Mark Dantonio, Michigan State Head Coach Talks Maryland Terrapins & MORE
Tom & Lupe Izzo Media Center
East Lansing, MI
The Michigan State Spartan Football team finds themselves coming into senior day fighting to avoid being only the second Mark Dantonio team to NOT make a bowl. The other side is that while most dream of warm weather as a reward for a decent season, perhaps the Spartans with a win get what they deserve, a trip to Detroit. Not a place known for warm weather this time of the year.
Mark Dantonio took to the podium today to talk about his team and to look ahead at Maryland this weekend. But make no mistake, Maryland is terrible and the Spartans should coast. So little is even said of the Turtles. You can watch the entire press conference above or read the transcript below:
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Sincere condolences to the Bullough family. Hank Bullough passed on Sunday evening and made a statement yesterday.
I think the biggest thing that I could say about Hank is he was more than just a Spartan. He was nationally recognized, nationally renowned college and pro football coach and he impacted so many young people along the way. He continued to bleed Green after his retirement.
I'll never forget the first day that I was in the office, the very first day I was in the office, and he still had his office there as the defensive coordinator at that point in time, still in his office cleaning it out. Came over and actually talked to me about retirement actually in terms of the retirement system actually.
Great guy. Three of his grandsons played for us. Obviously I know Shane very well and Chuck is on our staff. Our condolences and our prayers and thoughts are with he and his family. Move from there
With regards to the Rutgers game, chance to get back on winning track. I thought defensively we played very, very well. No third down conversions. Tough to run against. Zero big plays. Shutout. All the things that you need.
On the offensive side of the ball, we got explosive plays, we were able to run the ball effectively. Stalled out a couple times on fourth and one but you know, got some things done on that end of the spectrum, as well and came away with 27-0 win, and a step forward I think in terms what have we needed to do.
This game is a program game, much like it was probably in 2012 with the Minnesota game. The standard, as I told our football team yesterday, I don't care where you're at in the scheme of things within your schedule.
When you win your sixth game, you sort of meet the minimum in terms of accomplishment. You're Bowl eligible. You have a chance for a winning season and things of that nature. We'll build on that as we move forward. The only thing we can sort of change is the future. While we are disappointed in where we are at, we still have an opportunity to play ourselves forward and that's what we'll do.
When you look at Maryland right now, they have gone through some challenges themselves, a lot of injuries much like us. Probably later than earlier, their injuries have affected so many different things on their program, as well. Outstanding running backs in McFarland, No. 20, really averages 7.6 per carry yards after contact, No. 1 in the Big Ten. They have struggled at quarterbacks, having used four different ones this past week because of injuries etc.
Defensively, Brooks is the guy, No. 25. He's an outstanding football player and I think he's one of the top leaders if not the leader in tackles per game. Coach Locksley comes back to Maryland after being gone for a while. I think that he has an outstanding resum�, and he'll have his guys playing very, very well as they come over.
I know as we get into this, we go into Thanksgiving weekend, but as always I appreciate the Spartan support in terms who have is there and how we handle things.
I'll take some questions. Go from there.
Q. You called this a "program game." I assume that's big for your seniors, but what did you see in the response after last week, maybe a mood change watching film after the first win in two months and what does it mean to give the seniors one more game?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I've said this many times. Our seniors have stayed the course in terms of their attitude and their chemistry and enthusiasm and energy. They truly have, and it's been impressive, very, very impressive. We have good senior leadership from our guys goose. Things don't always go the way that you plan them, but at the same time they have responded accordingly.
I thought this past weekend, I'm sure you guys interviewed them and everything, a little bit of a weight was lifted from their shoulders a little bit just getting the win. It's been a difficult time progressing through those things but the four games previous, or I guess five previous, a little bit the off-weeks having to deal with being off those two weeks, surrounding those things.
But we stayed focused. We kept going, and I've been impressed with that and look forward to that this week, as well.
Q. I don't know if you had a chance to see, Urban Meyer was talking about the program and the struggles lately and he was very complimentary of you, as a friendship and as a coach. But he eyed development of players and recruiting. Do you agree that that's accurate?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Well, I have a great deal of respect for Urban Meyer, for Urban. But when you're in the thick of it here, you know a little bit more about the program here.
I've always said that, you know, we've done a good job developing our players. Darqueze Dennard was a two-star player coming out. Had zero scholarship offers, yet he becomes a first-round pick. Jack Coughlin becomes a first-round pick.
