MSU Fans Walk the Walk as 25,000 show up to say: welcome Coach Dantonio! Guest columnist Mike Henne gives his thoughts.

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By Michael Henne
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It was a sunny day in East Lansing, barely a cloud in the sky as 25,000 adoring Spartan fans filled the lower deck from the 20’s on both sides of the field.  Michigan State fans showed up for Spartan football like it was a family reunion. Ahhh… the Dantonio era has begun with one pleasant surprise after another. Granted, he and his staff have only been at the helm for a grand total of four months, but the excitement is already brimming around campus.Â
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Numerous varsity jackets from metro Detroit were seen throughout the stadium concourse during the day as were a number of school emblems from areas in Ohio that are vital for a turnaround in East Lansing. Many have pointed out the numerous problems that lead to John L’s demise. I’ll simply point out that his lack of recruiting in the PSL and Ohio may very well have been the largest contributing factors in his undoing.
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Make no mistake about it Dantonio has his hands full. He is fighting a battle that few have been able to overcome since the departure of Duffy Daugherty. Forty years have passed since Michigan State University was expected to dominate and win on the gridiron. George Perles had it going for a while, before the wheels fell off the Spartan train. Nick Saban certainly put us in a position to make a solid choice for his successor upon his departure. MSU fumbled the ball horribly with the Bobby Williams hire only to replace him with an Idaho cowboy that ran out of good horses.
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Meanwhile, back in the state of Ohio where linebackers and lineman are manufactured Big Ten style, Dantonio waited his turn. John L. Smith continued to lose staff continuity and one recruiting battle after another. He even lost kids to Cincinatti as Dantonio quietly built a Big East competitor at a school never really known for its football.
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Fast forward to December 2006… Dantonio gets the call and heads north to East Lansing. He arrives at the Daugherty Building with his National Championship ring in-hand and Becky by his side. Mark Dantonio gets it. He knows that family is what makes the Spartan Nation great and that forty years of mediocrity can only be replaced with winning ways through a family effort. He is going about MSU football like a midwestern blue-collar father and mother raise their children. He knows it takes tough love, a firm hand and a level of accountability that has been missing for more than a generation.
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Why does he think that he can be the career coach that puts Michigan State among the elite? It is a formula that has been proven time and time again in the Big Ten. Recruit well in your backyard. Be competitive with Michigan in both Detroit and Flint. Take the great Ohio kids that Ohio State doesn’t have a place for. Run the football on offense and stop the run on defense. He knows you can win in East Lansing and why not Michigan State for a National Championship? Why not a New Year’s bowl game every year. The answer lies with you the MSU fan.
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Mark Dantonio needs you, the great Spartan Nation to walk the walk. He needs you to show up for the green and white game next year with five friends instead of two. He needs you to help fill the stands during the next monsoon. He needs you to help him change the defeatist mindset that has plagued the Spartans for more years than we care to count. You see Spartan fans; we get exactly what we put into MSU football from here on out. There is no quick fix. There is no “super-scheme.” There is no freshman sleeper recruit that can get us ten wins next season. There is only you, your faith, patience and positive attitude that can raise this green giant from his slumber. You have to continue doing what you did last Saturday and show up ready for Spartan football Dantonio style.Â
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The roster Dantonio inherited has somewhere between 4 and 6 wins for the 2007 season. If everything runs to perfection (which it never does) we could be looking at a bowl game. What does perfection look like in 2007? The offensive line would have to have a huge year without any major injuries. Hoyer would have a 3 to 1 TD to INT ratio. We’d have to rush the ball for 2000 yards on the ground and keep Ringer healthy. The defense would need to be in the top five in the Big Ten for both sacks and rushing yards allowed and Swenson would have to bat .750 from the left and right hashes. Could this happen? We certainly are due some love from the football gods, but 6 wins would be great first season for Dantonio and company. Whether he wins right away or he loses for two years, I for one will walk the walk. He gets five years from me to turn it around.