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MSU Staff Tinkering Under the Hood During Spring Football

Every spring, college football coaches turn into engineers. MSU coaches began drawing up plans after the Capital One Bowl and made a few adjustments after signing 22 recruits in February. They've donned safety goggles and hard hats as they conduct experiments through spring practice. And two weeks from now, in Spartan Stadium, the MSU staff will take their team for its first test drive — otherwise known as the Green and White game.


The complex machine that is Michigan State football takes time to construct, especially when replacing some major components from last year's model. Losing Javon Ringer and Brian Hoyer is like losing the wheels and engine to your car. The frame is there, sure, but you've got a lot of bolts to ratchet and knuckles to crunch before that baby's road ready. So far, though, the work under the hood seems to be going well for coach Mark Dantonio and the MSU staff.


"We're living and learning, and I think that's what you have to do, you have to learn by experience," the Spartan head coach said at practice on Thursday. "When you make a mistake and learn from that mistake, I think that mistake is worth making. If you don't learn from it there's a problem there, but I think we're learning from those mistakes."


Aside from the skill positions, where there are some major holes to patch, the offensive line remains a work in progress. But it's certainly no surprise that the tinkering might be the most extensive in the trenches at a complex set of positions. Losing two outstanding linemen — Jesse Miller and Roland Martin — as well as a handful of other contributors makes the task a bit tougher for MSU, and Dantonio especially laments limited spring practice time for the O-line.Â


"That's probably the area where you say 'Well, only 15 practices?' As opposed to 20 before you get them ready," he said.


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Spring is also the time coaches get a chance to play a little mad scientist, moving some guys around. Antonio Jeremiah has been cast into the role of an offensive lineman, moving over from the defense, and Dantonio says the experiment looks like it could take.


"I think after today it will be three weeks for him as an offensive lineman," Dantonio said. "He's got talent, and we'll see how it goes, and I'll continue with that move until we can figure it all out."Â


With fantastic footwork, Jeremiah has incredible upside but remains a work in progress. Dantonio says if there's one guy, though, on the offensive line whom the staff drools to coach up, it's big, bad Jeremiah.


"It's a good learning environment because you get a chance to coach and then watch and teach and re-teach," Coach D says.


And with all of the furious productivity from the assembly line work of the practice field, a little friction is expected, and sparks sometimes fly. But like a take-charge foreman, a good football coach knows how to channel energy into a focused drive for excellence.


"We're always going to have some fights," Dantonio says with a wry smile when asked about intensity, "that's just going to happen. … The intensity is there and the want-to is there, and it's always going to be competitive during the spring."