So we've had guys develop within the program and we've been able to win games along the way. We've had some different players come in that were higher-recruited guys, four-star guys and things of that nature. They have been able to become good players, as well.
But the reality of the situation is that players come and I don't care where you're at. They have got to be developed and they grow as people.
If you look at our situation this year and right now where we're at, there's a lot of reasons, and I understand that, you know, but the ones that are out of our system control are injuries, so consequently we are playing young players, especially on the offensive line.
I would say on our offensive line, we probably had -- what do we have, 11 different starters, which is not usually good, but there hasn't been stability at that position along the offensive line.
So injuries, I would say some officiating decisions. I'm not going to call them wrong decisions but they didn't go our way. I would say that our schedule, the way it was propped up was difficult.
And I would also say that we have had some dropped balls and some issues in the deep part of the field with guys judging the ball. I mean, you can for sure find two more wins in that area.
The youth of our football team is right now on display, but I think we have good players, and I think they have a tremendous chance of developing into outstanding players, especially when you look across the board at certain positions.
You know, I guess I agree with part of it. But we play our way into those situations, and I also believe that success breeds confidence.
So if you're successful, and all of a sudden you find yourself 7-0 or 8-0 like the 2011 team, you're much more confident going into the next game.
Like the other aspect occurs, as well, you start to spiral downward a little bit and you start saying, okay, what's next. I think our players have remained above that, and like I said, that's been impressive.
But we are where we're at. We still have a chance to have a winning season and that's all that we can affect right now, and Maryland such on the clock and we're going to get ourselves ready to play against Maryland and figure everything else out after the fact.
Hope that answered the question, but I appreciate his remarks, as well, about me.
Q. Obviously the redshirt rule has changed. You've got Dobbs, Wright, Mosley and Hallock all sitting at four games, one, possibly two left. What's the thought on using them and potentially burning redshirts there?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I think if guys are playing -- if a guy is a starter, I mean, he's got to play on. With respect to some of these guys, you just don't know what's going to happen.
For me, my thought process is that you really don't redshirt until your fifth year, much like Trey Wayne's red-shirted and then went out after his third year. Jerel Worthy red-shirted and went out after his third year of playing. Really you redshirt whether you take it now or take it after the next year or basically Kevin Jarvis, if he plays the one game, we can redshirt him still.
So you really don't play; you figure out your fifth year until your fifth year comes. My perspective, if you're playing 30 plays, if you're in the mix of playing, then you play on. But you have discussions with your players to see what they want to do. We have had discussions with two of the three guys and that's what they want to do, they want to play on.
When you sit there and say, hey, I played as a true freshman and I was not red-shirted, that's like a gold star on your shirt that you didn't redshirt as a freshman. You were integral in terms of you playing and you consistently get more readiness and more coaching when you're playing. There is no experience like going out in front of 80,000 people or 75,000 people and playing in a game. Even if it's for one game. Even if it's for five or ten plays. That's a tremendous asset to carry with you into the next season.
So in the case of Dobbs, he's slated to start. In the case of Tre Mosley, he's played 30 plays a game here the last number of games, so he's an integral part of our offense, as well. So I see them playing on.
Brandon Wright, now he's either a two or a three, depending on how much he's playing, but again, a guy that we don't hesitate to put him in the game.
Hallock played just on special teams. We'll probably redshirt him, and then on it goes because we have a couple other guys in those situations as we go forward, you know, going into the 13th game.
So good question, but we're trying to deal with them as individual decisions and let it play out. But you really can't forecast the future of what's going to happen, whether a guy gets injured. You look at Jalen Nailor, he's played in two games now. So he'll be a sophomore next year, as well. So he didn't redshirt as a freshman but had injuries as a sophomore and allowed for him to be red-shirted.
Q. You mentioned in your opening remarks about the 2012 game at Minnesota. How often do you reverence that this week? Or is there a new message with this group and what they need?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: No, I reference that. I referenced that last week, as well, what we have to do to meet the basic threshold.
So I referenced it and talked about it. I do think when I look back at 2012, we had to go up in the cold and win away from home, so that set us on to a string of, what were we, 38-5 the next, you know, 42 or 43 games.
So that was a mindset-type game, a program game, of what I would call a program game.
Q. As far as Raequan, 40 straight starts. What does it say for him and how difficult is it to get to that point, longevity?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think it's difficult just from a health standpoint to be able to maintain and be a starter every game for that length of time. I know that Marcus Rush I think missed one game in maybe 52 out of 53, something like that, something outstanding.
