Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio’s Informal Conversation with Media Here in Chicago

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Q: ...How much was that you guys saw something nobody else did, and how much of it was development with Connor Cook?

A: Well we saw a young man with a lot of ability from a great high school program. We had him in our camp so we knew what he could do. He had great growth potential as well, and he was a smart guy. When you watched him on the high school field you saw that he could really throw the football and run with it. So that was a no-brainer to us. I don't know really... For us it was a no-brainer.

Q: With the unlimited snacks and meals starting soon, has that changed anything? Do you have to emphasize more proper dieting at all?

A: I think nutrition is really the next frontier in sports. You're seeing that transcend from the NFL down through. It's what you put in your body that is gonna fuel your body and how you do it, the amount of sleep and those type of things. Obviously it's an advantage to do those things at this level and we're gonna do everything we can to make sure our players are healthy.

Q: How much different is it being here now after last season, for you and for how you're coaching your team?

a: Well as I said before, we've gotta be able to handle success. I think we came here having to do that before. But I don't know, the day's just getting started. I will say this...our phrase this year, our catchphrase, our mantra or whatever it is, is "It starts here". Whether it's today, or it's the first game, or the first practice, it starts here.

Q: Who came up with that?

A: I come up with all that stuff.

Q: It's all you?

A: It's all me.

Q: Is there any more of a chip on your shoulder now with all the success that you've had, with all the guys coming back, where people are still picking Ohio State or another team to win?

A: Really, you guys didn't pick us last year and I was okay with everything at the end of the year. People make their picks, they make their choices, people have an opportunity to say something. I don't let that bend me too much. I just try and stay the course.

Q: Anybody you're expecting not to be ready when camp starts?

A: We'll probably have some guys, but I'll release that when camps starts.

Q: Macgarrett Kings was back on the two-deep. Will he start August 1st or has he been able to go through some of the individual summer workouts?

A: Yeah, he's back in summer workouts.

Q: The back end of the defense... Who are some of the guys from spring and summer that are progressing?

A: Well Darian Hicks is a guy that's got a lot of athletic ability. He was really our third corner last year, and he played some. So it's gonna be a very important position. Some of our incoming freshmen are gonna have an opportunity to look at those positions. I think obviously RJ Williamson is a guy that has gotta play well because he's in a starting position. He's got the experience. I think Demetrious Cox is a guy that has a lot of ability. We'll see where he plays. I think he's got foot skills to play outside. I think he's got a great ball skills. He just needs experience and he should get that this year. He's probably the fifth guy right now, maybe the fourth.

Q: Safety...star...nickel with Cox, now that you're talking about moving him...

A: Yeah. I think that guy can play anywhere, personally.

Q: Would you give him reps there at corner?

A: We're gonna find out as we move forward. I don't wanna make... I think he's gotta have an opportunity to get his feet on the ground a little bit and see where the other people are at. But I think he's got great ability.

Q: With so many people mentioning what you lost, are people missing the fact that there's no one stepping in to play who doesn't have experience? That's a big deal.

A: Yeah, we play a lot of players. Really, most of our offense is back. We lose one wide out and we lose three offensive linemen...but we played eight. Our tight ends are back and is really a position of strength now. The wide receivers are a position of strength. Obviously quarterbacks and running backs... On the defensive side of the ball we play a lot of players. So really, there's not one player starting for us that does not have a lot of game experience, maybe other than Darian Hicks. And he's worked a lot with them.

Q: I know you're not relying on true freshmen because of the depth you've built, but through offseason workouts and getting a look at these guys are there any that really stand out and think could help us this year?

A: Yeah, I think in the secondary... There's three guys in the secondary, three or four guys, in the secondary, especially at corner, that have an opportunity there. You start with Vayante Copeland, you move from there to...

Q: Watts-Jackson...

A: Yeah, Jalen. And then also I think Montae Nicholson has the ability to go out there. He's got great ball skills, he's big, he runs extremely well...4.4...he's got great balance. So those three guys are gonna flop in there a little bit and see what they can do.

