Prior to the arrival of Mark Dantonio, the Spartan Football program was in shambles.Â The previous two coaching regimes had left the program tattered.Â Under Bobby Williams, the blame laid squarely on the administration and the politics that has kept Michigan State back for years.Â Under John L. Smith it was the politics of MSU and his loyalty to a staff that was beyond repair that let it down.
In Jack Eblingâ€™s brilliant new book, â€œThe Heart of a Spartan,â€ Javon Ringer said it best.Â â€œCoach Smith was awesome.Â But no one liked his assistants.â€ (Page 58)Â Things have changed.Â Big time!
Back-to-back 11 win seasons, in the national picture as a program and not for Tom Foolery, and respect now roam the halls.Â Discipline is restored and football is back on solid ground.Â On and off the field Spartan football is respected nationally and recruits from border to border and coast to coast are taking notice.
Dantonio said of where his program sits now, â€œI think we're in a position of contention. We always are. I think we are moving along. When you talk about where we wanted to go when we first came here, what we wanted to try to accomplish, we said want to build a foundation. We keep trying to build a foundation to try to get to that Rose Bowl. We're not there yet. We haven't made it there yet, but that's our goal.
In terms of nationally, from a national perspective, I think we have a little bit more respect, maybe, coming into the season. But what I've seen every season is somebody rises up and somebody falls out.
So as I said when I started this press conference, I think our focus has to be on the daily tasks. And if we can keep our head in the game from that perspective and just keep trying to build, trying to keep bring along all of our parts and our components of our football team, I think we have a chance to be a very good football team.
But our schedule is a tough schedule. There's great teams in this conference. We play a great out of conference schedule as well. I don't know if I'm answering the question. But we have unfinished business, I feel, and I think we're rising to the top as we move forward. But it's easy to stand here and say those things.
Where I see our program right now, though, is that it's stronger than when I came. How is that for a statement? Nobody can refute that. So we can go from there.â€
There is no better way to judge the progress of this program under the leadership of Mark DantonioÂ than one word:Â Â expectations!Â Spartan fans no longer hope for one day being in the hunt for a Rose Bowl and a National Title.Â Now they see it for what it is:Â TRULY POSSIBLE.
If Mark Dantonio has done anything he has brought hope back to the program, an expectation of success.Â He embraces Rose Bowl and National title talk.Â In fact he said about that, â€œYes, I embrace it. I think we have very high goals here, very high standards that we're trying to keep. And you always want to get better. That's the message. I don't care where you're at. Look at the Super Bowl champions, they want to get better. They talk about not having a 9 and 7 season or whatever they're doing. So you're always trying to reach further. I think that's the nature of sports and athletes and athletics in general. And that's what we're going to try to do.
But, again, in answer to the first question, I guess, I think we're proud of what we've accomplished. But I think we want to stay humbled in that fact and understand that this game is very fleeting, I guess, and you can be up here one minute and down here the next.
I think that's the message, whether it's the Olympics or anything that you look at, that message is pretty clear to everybody. So we have to be keep working, we have to keep our eyes on the prize and we have to do it segment by segment, game to game. If you get too far ahead of yourself, I think you're destined for failure, to be honest with you. I think you have to look at what's your next job at hand, your next task.
Right now our next task is let's get through summer camp. We might not be the same football team if we have a bunch of injuries, just like no one else would be. We have to take care of each other. We have to make sure that we're on task and implement all of our offense, defense and special teams and handle all the situations that we run into throughout a season and try and build on that.
But certainly we're going to build on the success that we've had. And I think that gives us confidence. And regards to how many people are coming to the games, I think that's a good thing. The scoreboards are going to be unbelievable. I think hats off to our administration for doing all that, getting those things done. And I just think that it builds excitement. Right now it's a very exciting time at Michigan State. Football, basketball, all sports.â€
There is an old adage that, â€œA rising tide lifts all boats.â€Â It is true and the success of Spartan Football had helped every other sport at MSU.
With the success Dantonio has had, donâ€™t think for one second he isnâ€™t still hungry.Â With all programs they reflect the man in the Captainâ€™s chair.Â Dantonio is still hungry.Â He knows that as high as his goals are, and as much success as he has had, there is still unfinished business.Â
He said of what still lies ahead, â€œYeah, I think it stems from our basic goal: Let's go to the Rose Bowl. Let's see where it takes us from there. We played extremely hard and things fell the way they fell in that final game. And that still hurts a little bit. And we draw from that, brings strength to this program. So I think, again, you always have to look forward, and you always have to try and accomplish the next thing. And that's the next thing for us. When we accomplish that, then we can start talking beyond that. But until we do that, I think that we still haven't done what we've really set out to do. But that's the nature of sports.â€
His stud MLB Max Bullough gets it.Â He understands that hunger that still resonates in the belly of his head coach and he shares that commitment to be great and to be hungry.Â Bullough said, â€œWe want to be the best because that's what we want to do, we don't want to be the best because that's what everyone else says we should do and this and that. We want to be the best because that's the kind of people we are. So that's kind of been our motivating factor ever since we have been here."
Chris â€œMAGNUSâ€ McDonald is entering his last year.Â He is the unequivocal leader of the OL and he sees those expectations and goals as achievable and he is ready for the task.Â He said, â€œWe are hungry, we want it. We have been working hard over the summer. Just all of us we really want it. Especially the seniors, it's our last year, for me personally I am going to be trying a little harder and pushing a little more every time for each other. We are very hungry."
Sophomore C Travis Jackson May be young, but the talented OL has a chip on his shoulder.Â He knows there are more things to get done and accomplish and he sees the goals ahead with his eyes on the prize.Â Saying, â€œAll of us are very competitive and I think as every season starts we want to reach our goals. Last year going to the Big Ten Championship game and losing it, we got a taste of it and got so close. We now know what it takes to get there and know what it takes to win. We are definitely excited about hopefully getting back there, win the division and win the Big Ten Championship. Those are our goals right there. I think we have a good team and a great defense so we are excited to get the offense going."
In past years the Spartan Nation was excited about football, but the hopes and dreams were to just get to a bowl.Â A bowl.Â Now people are talking about Rose Bowls, National Titles and respect.Â Oh what a difference a leader makes.Â What a difference vision makes and 2012 is set up to be special.Â Real special.