EAST LANSING – Mark Dantonio put Michigan State football on the map by winning a Rose Bowl, multiple Big Ten titles, and reaching the College Football Playoffs.
He did it with physicality; he did it in the trenches.
The program rose to new heights with Dantonio, but the offensive line production diminished in the final few years.
After 13 seasons, the longtime Spartan retired and was replaced by Mel Tucker, who brought on Chris Kapilovic to reshape MSU up front.
Tucker's first season as head coach had its fair share of challenges.
MSU didn't have spring practices, a spring game, or a traditional fall camp, and a majority of the offensive and defensive schemes were implemented using Zoom.
It was an unprecedented year.
Even so, many position groups for Michigan State underperformed, including the offensive line.
"I feel like with the guys that are coming back and some pieces we have coming in that we should be at a much higher level than we were last year," Kapilovic told reporters Friday afternoon. "My timeframe is today. We've got to get it done; we've got to get better tomorrow at practice and go from there."
Kapilovic took over a group derailed by injuries for two straight years with 10 returning offensive lineman, meaning the Spartans had experience. But due to the pandemic, he didn't work with the line as much as he wanted.
In 2021, Michigan State returns seven offensive linemen who started at least one game last year, along with some new faces. It's left him optimistic.
"We definitely have some competition in our room, which is huge for growth and success, and that's something that I didn't feel like we had that across the board in the fall," said Kapilovic. "I told them this at the start of spring ball; in my mind, through our workouts, I see multiple guys that can start at each position ... It's critical that they understand that because you'd like to think every person, every player, is going to just give everything they've got every day but it's human nature to get complacent at times.
"But when you know if there's a guy behind you that can take your job and you don't have a good day, that's going to motivate you even more. And that's really what we're trying to get to here."
LT A.J. Arcuri, RG Matt Carrick, RT Kevin Jarvis, C Matt Allen, OL Nick Samac, OL Blake Bueter, OL J.D. Duplain, and OL Luke Campbell are all back featuring depth behind them.
The Spartans also added former Arkansas State OL Jarrett Horst, who picked Michigan State over Oklahoma, Florida State, and Texas.
However, for Kapilovic, it's about finding chemistry and the right mix of players.
"I know it sounds like coach speak sometimes, but really you're trying to find the five best guys and then plug them in where you can," he said.
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