MSU will learn its postseason destination when bowl pairings are announced Sunday.
EAST LANSING, Mich. â€“ First-year Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio sent his team through a two-hour, indoor workout in full pads on Saturday, Dec. 1 as the Spartans continue preparation for their first postseason bowl invitation since 2003. Michigan State (7-5), which finished the regular season with consecutive wins for the first time since 1999, will learn its postseason destination when bowl pairings are announced Sunday, Dec. 2.
First-year Michigan State head coach sent his team through a two-hour, indoor workout in full pads on Saturday, Dec. 1 as the Spartans continue preparation for their first postseason bowl invitation since 2003. Michigan State (7-5), which finished the regular season with consecutive wins for the first time since 1999, will learn its postseason destination when bowl pairings are announced Sunday, Dec. 2.
"This is our third bowl practice, but our first in full pads," Dantonio said. "The guys are excited about being back on the field, and weâ€™re looking forward to tomorrow."
The Spartans are being considered by three bowls: Dec. 26 Motor City Bowl in Detroit; Dec. 28 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla.; and Dec. 31 Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.
"Weâ€™re excited about finding out who weâ€™re going to be playing and where weâ€™re going to play, but weâ€™re in a great situation," Dantonio said. "There are positives wherever we go, and itâ€™s a good thing for our first-year program. Itâ€™s a reward for our seniors, who will be wearing the Green and White for the last time, and the bowl game can serve as a springboard into next season for our returning players. Weâ€™re happy to be back involved in the bowl scene, and weâ€™re looking forward to giving our best effort."
Coach Dantonio will approach the bowl practices much like he does spring practice, so expect some experimenting.
"Weâ€™re going to work our young players a lot over the next 15 or so practices," Dantonio said. "This is a great opportunity for some of young players to move into new positions and for other guys, itâ€™s a chance to take reps with the first or second units."
Two of the first-year players who expect to see additional reps during bowl preparation are running back Ashton Leggett (Muskegon, Mich.) and wide receiver B.J. Cunningham (Westerville, Ohio).
"Iâ€™m really looking forward to the extra practices, and Iâ€™d like to thank Coach Dantonio for giving me an opportunity to show what I can do on the field," Leggett said. "This is an important time for me. Itâ€™s no joke playing on the scout team each week, so Iâ€™m excited about having a chance to get some reps with the ones and twos.
"I had a broken wrist at the start of the season and that was a minor setback. It was frustrating because I had never been injured before in my life. The injury threw me off a little, but Coach D helped me keep my head on straight and helped keep me motivated. My wrist is about 90-percent healthy right now, but Iâ€™ll be back to full strength for the start of spring ball.
"The biggest jump for a running back from high school to college is pass protection, and Jehuu Caulcrick and Javon Ringer have helped me out a lot in that area. Itâ€™s easy to get frustrated if you donâ€™t properly identify where the blitz is coming from. I really appreciate those two guys for spending extra time with me to improve my pass-blocking skills. In high school, I rarely had to worry about picking up a blitz."
"These bowl practices are real important to me," Cunningham said. "Itâ€™s a privilege to be here at practice, wearing the green jersey again after wearing the black (scout team) jersey all season. I really consider these additional reps during bowl practice to be an audition for next season, so this is a crucial time for me in terms of my personal development.
"In making the transition from high school to college ball, the biggest challenge for me has been adjusting to the speed of the game. At this level, everybody is bigger, stronger and faster. The game is also more physical at this level.
"I really appreciate the older guys helping me through these early bowl practices. Since I spent the entire season with the scout team, Iâ€™m not quite as familiar with the playbook as Iâ€™d like to be."
Michigan State will be making its 18th postseason bowl appearance â€“ its first since a 17-3 loss to Nebraska in the 2003 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.