Q: How's Terry? Is he all ready to go, shoulder-wise...

A: Yeah, we'll have to be careful early in the fall camp, but he'll be ready to go.

Q: How do you view that competition, O'Connor and Terry? I know Cook's the guy, but those two...how intense should that be for that #2 spot?

A: That will be something that, as we move forward throughout the August camp and early September... But I do think that Tyler O'Connor... It's about game management sometimes. There are certain things that certain individuals do better. You've gotta... They have unique abilities and you need to be able to capitalize on those as a coach. But at the end of the day the quarterback is a game management position and you've gotta be able to do that. So there's an experience factor there a little bit.

Q: I would imagine that it's gotta be good to be in this position to have coached the program along to a point of it being extremely relevant, as you guys are.

A: A lot of people have worked extremely hard to get to the point where we're at right now. Administratively, we've really turned our... You really look at our physical facility, where we've come since 2007. We've made drastic strides there. So there are a lot of supporters that have been involved in that. Our players that have come through the program since 2007, a lot of people working... I look at this program a lot like a big ship on the ocean. You know you start to turn it, it takes a while to turn it. You're not just gonna whip it to the right or left because people are gonna fall off that ship. It's gotta be turned gradually. When you make that turn... That's what we've done. We've made that turn. I think we've got great culture, great chemistry at our place, and it's gotta continue to be resilient though.

Q: Did Taiwan Jones have the offseason you wanted him to have? And is he the clear #1 inside right now?

A: I think he's the #1 linebacker, we're gonna find that out. I think he's worked hard to do that. He's a phenomenal athlete. He's 250 and runs very well, bench presses 420-something or whatever it is. He's got 3 years of starting experience. But it's different inside. We gotta make sure that he plays on habit, that he has knowledge and he plays on habit. So we're gonna find that out in August, and in September... Obviously we continue to take steps forward to figure that process out.

Q: Who's the competition there?

A: I think Darien Harris can flop in there. I think Riley Bullough can flop in there. I think Jon Reschke's a guy that looks like he has ability, but he's coming off his redshirt freshman year, so... We've got players at that position, it's just a matter of who's gonna take command of it. Really, Max Bullough is a great football player, but Max was so valuable because he got people lined up, he could adjust. And in this game today, football today, is so much...especially with all the one-back sets, the no-huddle offense...it's so much about adjustments. Moving one foot here, one foot there, makes all the difference. Getting the guy in the right defensive alignment, changing the defensive call based on different scenarios... That has so much to do with it. That's the thing we're gonna miss.

Q: Is Edmonds still competing outside for you guys?

A: Yeah, Jermaine will compete at that, he's got great ability. RJ Calhoun is involved in that too. They're great athletes. So we've got depth at that position and they're good players, but we've gotta find out who's gonna be the most consistent. When you lose a guy like Darqueze Dennard, that's difficult to replace.

Q: How hard is it for a true freshman to play on the defensive line? And that said, do you think you've got some candidates that can get in that rotation this year?

A: You know, it's a man's world up there. There's no question about that. But I do think that we have... This is the best defensive line group that we've recruited. When you look back a couple years and you have Shilique, LT's on the defensive line, you have Knox, and you've got Joel Heath and Brandon Clemons... They're all very good players, but I think this group's unique. Malik McDowell is a guy that's very light on his feet, extremely quick, he's going about 280. You've got Enoch Smith. Enoch looks like a very good athlete, tough. The two defensive ends are solid. And then you've got our guy from up in Wisconsin, Craig Evans. We had him in camp, he looked like he could play. So I think those guys have an opportunity to get involved, I really do.

Q: Will LT start out at end or tackle? Do we know yet?

A: He's a combination of both, so it depends on which day we're talking.

Q: At 309, is he...

A: He's 309, give or take a biscuit. But he could be down to 300. You know, he's a 300 lb guy, so... He's a good athlete.

Q: Was there a particular game where you felt Connor really turned a corner?

A: I thought the Iowa game he took big steps and grew.