Dec. 26, 2011
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
TAMPA, Fla. - While many promises to run off those holiday goodies were broken on Monday, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio made sure the Spartans burned off whatever extra calories they consumed during a five-day break from Outback Bowl preparation.
Shortly after being greeted by temperatures in the mid-70s, the players participated in an hour-long, non-contact workout in T-shirts and shorts on the artificial field in Jesuit High School's Alumni Stadium.
With the humidity unusually high for this time of year, it wasn't long before many of the players had shed their shirts as strength and conditioning coach Ken Mannie paced them through a grueling set of sprints.
"We'll take as much heat as we can get right now and try to get acclimated," Dantonio said. "Our guys haven't worked out for five days, but we should be in good shape."
The conditions are much different than what MSU experienced a year ago when the players encountered frigid conditions in Orlando prior to playing Alabama in the Capital One Bowl.
However, rain is in Tuesday's forecast and temperatures are expected to stay in the 60s during the middle of the week. A high of 74 is predicted for next Monday's game against Georgia in Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"We'll go hard the first couple (of days) and then level off as we go," Dantonio said. "Our guys will work hard."
On the way to practice, the team made a quick visit to Raymond James Stadium and moseyed about the natural grass field for about 10 minutes. A few adventurous players made a quick tour of the pirate ship, which is located above the north end zone and fires off canons every time the Buccaneers score.
The Spartans will practice on a natural grass field and the artificial turf field, which is similar to the surface inside MSU's indoor-practice facility, at Jesuit.
"We've got both fields so we can spread out a little bit and have a normal practice in terms of where we usually do things," Dantonio said. "We'll look at the grass field and make some decisions on where to go, but it's a good field based on what I've seen."
Starting freshman long snapper Matt Giampapa was suspended for the bowl game for violating team rules, Dantonio said. Red-shirt sophomore Steve Moore will handle the duties for punts and placekicks against the Bulldogs.
"He's snapped before," Dantonio said. "We'll be fine."
Two-way performer Tony Lippett, who worked out primarily at wide receiver during bowl practices held on campus, is expected to get more action at cornerback on Tuesday.
"We'll work him so he can go (contribute on) either side," Dantonio said.
Sophomore wideout Bennie Fowler, who was limited to five appearances this season by a stress fracture in his foot, will not play against Georgia.
Dantonio said MSU will likely petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility after Fowler completes his senior season in 2013.
"I don't think it's a surgery thing," Dantonio said. "He just has to be off it. He had this as a freshman on his other foot, so, just deal with it and keep moving."
The disappointment of losing to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 3 appears to have completely dissipated.
The team has a "good mind-set," Dantonio said. "We've got to wait and see until we get to game-day, but I think we're focused. The players understand what's at stake here. We have to play well against a great Georgia team.
"They know the challenge that's in front of them, but at the same time, the opportunity to win 11 games and win a bowl game is one of our main goals."
The Spartans are looking to end a five-bowl losing streak.
Dantonio confirmed that defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi interviewed for a FBS head-coaching job, but has decided to remain at MSU for the time being.
"Obviously, when we do well there are going to be opportunities that are going to be there, whether it's an NFL opportunity for a player or a head-coaching opportunity," Dantonio said. "Those are the fruits of your labor, I guess. Those are good things. If he can impact more people on a larger scale, those are things we all look to do at some point in our life. I think a lot of our coaches are going to get to that point.
"It's a statement in terms of where we're at as a program right now."
Funds that are becoming available to Dantonio to upgrade his assistants' salaries in February should bring MSU in line with other programs.
"Jobs are tough out there right now," he said. "It's really a blessing we all have one."
Michigan State and Georgia players, coaches and administrators attended the Outback Steakhouse Team Welcome Dinner Monday night at the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa, Fla. The two teams combined to consume more than 4,500 pounds of food during the dinner, including 750 pounds of ribeye steak, 750 pounds of chicken and 900 pounds of ribs - all cooked over a woodfire grill. In addition, more than 700 pounds of house salad, 200 pounds of green beans, 160 Bloomin' Onions, 1,200 pounds of cheese cake, 80 gallons of barbecue sauce and 90 cases of soda and water were ingested