Andrew Maxwell is a star in the making and Dantonio acknowledged he has to play more in 2011.  Photo courtesy of Troy Benoit.

Andrew Maxwell is a star in the making and Dantonio acknowledged he has to play more in 2011. Photo courtesy of Troy Benoit.



Mark Dantonio’s mantra since a college player himself has been that each and every practice he wants each player to get 3% better.  He can’t hide the smile talking about how this team has improved.  For a man that isn’t afraid to show his displeasure and isn’t one to embellish that is terrible news for the rest of the Big Ten.


One area that Dantonio has stressed to this team is the importance of not coasting.  Not being happy with a Big Ten title.  Not being happy to have depth.  Not happy to have reached some goals.  To say this nicely he and the staff have made this spring their mission to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.  Some of the players are to hard on themselves and they are great at putting an arm around them and they are good at metaphorically giving a comfortable player a kick in the butt.


When Mark Dantonio met with the media yesterday he said something very powerful.  It was loud in the indoor practice facility but he said, “We are two deep at every position, even with the guys that are out.”  That is one of the biggest and deepest statements he has made in his tenure back here as the head coach.


For those wondering the spring game will have 10-minute quarters.


I laugh at many of you who email and accuse me of being too focused on the OL each and every year.  I do spend a lot of time there, but Dantonio said it best when he echoed that it has his attention and said that it has, “The biggest learning curve.”


Isaiah Lewis and Jairus Jones have gone head to head for the starting safety spot.  Lewis has had a great spring and Jones is much improved.  They are neck and neck for the starters job and if the season were to start today I would think Lewis was the starter, but both would play.


One thing that Dantonio has been reminding his players of since the 2010 season ended was that each player needed to be healthy and stay in healthy.  His mantra was 15/15.  Stay healthy enough to play in all 15 practices.


Garrett Celek (we will have a great story on him in the May Spartan Nation Magazine) has been the only TE to stay healthy for all the practices and it is showing on the field.  His attitude and work ethic have always been great and he is taking advantage of being the guy this spring.


If there were one position that has shined the most this spring on a team that so many look good at, it would be the linebackers.  Nearly everyone is playing well.  Mike Tressel had Eric Gordon and Greg Jones as solid anchors his first four years and it will be fun to watch him really show off his skills with this new group. 


Chris Norman has been hampered, but he has been engaged and has had a good of spring as you would expect.  He can play the SAM or the WILL and his communication skills with Denicos Allen and Max Bullough are good.


More good news is that super sophomore William Gholston is expected to play on Saturday.


One thing that Mark Dantonio has attempted to do since he came to MSU was to instill a sense of family.  Each year he has hosted a family picnic for players and their families after the spring game.  This year is no different.  One big difference is that the players will get their Big Ten Championship rings this year.  Something very special and a class move by the coach.


As with all of his past spring games the two teams will once again be battling for a steak or beans dinner.  Having been at one of those meals I can tell you that the players take it VERY seriously and so do the coaches.


Over a year ago Mark Dantonio suggested that one way to enhance spring games is to let your team play another squad.  Obviously it wouldn’t be a game that counted on a team’s season record, but it would help teams that don’t have the depth of MSU. 


Dantonio said that at one of the national coaches conventions it got a lot of positive response.  Dantonio may not make a lot of jokes like David Letterman, but he does know when to get a zinger in.  When talking about the chances of his idea becoming a reality he said mentioned a buzzword in college sports.  He talked about the fact it would generate some significant revenue and said, “That is the number one thing.”


The entire Spartan Nation may enjoy the warm weather and the sunshine on Saturday, but one person who can’t enjoy it is Mark Dantonio.  He understands that as a head coach there is no winners or losers.  If the offense shines he will worry about the defense and if the defense shines he will worry about the offense.  If they play each other to a stalemate he will worry about both.


I know that some think I am simply passing kool aid, but as I have already stated Mark Dantonio doesn’t mince words or pontificate wildly.  When asked what he was most pleased with he didn’t hesitate to say that his team is, “Improving every single practice.”  Those are big words.  How big?  He hasn’t said that in the past.


With the emergence of Andrew Maxwell Dantonio acknowledges that in the 2011 season he has make sure Maxwell plays.  In fact he said, “He’s got to be in there.”  I have said so many times that you probably see it coming, but this staff failed in playing him more last year.


If you think about it, the Spartans are losing two QBs at the end of the season with Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol.  How are those two seniors already?  I’m old.


Thanks for all of the great comments and email for the new Saturday column.  If you aren’t aware, on Saturday mornings I answer some of your email in a Q and A column about Spartan football.  If you have a MSU football question you would like answered send me an email at Spartan