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Assistant Coaches Press Conference Coverage

Oct. 12, 2017

Game Notes | Depth Chart

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State assistant coaches Harlon Barnett and Terrence Samuel spoke to the media Wednesday afternoon, to review the Spartans’ win over No. 7 Michigan and preview this week's second-straight road game for the Spartans at Minnesota on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. (ET).

Michigan State heads back on the road for a second straight week as the Spartans take on Minnesota Saturday, Oct. 14 in Minneapolis at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on BTN and BTN2Go. With its 14-10 win at No. 7 Michigan last Saturday night, the Spartans improved to 4-1 overall (2-0 Big Ten) and moved into the national rankings for the first time this season, coming in at No. 21 in The Associated Press Poll and No. 22 in the Amway Coaches Poll. It marked MSU’s eighth win over Michigan in the last 10 meetings. The Gophers fell at Purdue, 31-17, and are 3-2 on the season (0-2 Big Ten).

Saturday’s game marks the 47th meeting between Michigan State and Minnesota and the first since 2013. The Spartans lead the all-time series, 29-17, including a 12-11 record in games played in Minneapolis. MSU defeated the Gophers in the 2013 regular-season finale in East Lansing, 14-3, to cap a perfect 8-0 conference season. Overall, Michigan State has won 23 of the last 29 meetings, including four straight. MSU head coach Mark Dantonio is 4-1 against Minnesota, with a 1-1 record at TCF Bank Stadium.

In its last trip to Minneapolis, Michigan State topped Minnesota, 26-10, in the 2012 regular-season finale to clinch a bowl bid for the sixth consecutive season. Le’Veon Bell rushed 35 times for 266 yards and one touchdown while the Spartan defense held the Gophers to just 4 yards rushing.

 

 

MSU is 27-14 (.659) in Big Ten road games under Dantonio, including a 21-8 record (.724) since 2010. Dantonio has won at least one road game at every Big Ten stadium.

The following is a select transcript from Wednesday’s press conference:

Associate Head Coach and Co-Defensive Coordinator Harlon Barnett

On the pride he has in this group of young men…
We’ve said all along that these guys are different, they’re hungry. They're good dudes, they’re good guys. You like being around them, you like coaching them. They’re putting in the work. Really, really proud of them, they’re doing a great job. We've just got to keep it going.

On preparing for Minnesota when a lot of their guys have been injured…
We’ve been talking all year, even before the season started. It’s not about them, it’s about us. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, it’s about us executing. If all 11 execute, then we give ourselves a chance to win. If all 11 execute each and every play, not nine, not eight, but all 11 every play, then we’ll give ourselves a chance to win regardless of who we’re playing. We’ve been focusing on us as opposed to the opponent this year.

On the importance of forcing turnovers…
Very important. We talk about turnovers... critical to winning is something we talk about all throughout camp. Coach D is always talking about it and turnovers are one of them. Getting sacks is another, third-down efficiency, stopping the run. It’s a lot of things that we talk about constantly, over and over. We put a lot of focus on it and our guys are starting to make it happen.

On how the front and back of the defense work together…
It’s a total unit thing like I just said, we’ve been talking about all 11 executing. When we put on the film, guys don’t want to be the one that’s not executing. A lot of times when things happen, we say is it them or is it us? Was it them making a play or did we just screw up and they made a play because we screwed up? Nobody wants to be that guy, so we’ve really been focusing on that so everybody is doing their part, to do their job and trusting the defense, trusting each other and we’re able to get things done.

On if the younger guys have better short-term memory…
Nowadays I think they do. If not, they’re good at not letting everybody see they’re sweating. I think they do. It’s a good thing, we talk about it. You've got to go onto the next, got to move onto the next. Just like after a win, you've got to move onto the next. I remember Coach Perles used to say the 24-hour rule and after that, the game’s over and you move onto the next. We kind of take that approach a little bit. Move onto the next thing. After a play, a big play, even if you make a great play, it’s onto the next. We've got to continue to play.

On the play of Justin Layne…
He’s gotten better and better. For a young man that came here as a wide receiver, now he’s been with us full-time since this summer. We thought we were going to have him full-time after last year and then we went into spring, had to move him back over to receiver. At first it was partially and then it became full-time because of injuries, but ever since the spring and throughout the summer he’s been back with us. He’s now starting to get all the little technical things down at defensive back, at corner in particular, that he needs to to make his game go to another level.

