last weekend. He's still learning....He's going into his fifth game as a wide receiver. He's extremely powerful, catches the ball well, and he's going to be a factor in all games this year.
I think with all of our players, there's always room to grow, especially when you're doing it for the first time or the fourth time or whatever. That's not a lot of game time experience. And I think game time experience is what you have to have to really excel. As you move forward, you should get better and better and better as you get more of that.
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