But not many people have been able to do that, and that's a credit to him and his durability. When you look at what we would call our Ironman people, guys who perform highly in the weight room, I think that corresponds with that. But he's been a warrior for us and he'll have that opportunity again.
Q. In terms of your whole senior class as a whole, when you look at this group, what will you remember about them the most, and I know probably each class has its own significance to you personally.
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: What I remember about this senior class will be their ability to stay focused, to be able to weather some storms as they have moved through it. You know, 2010, we had a bounce-back year, won ten football games, and then last year, we had a lot, a lot of close games. Could have won a couple of those.
But they maintained who they were. I was extremely impressed at our five defensive players that could have gone out early chose to stay. That was a huge statement I think for this program and something I think I'll remember those guys all for, whether that's Raequan or Panasiuk or David Dow or Joe Bachie or Kenny Willekes, all five of those guys could have went and that was a testament of their attitude towards this football team.
And this year, just staying the course. Some things, you can control. Some things you can't. The things we can control, we want to do that, but other things we can't control we have to deal with.
But they have maintained a positive approach and sometimes as much as anything, that's to be applauded. I'll respect them forever for that reason. You know, got some individual guys in there like Brian Lewerke that, you know, there's no other Spartan quarterback in the history of football here at Michigan State that's thrown for over 7,000 yards and run for over, 1,000. That's very impressive.
Darrell Stewart leading the Big Ten in catches at the time of his injury. If we're able to go to a Bowl game, he'll be back. When you look at that and you look at Raequan starting 40 straight games, some of the different things that have been accomplished in that area. I think Mike Panasiuk is very, very close to that, as well.
So you have some individual guys that have done some great things. Then you have got some other things that we fell a little big short. But I'll keep pushing forward.
Q. We've had different looks at the linebacker position. Is this new with Tyreek in the middle and Noah, is that something you expect going forward?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: We make that decision after practices Tuesday and Wednesday this week. It will depend on who we need where. All three have sort of played in there, so that's a good problem to have I think, so we can adjust with that, and all three have played around the other positions.
But when you lose Joe Bachie, I mean, it's like losing the quarterback of your defense, certainly, and he's an outstanding player and we have to pick up the pieces in that regards. I do think Tyreek played well there this past week, though.
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: They are all a little bit differently. I think Antjuan is a little more quick-twitch, a little less weight. Tyreek gives you a thumper a little bit and Noah is a guy that's a younger player but can really run and is athletic.
So they are all a little bit different, just like all players are a little bit different, but they will all be ready to play, and I've been impressed with the leadership of all three, all three.
Q. You mentioned success breeds confidence, so with Cody White and having the performance that he had last weekend, how do you hope he builds off that and how long have you been waiting for him to have a performance like he had on Saturday?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, Cody's an outstanding player. I was a little bit remiss in not talking about him based on the Rutgers game. He had a tremendous performance. I think nine catches in the first half for 119 yards and three touchdowns, and really would have had a fourth but the defender made a tremendous play on it.
He's always been a very -- last year, he had the injury bug. Played with a cast on his hand. Missed I think four or five games. This year he's been in the mix from early on. He's been a starter for us, and I think with Darrell's departure, he's taken on the lead role as the go-to guy and he's responded. He's shown leadership within our football team and he's taken a step forward in that process.
He's a solid guy and he's made big plays for us. Really, since his freshman year, you can look back on it and say Cody White made this play or he made that play. He's been very consistent, I would say.
Q. Do you have a favorite catch?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I like every catch -- that one was impressive, yes.
Q. Any thought to keeping Joe out of that, given the suspension --
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: No, I felt like -- treating this just like an injury. He went through the appeal process. On both sides of the fence in that process, I thought they did their due diligence. They took their time with it and the decision went against us.
If you know Joe Bachie and you know how hard he's worked and the leadership that he's shown on this football team over the course of time, I have to be respectful and honor that. You know, I want him to be a part of that day.
He's been a great player for this program, and I hope he has a great career after. We obviously can't play him but we went through the process with the appeal. Just didn't win it.
Q. From signing day up through a guy's last game, you talk about them as football players. But Raequan, aside from being a guy that will play in the NFL is a Hall of Fame kid. For fans that don't get to know him like we do, can you talk about Raequan, the individual, the person?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, you know, when I sat down to talk about whether he would be coming back or not and talk about different things, and putting his name in the NFL process and all this kind of stuff, he said, "Whoa, Coach, what if I don't want to leave? What if I want to stay here and get my degree? What if I want to be part of this football team? Do we even have to do that?"