On Josh Butler and Tyson Smith not getting much playing time lately or are Josiah Scott and Justin Layne locking down the spots…
We feel like those two guys have really stepped up. Don’t get me wrong now, we still feel great about Tyson [Smith] and Josh [Butler], they’re good players and you will see them some more this year, you will see them for sure. Right now, somebody has to start, obviously, and play and we feel like Josiah and Justin are doing a good job. Don’t be surprised to see Tyson and Josh back in there as well.

On depth at wide receiver allowing Justin Layne staying on the defensive side…
Absolutely. That’s what he needs to do to get better and better. Instead of flip-flopping and hearing different things and all that type of stuff. I think he’s comfortable being over there now, we’re happy to have him. He’s doing well.

On recharging after the emotional win…
Well that was kind of a concern going into last week because Iowa was an emotional win and our guys grew from that. Coach talked about it and being ready to get up when the time calls for us to get up. We talk about it and you heard Coach D mention it before, keeping the lion in the cage until it’s time. Our guys are able to do that. We’re proud of them, they took a big step last week. Not only getting recharged and getting emotional, but in a hostile environment. Going down on their first away game and playing well. Really proud of the guys.

On what Coach Dantonio does to be 8-2 after the Michigan game…
Again, because you focus onto the next thing, move onto the next thing. We talk about it. We celebrate it, whatever, and then once it’s over, it’s over. You've got to keep moving. The season doesn’t stop just because you have one win. You've got to keep moving on and keep moving forward. That’s what he does a great job of. He also does a great job of not being so stagnate like we've got to do things the same way all the time. He’s not superstitious. He’s willing to make changes and things like that. It helps our guys get better and improve each and every week.

On the coaches coaching themselves to be able to take the season one week at a time…
Exactly, well, because we’re moving onto the next opponent. We’re looking at film so that makes us transition quicker than even the players, because we’re watching them on Sunday getting ready for the next opponent. We love it, that’s what we do, we love to do it. Breaking down film, watching opponents and breaking them down, figuring out what their tendencies are, whatever, and see how they might attack us. That’s part of the coaching, that’s part of the fun part. And then going out and coaching the guys up and seeing the results on Saturday.

On studying what the assistant coaches of a team have done when there’s a change in a program…
Oh you’re always going to go back and see what they’ve done, they’re going to be who they are. You are going to study what the coordinators liked to do in the past, and all that type of stuff. You’ve got to have a great attention to detail, really put your work in – your due diligence – to see what they like to do. Not just from this season, but previous seasons. When you do that you start to see patterns and things like that.

On how he’s grown as a coach since becoming the coordinator…
It’s something that I said this offseason to the guys – as I’m just thinking about the offseason – a lot of times, players don’t take off until their third year. Be it they redshirted or not; but the third year seems to be the year when guys take off. Are there some exceptions? Of course. There are some young guys and freshmen who can come in and play right away, but third year, that’s when you start to see it. Just look around the country. I even told the guys, ‘my third year is when I started really playing at Michigan State and started having success.’ I am in my third year being able to call the defense. Mike (Tressel) and I co-coordinating the defense, and so now I’m in a comfort level of calling it and so I think that’s what it is a little bit. You know, I’m comfortable and am seeing a lot of different things. Although I was up there with Pat (Narduzzi) over the years as he was calling it, I was not calling it and that’s still a different thing. When you’re able to do something for a long time, you get a comfort level and you learn what to call and what not to call. You just feel comfortable.

On if there was a specific play on Saturday that showed how much his defense has grown this year…
David Dowell had the game that he had, and he was able to just keep playing. Not that he had a perfect game, but he kept playing. A guy that’s in his, what year? His third year. That was a play that you saw that you probably wouldn’t have seen last year. A guy that can keep playing – good or bad, he’ll keep playing. Go onto the next. Coach D has been talking about it the last two weeks like a boxing match, in rounds. So every time we go to another series, that’s the next round. We had an 11-rounder against Iowa and that was a 15-rounder against Michigan.

On Mike Panasiuk and Raequan Williams’ play and how their push up the middle helps the rest of the defense…
Oh it helps tremendously when those guys can do what they do as far as using their hands and staying in their gaps and it’s wreaking havoc on the offensive line up front. That’s where everything starts and that makes it easier for everyone else. They’re doing a fantastic job.

On what the defense has to do against Minnesota to get to the quarterback when they're allowing just 0.2 sacks per game…
He (Minnesota quarterback Conor Rhoda) gets rid of the ball; only one sack on the whole year. We are going to do what we do and when we get to him we’ve got to get him down on the ground; wrap him, squeeze him and get him down. More than that, we’ve got to have good coverage, make it hard for him, make the windows tough for him and then maybe we’ll have the chance to get to him.

