With Spartan Football Days Away Mark Dantonio Talks About the Upcoming Season with Spartan Nation!

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With Spartan Football Days Away Mark Dantonio Talks About the Upcoming Season with Spartan Nation!

Mark Dantonio recently joined Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. on Spartan Nation Radio to talk about a variety of topics, such as the 2014 recruiting class, special teams, and his love for teaching. This is the second part of a two article series about the interview.

During the slow summer news cycle, recruiting becomes a popular discussion topic. Recruiting classes are ranked, prospects followed, and decisions evaluated. The Spartan Nation is optimistic as Dantonio’s 2014 recruiting class is discussed in depth. The veteran head coach has brought together a crop of 13 talented, young student-athletes with unlimited potential. He has done an outstanding job of hauling in some of the best players the class of 2014 has to offer.

One pressing question on the minds of many a Spartan fan is this: how many recruits will be part of Dantonio’s recruiting class once Signing Day comes and goes?

“I think you always have a little bit of attrition, so I’m thinking that the number is right around 20. My assistants would maybe debate with me about that a bit, but our biggest class was the 2008 class,” Dantonio recalled. “Other than that, it’s been a class of 19 or 20 or 21…I think we’ll try to stay with that. I just think that we try to be selective. We’ve got to find the right people and the right type of people who will grow in this environment. This environment is not for everybody, I understand that. We do what we do, and I think we’re growing as a program.”

In today’s fast-paced recruiting world, journalists increasingly turn to scouting services to get information about recruits. Rankings and stats are taken and used in articles to boost credibility and describe the recruit. Thus, parents turn to the services to help their sons gain notoriety and to get their young athletes noticed. But as a coach who deals heavily with recruiting, Dantonio feels that approach is not always best.

“I think the services maybe can help them in some respects at some of the smaller schools, maybe. But I think inevitably if they get to camps and show who they are and show some skill level, their high school film is literally available on so many of the different [sites]. Hudl is a recruiting software and service…every college in America has Hudl probably. They can get on and dial up whatever young person they want to look at, and there it is, they look at them. I think inevitably, it comes down to how they play football,” Dantonio explained.

“The marketing aspect, the stars behind their names, they earn those stars to some extent, but there’s so many different people making those decisions. There’s so many players, I wonder how many people are actually looking deep into, beyond the 20 or 30 plays, the profile of a young person and their football ability,” Dantonio pondered. “Have you watched 150 plays, have you seen them in camp, have you seen them in games, have you seen them compete against the players they’ll have to compete against in college, relative to the level of college…I would try to get him to camp, I’d try to get him to the universities, to take the time to come and visit so that they can at least put a person with the frame physically in front of a coach. They can say, ‘Hey, that guy fits the profile of what an offensive tackle should look like at Michigan State. Those type of things. That’s how I would handle it. I think a lot of times, recruiting services are just making them up, to be perfectly honest with you.”

Regardless of the number of stars each player averaged, Dantonio’s 2013 recruiting class was filled with promising players, too. One incoming freshman Dantonio is interested to see in action is placekicker Michael Geiger. The youngster will have an opportunity to come in and claim the top kicker spot in camp.

“I was very impressed with him in camp the previous summer. He’s an all-Ohio [soccer] goalie, he’s an athlete, he played wide receiver and he played in the secondary as well. He’s got toughness to him, he’s explosive,” Dantonio said. “[Redshirt freshman] Kevin Cronin had a great spring. We’ll try to keep [senior Kevin] Muma in the mix, I think he needs to kick better. He’s been our kickoff specialist. But we have to find out: is Geiger the guy? Can he kick it right now? Can he be the guy? We’ve had guys come here, like [Aaron] Bates and [junior Mike] Sadler, I think they were game ready,” the veteran coach continued. “We’ve got other guys who have to grow into it. So we’ll give him opportunities, we’ll put pressure on him and we’ll try to put them in situations where there’s something to gain or lose by their kick, and do that as much as we can and then settle on a guy.”

Overall, Dantonio thinks that the Spartans will “have a very good special teams this year as well because we have a lot of good football players on this team, and our specialists are awfully good, especially Mike Sadler.” He furthered his evaluation by delving into the situation at the positions besides punter. “We have a great snapper back in Peppers [sophomore Taybor Pepper]. Our holder is back in Sadler, which that’s part of the kicking combination, so that makes it a little bit difficult because now we’re switching up two guys,” the seventh-year Spartan coach said. “But we have other guys who can hold as well. I think we have players surrounding them who will be very, very good special teams players. You’ll see a couple of our redshirt freshman and a couple of our true freshmen guys probably participating in those areas, and they’ll be very, very good football players. And I think you win on special teams.”

Regardless of how good his special teams unit is, Dantonio will always be a winner. The mentor of many men over the years, Dantonio has made an impact on many people over his long coaching career. Beneath the seemingly tough and stoic exterior seen by fans on game day, Dantonio is a teacher at heart.

“I think when you become a head football coach, you become an administrator to some extent. I think you can return to being a coach during summer camp and during fall as well and during the game weeks, and all that sort of stuff. I laugh a lot, I have a lot of fun with my players. I have a lot of fun out on the field. I do love teaching,” the MSU coach said. “I love coaching the backs or going down and spending a little bit of time with the defensive tackles, just on the sled or whatever it is. But just being around them keeps you young…I always feel after a big win, whether it’s against Michigan or whether it’s a big bowl win or whatever, I always feel a sense of fulfillment when we win, like everything is good, everything is right. I don’t go over the top, I don’t go jumping around hugging people, that’s not me. As far as that sideline demeanor, I am who I am, that’s my time of business. When it’s about business, you better be about business. Otherwise, the game’s going to pass you by.

“I’m going to do my job, and do it to the best of my ability and not joke around about it. It’s not a laughing matter,” Dantonio stated. “I have a great time with my football team. I’m in the office right now: I just saw a bunch of our guys here this afternoon walking through. I just like being around them: they’re good people, they’re good young people.”

A well-known football coach who sees the many problems of young people, Dantonio is the perfect man to ask about the state of today’s youth. There is great concern about early pregnancy rates and divorce rates among married couples with children. When asked, Dantonio delved into the topic and how he deals with such problems as a college football coach.

“I think every football program in America is just a microcosm of society. When you look across society right now, there’s a lot of good things going on in the world, and there’s a lot of things that are tough,” he said. “I try to embrace them, and give them their time and allow them to flourish as men. When they come to me with those types of things, the first thing I ask them is: ‘You have an opportunity to be a great father, and you will be a great father. Remember your young child, boy or girl right now, because you love them. And understand that, and try to bring them into this world and give them the things they need to be successful.’ I’m not the person who’s going to judge our players: right, wrong or different. I try to support them and protect them.

“And again, I think you go back to coaching: I don’t have all the answers. I take one problem, one at a time, and try to deal with the problem and…turn it around and make it a blessing or make it an opportunity to grow,” Dantonio said. “We try to build on [these] things because it’s not a perfect world. You’re going to lose close games, you’re going to have guys not do well in a class, you’re going to have off-the-field problems…You’re going to have issues at home, you’re going to have families breaking up, you’re going to have parents going through divorces that affect our young people here. There’s so many problems that you deal with on a day-to-day basis and you just have to take them one at a time, and try to solve them, and do it with compassion.”

A compassionate man, Mark Dantonio is certainly well-suited for the demanding job of head football coach at a well-known university. A role model and father figure for countless young men, Dantonio has made an indelible impact on Spartan football. As the 2013 season draws nearer, the Spartan Nation should be proud to have such a coach leading the football program.