Mark Dantonio Talks About the Impact of Change, Chrome Helmets, Facilities and Much More!

Hondo S. Carpenter

Q: How much of next year’s playbook is done? And if it’s not, when do you usually finish it for the next year?

A: Bulk of it is done. Defensively it’s at 100%, offensively I’d say 90…who we are and what we’re doing. But offensively there’s always things that you bring out and you create week to week and try and look at. I think that’s natural. The job defensively is you gotta stop the opposing team. You can screw up on offense, it’s a 1 yard gain. You screw up on defense, it’s a 99 yard gain. That’s the difference.

Q: You’ve coached at a number of different places with different levels of resources. How do resources translate to Saturdays? You’ve got the Ohio State budget, the Michigan State budget, the Cincinnati budget…

A: I would say it’s about people. You’ve gotta get the people on your campus and inevitably they have to come to your school. If they’re narrow-minded they’ll look at just facilities. But if they’re broad-based they’ll look at things deeply. They’ll look at people. And ultimately people will make the difference. Because we’re sitting in this nice meeting room… I promise you if you come in here every single day you will not look and see what is on the walls here. You will look to see the person in the front of the room. That’s where you gotta make the difference. So that said, you’re always trying to build and keep your program fresh and bring resources and get as many resources as you can because you have to compare apples to apples. You can’t compare apples to oranges. You gotta compare apples to apples to get there, so there’s gotta be at least a level of confidence. And then after that I think it becomes people. We did not lose five games last year because somebody had a better weight room or meeting room or locker room than we did. We lost them at the end of the game because we didn’t find the inches. That was execution…play calling, execution, coaching, whatever you wanna call it. It had nothing to do with facilities. With that being said, we need to continue to gear ourselves towards being the best at everything that we do…and that means facilities too, so I don’t talk out of both sides of my mouth…but I’d rather have the people. I think they’re the ultimate difference makers than the facilities. I think if people look at a stadium, they’re being narrow-minded. Because that’s not what’s gonna create happiness. That becomes second nature to people. They walk in, this is where I sit and this is what I do. People that they walk in to see are gonna make their ultimate difference in happiness or success.

Q: Do you feel like in the six years that you’ve coached here that you’ve been able to change the perception a little bit? Do you feel that difference?

A: Yeah, I feel the difference. I feel the difference here that we are one of the ones that…we’re a have. Not a have not, we’re a have. People can’t look up there and see Michigan State and circle it and say, That’s a win. They have to contend with Michigan State. Now we have to contend with everybody as well, but I think the culture here has changed. I think we have tremendous chemistry, and our confidence as a program is very, very good. We go to play down the road, or they come here, we’ve got as much opportunity to win that game as anyone. We’ve proven that. I would say that’s the case with everybody we play in this Conference.

Q: Someone has recently done a story about the chrome helmets, and it says the younger players like that. How do you feel about the chrome helmets and the excitement it’s generated?

A: I like to keep things fresh and fresh means change. So if we can create a freshness and excitement among our fans and among our players, I think that’s good. We need to hold to the traditions of who we are, so do things within that realm. But I think keeping things fresh makes it fun. You can say that all across the board if you wanna. Everybody likes to see a different tailback in the game or a different player. They get excited about new players. You wanna see who’s gonna be the next corner other than Darqueze Dennard. They wanna know who that’s gonna be. That’s because they wanna keep it fresh. I got excited about our uniforms…what do you call them…the combat uniforms? That’s what they’re called. 2011. I was very excited about those. I was excited about the helmet at the Michigan game. So we’ll continue to do those things. But again, it’s resources too.

Q: Have you been following along with the north end zone project? How do you guys wanna use that long-term for the program? On top of that, how have the facility changes since you got here helped this program move forward?

A: Last question first of all. I don’t think there’s any question that the facilities…the Skandalaris Center, Demer Hall of History…have greatly added to our success here. As I said before, you gotta be able to compare apples to apples. That’s the first thing we have to do. We gotta be able to get on that. Quite frankly, what we had before was not up to par with others. Now we are. The same thing will happen with our game day locker room and the game day experience for our recruits in the recruiting room. Also, not just for our recruits but for other sports recruits too will walk in that room. It gives us a place to entertain after the game. It’s just a more high profile place. Again, we have to compare apples to apples. So it’s the people now that will make the difference.

Q: Do you feel across the board the apples are getting a little spoiled? Do you worry about now it’s all of the sudden become…

A: No, I really don’t pay too much attention to that. If I thought a waterfall was that important, I’d put all my money into waterfalls. Right? That’s what I’d do. It’s different for every program. What’s gonna make the difference? What do you think is gonna make the difference? It’s not this bad. It creates a new freshness down there. Water running is like life, it’s always running. So maybe there’s a comparison to that. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m just saying you need to prioritize what you can get. I don’t know if we got the locker room right now to put a waterfall in there. Maybe two years from now we will. Maybe that’s a thought, when we put that new locker room in. That’s not a bad thought. But I’m just saying that whatever we deem as important is what we need to work towards. So we have to prioritize. We can’t get it all at once.

Q: How much apprehension do you have that there’s a pretty good chance that some true freshmen are gonna see some time this fall and you’re gonna need to rely on those guys in that key position?

A: When Dennard played his first game as a freshman, he had an outstanding game. He really played well. So he sorta secured his future as a freshman. Max Bullough played a little bit as a freshman and did a nice job. Le’Veon Bell played as a freshman in 2010, did an outstanding job. Keshawn Martin played as a freshman in 2008. I still remember when I head butted him at the Michigan game. Did a tremendous job. So we’ve had guys come and do it. CL Rucker played very, very well as a true freshman. I can’t remember…those are just six of them right off the top of my head. So we’ve had guys do that. Mark Dell played very well as a true freshman. So they have to be ready for their opportunity. When the opportunity comes they have to seize it and not be afraid of it. That’s the biggest thing. They have to play with confidence. It’s one thing to walk in talking about, This is what I’ve done. This is how it is. But you have to be able to play with a great deal of confidence. That’s a level of maturity I think.

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