Wide Receivers Coach Terrence Samuel

On the youth of the wide receiver group and pride in it…
You said it best, pride. These guys, I have a close relationship with them. When they have success and when you teach them concepts and they’re able to apply it and make the plays and have the success that you want them to have that you talked to them about when you went into their homes... Like 'we’re going to do this, you’re going to do that, and you’re going to do this,' it’s a great feeling.

On getting praise from Hunter Rison about the receivers listening to him…
No, I’m trying to hold back the blush (laughing). It is a good group. They want to get better. They ask the right questions. They’re processing the situations and the scenarios and they’re even pushing my knowledge and what I know and how I’m giving it to them. It’s just an inquisitive group. Like I said, it shows in how they play. They play, they make a mistake, but they don’t make that same mistake twice.

On how tough it is to find playing time for all of these guys…
That is the tough part. Like I said, a lot of times what you end up doing is you go about formation and certain plays like Laress (Nelson) will have certain plays. Hunter (Rison) has certain plays. You just have to make sure to get them in there.

On having lots of talent and if that’s better or worse for defenses…
That’s a defensive issue. What I know Darrell Stewart can do, I want to make sure he gets in on those plays. Felton Davis, I want to take advantage of his skill set on certain plays. As far as defense and what they have to deal with, I hope they don’t sleep well.

On handling a young player like Trishton Jackson dropping a pass when they make a mistake in a big game…
A lot of times you just try to move on. You don’t even bring it up. They’re their own worst critic. They don’t need me right behind them saying, ‘hey, you dropped the ball.’ Some things are just obvious. What you try to get them to do is to move on to the next play. Move on to the next play with as much aggressiveness and confidence as you can possibly can because that’s what sets you apart, your aggressiveness and your confidence. They will lament on it way further on than just for two or three plays. Like I said you just have to get them to ease their mind and move on to the next play. He (Trishton Jackson) was upset. He expects more out of himself. He expects more. He has speed, he has ability, all the quickness. When something like that happens, you just have to bounce back from it.

On the challenges for a wide receiver in a second half like the Michigan game when know that going to be running the ball and not throw the ball much…
Be physical. We talk about it in our meeting room. If we’re going to run the ball, we need to make sure that we are the private escorts of that ball running into the endzone. Clear the road. It’s like 'Convoy,' you’ve all seen the movie. I’m a rubber ducky, we’re all trying to clear the road for everybody.

On getting everyone’s confidence up, particular for Trishton Jackson…
You have to. When the skill set is sitting on the sideline and it can make a difference, it hurts your team. The biggest thing is not making it an issue, it's not an issue. He’s been in games, he’s played since he was “yay” high, it’s just getting back into the rhythm, get back on the horse and make some plays.

On Minnesota on film…
They’re aggressive. You have a secondary that’s played a lot on that secondary. They can make plays. They’re not going to be shy, they’re not going to be apprehensive, you’re dealing with a group that’s been to bowl games, you’re dealing with a group that’s won seven, eight plus games a year. It’s not something that you’re going into the game like ‘oh, Michigan State’s coming in here, we’ll take a backseat.’ These guys are going to try and get us. We have to match that physicality.

On practicing the fake reverse screen play…
We probably practice that play a lot longer than just that week. We have a category of plays that we have over here that we run all year, probably since spring. When do you pull them out? You might hit them three or four times a week of the game week because you think that this is a play that could work.

On looking at that play all week leading up to the game thinking 'that play is going to work'…
Coach Warner doesn’t call any plays that he doesn’t think won’t score touchdowns. That’s kind of what his mentality is.

On the emotions from the Michigan game and putting them on hold for this game…
When you were 3-9 it’s easy to put a lot of things on hold and moving on to the next game with the same workman like mentality.

On using receivers to maximize the run-game…
Probably what you’ve noticed is I've substituted a lot of guys to keep guys pressing so they can zero in on a safety or corner or whoever you need to block. Sometimes when you get in the midst of a game and you ran a route and your mind’s weighing heavily on how you ran that route, maybe you won’t block as well. When you’re substituting guys in you can kind of keep them focused on the job that needs to be done.

On Connor Heyward playing slot…
That guy can do anything, defense, he could play wherever, he can do anything. If needed be he could play at the wide receiver position, but right now I just want Coach Warner to call his number so he does get to touch the ball.

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