I said, "No, absolutely not." And that's how that conversation went.
He's always been a very big giver and always been a person that's looked for other people, towards other people, and gave himself to those people. He's a strong leader on our football team. He's one of our captains. You know, he's been that guy. Very unselfish, made himself even a better player as he's been able to move through the process and had his degree.
He's just an outstanding person. He's been through some tough times in his life, and you know, has made it through, like so many of our players. They have had some things happen to them that have been difficult to endure.
But he is truly a champion person. He's a different kind of guy. You don't find those type of guys walking around too often, very unselfish.
Q. What did you see from Jalen the first game back and how much does his return affect what you can do personnel-wise -- Cody playing in the slot a lot.
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Jalen caught five passes this week and played pretty half the game, I think maybe 35 or 40 snaps. So it's his first game back. A little bit sore coming off of that. Feel like he'll be back to full speed. He's a guy we can move around obviously. He's played all the different positions. He's played X, he's played Z, he's played at the slot receiver.
We can move him around and he's an outstanding football player and we should benefit from him being back. He just gives us another guy, another guy up, so we'll get some guys back.
Q. When you mentioned Joe, now that his situation is set, anything else you can offer in terms of the circumstance? Was it a mistake that he didn't know what was going on or a new rule?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think those things are left for the appeal process. I don't think I would want to get involved in that.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Dominique Long, special teams for you this year. He's made every tackle -- why is he so good there? What is it about him that he really takes to that?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: He's got tenacity, No. 1. He plays every play as hard as he can play. He's not intimidated by the situation. He really plays behind Xavier, their safety position and also he plays at corner, so he's a guy that can adapt to either one. He's played all three years. He's an engineering student. Very good student, a very explosive player. He's an 11-1 long jump guy and about an 38, 39 vertical jump guy and 6-2, almost 200 pounds.
So he has the physical attributes. He was a receiver in high school, so he has the ball skills. I see him as being a guy that will continue to play forward in even more situations and more plays.
So he's been a guy that from day one has stepped in and been an intricate part of special teams, whether it's kickoff, punt, punt return, whatever it is.
Q. Is he a guy you want to rely on --
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: He's a dependable guy. You can bet on his intensity and he's going to give you his greatest effort and not be intimidated by the situation. I think his best is yet to come still.
Q. Adam Berghorst is a guy who came in, baseball player, defensive end, but he's gotten on the field as a tight end catching passes. Might not have been high on his resum� but seems like he's helping you.
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, we're going to see down the road what he is, but we moved him to tight end probably about four weeks ago or so. He's responded. He was a tight end in high school. He's got soft hands. He runs pretty good routes for a guy that size, but he's 6-6, 6-7, 262 pounds right now. Fluid athlete. He will play baseball.
We'll see where the football thing takes him in terms of what position, but I see him as a guy -- I just tell our coaches, use them or lose them, and so we've used them on the offensive side of the ball and he's given us depth there and he's played himself into a situation where we will play on Saturday. We're not playing guys just for fun. He gives you a big guy that can be on the line of scrimmage and control the line of scrimmage to some degree, even as a freshman.
So I'm not sure where his future is, but I know he has a great future, a big-time future as a football player and probably as a baseball player, too, but as a football player from our regard.
Q. Cole Chewins is a guy who made a big impact early in his career, missed half of last season and all of this season. Can you talk about, I don't want to say what he could have been, but how the process -- is that door closed this year, or even next year?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I would say the door is closed this year. He's worked extremely hard to try and come back from his back injury, but every time -- he's never really been able to get on the field yet in pads.
And so you know, as a football player, you have to be able to I think cross that threshold before you can take the next step.
But he continues to work and he keeps a positive attitude and continues to lead, and you know, he's got his master's degree in finance now. So depending on his, I guess, durability and what he's able to accomplish physically, we'll decide whether he can take another step forward as a football player and that's a decision he'll have to make and we'll have to make as we go forward. As of right now, he's just working off the field without pads.
I guess the possibility exists from an NCAA standpoint, I would say the possibility exists from that standpoint, but I think you have to get yourself -- you have to get on the field, see how you're able to withstand being able to play the offensive line first.
Q. Is he still conditioning as a football player?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: He's conditioning in terms -- I would say from a physical therapy standpoint, limited running, limited movements, those type of things. We'll see how it all transforms for him.
The game will kick off at 3:35 PM ET. It can be seen on FS1 or the Fox Sports App.
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