Dec. 8, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio sent his team through a 2 1/2-hour workout in full pads inside the Duffy Daugherty Football Building on Saturday, Dec. 8, as the Spartans (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) began preparation for the Dec. 29 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU (7-5, 4-5 Big 12).
Michigan State returned to the practice field for the first time since its Nov. 24 regular-season finale at Minnesota. With a 26-10 victory over the Golden Gophers, the Spartans became bowl eligible for a school-record sixth-straight season.
"Given the fact that the team had two weeks off (since the regular-season finale at Minnesota), our focus today was to get back to work and to get everyone involved quickly and aggressively," Dantonio said. "We scrimmaged a lot today, and I thought we had some great hitting and enthusiasm.
"With the two-week layoff, play was sloppy at times, but we needed to get back to playing football. That means full contact during individual drills as well as during full-team periods. History shows that in order to play well in a bowl game, you must be able to play in space and that's why we focused on that aspect of the game today.
"Today's practice plan also emphasized getting work for all the players: first-, second- and third-teamers. We got a good look at a lot of young players, so it resembled an early spring practice. Again, we focused on getting every player reps to promote individual growth and development."
"We changed the practice plan a little," junior linebacker Max Bullough said. "After two weeks off, the guys had a chance to refresh their minds and bodies. The mental break was probably even more important than the physical rest. So today, it was time to get back to business. We scrimmaged ones against ones, twos against twos and threes against threes. So the practice definitely had a competitive edge to it, and I thought the guys reacted well to it. It was a good day; we had a lot of guys flying around.
"A lot of younger guys got significant snaps today and it's important for those guys to get their feet wet in these bowl practices. It was good to get a physical practice under our belts with finals week ahead. After closing out the semester, we'll get back on our regular schedule and begin preparation for TCU."
"It felt good to be back out on the practice field," junior running back Le'Veon Bell said. "With the full contact, Coach Dantonio really set the tone today. He wanted to deliver the message that we're not simply preparing for a bowl game; we're preparing for a business trip. Our goal is to earn a program win (over TCU).
"With the long break, my legs felt fresh and my body felt good. Like many of my teammates, I've got to get my feet back under me and get back into the football mode.
"We had to knock a little rust off today, but overall, it was a good practice," Bell continued. "The energy and intensity was definitely there, so the guys really got after each other. We're off to a good start (in bowl preparation), but it's important that we continue to build momentum as we move forward."
The early bowl practices also provide opportunities for the coaching staff to experiment with position changes, so look for red-shirt freshman fullback Lawrence Thomas to take some reps on the defensive line and for junior linebacker TyQuan Hammock to return to the fullback position where he saw extensive action during the 2010 season.
"We want to get LT some reps playing on defense," Dantonio said. "Ideally, we want him to have some opportunities to play on defense in the bowl game, but it's important for him to continue to play on offense because he's a factor right now.
"On the flip side, TyQuan Hammock will get some work at fullback because he's a contact player. TyQuan is extremely physical and powerful, and quite frankly, he's too good of a football player to sit there as the third-team middle linebacker. He plays on all of our special teams, but he has the ability to be a starter at the fullback position. We're always going to try and move our guys around in order to get the best players in the right places, so they can play to the best of their abilities."
The Spartans will take the next five days off for final exams before resuming bowl preparation on Friday, Dec. 14. Michigan State will conduct five more on-campus practices (Dec. 15, 17, 18, 19 and 20). The Spartans will depart for Tempe, Ariz., on Monday, Dec. 24.
The Dec. 29 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl will be televised nationally by ESPN, with kickoff set for 10:15 p.m. ET.
Additional Bowl Notes:
Ticket prices for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl range from $25-$125 each. Fans may order Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl tickets online at msuspartans.com (click "tickets" and proceed to the Spartan Online Ticket Office) or by calling the Spartan Ticket Office (open weekdays from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.), locally at 355-1610 or outside the Lansing area at 1-800-GO-STATE.
For information about the MSU Alumni Association Official Bowl Tour, Spartan fans should call 888-471-3027 or visit msusportstours.com.
The final Mark Dantonio Show of the 2012 season is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 13 from 7-8 p.m. ET at Reno's East (1310 Abbot Road in East Lansing). The Mark Dantonio Show can be heard locally on flagship station WJIM Radio (AM 1240) and WMMQ (FM 94.9).