There are less than two months until the start of football and you know Rock Baker is ready. Photo courtesy of Bill Marklevits.

News, Notes, and Thoughts from Spartan Football

 

Good morning Hondo.  I heard you on ESPN here in Cleveland and I really liked your insight on OSU and the Tressel situation.  Will the loss of Tressel reap great rewards for MSU with Fickell being so young?  Robert in Avon, Ohio

There WILL BE a new coach in Columbus in 2012 Robert.  Unless they go to the B1G Ten championship game and win it, and that isn’t going to happen.  In Ohio there is a large segment of young men who grew up Bucks fans and no matter who the coach is will go there with an offer.  That isn’t all of them.  Mark Dantonio already has superb relationships there and as long as he keeps winning you will see MSU do better each and every year.  I don’t think the loss of Tressel will have a gigantic impact, but longevity of success will.

 

Hondo, I have to tell you that I am so jacked up for football.  I love the weekly questions and answers so here is my attempt.  I know that of all the media you are the most pro Mark Dantonio.  Being that you are close and support him, what is his biggest weakness?  Garr

WOW Garr, you’re killing me.  I would point to one thing.  A great example was last year’s Notre Dame game.  In the Spartans’ last possession of the fourth quarter I felt that he got too conservative with a chance to win the game in regulation.  Now we all know that it took stones to call “Little Giants” so this isn’t a slam, I think he at times can be too conservative.  The funny thing is that I like that, but sometimes I think you need to get away from your tendencies and I don’t mean with one trick play.  You know it though; I am a 100% supporter and wouldn’t want ANYONE else leading this program.

 

Hondo, with the loss of Fred Smith, Mark Dantonio has now lost ten players from the 2008 class.  I understand why Nick Foles left in 2007, but there are 8 from that class.  What gives?  Casey

Well Casey, the 2009 class has only lost two players and that was the #1 player in David Barrent who was injured and Pat White who is now at UC.  The reason I point that out is very simple.  Mark Dantonio takes a rare approach to recruiting.  He is all about relationships.  He is getting out to the schools and getting an eye on kids in ninth grade and even younger with camps.  He is building relationships with coaches learning the state.  In his first two classes he didn’t have the time to build those relationships.  You saw some guys who simply weren’t good enough, and some that lacked the character that he is recruiting now.  I know of some of those youngsters that he had to trust people on and he was let down.  You will see attrition, that is part of life, but you won’t see it like you did with the 2007 and 2008 classes because he has those relationships.  Now one place you may see it is as they expand around the nation.  Bringing in more players from outside the Michigan/Ohio region means building new relationships.  That will take some time also.  Keep that in mind as he expands and enlarges his recruiting tent.

 

Hondo, I love the coverage of MSU football, but I feel like a boob.  With the beat down we took from Alabama I just can’t get fired up like the past.  Do you have anything you can say to encourage me? Jim

Well Jim, I can tell you this.  In 2008 I had a lot of people email those type of questions after the Spartans got beat down at PSU.  I explained that winning is learning how to win and also used it as a teaching point about the program’s poor shape when Dantonio took over.  I would say to you that the losses all have real objective reasons why they happened.  2007 against Boston College and the best QB in the nation Matt Ryan, they simply overachieved and got a bowl better than what they were.  In 2008 they again way overachieved and got the preseason #1 team (Georgia) that was healthy for the first time all season and again they overachieved and in a bowl were overmatched.  Facing yet again the best QB in the nation.  In 2009 they were exactly what they were.  They got a bowl bid against a team that was the worst team in the nation they could have played based on strength vs. strength.  The Spartans unlike the previous two seasons overachieved in the bowl rather than the season and almost beat Texas Tech.  Finally, last year they had a great season.  They showed that they had arrived among the elite in the Big Ten, but still have a ways to go against a team that was healthy for the first time.  They also were facing a team and a conference that doesn’t do things the way they do.  I have given so many speeches and talks (as well as TV and radio) since the bowl game and I have asked anyone who is depressed this one question.  “If winning like Alabama does with Saban, would you be willing for Mark to do things like Saban?”  If Mark did things like Saban I would be his biggest critic and I can assure you not his friend.  Without saying a lot, I like the way Dantonio is building MSU.  He hasn’t cut any corners.  He hasn’t done things to speed the process artificially.  He has done it the right way.  Was I frustrated with the loss to Alabama?  Sure, but when the dust settles I respect how Dantonio does it.  MSU has depth, but a lot of youth.  Look at how far the program has come in four years.  You can’t judge it against programs that didn’t have the same wasteland that Dantonio inherited four years ago, and you can’t compare it to people that don’t do it, in my opinion, the right way.

 

Hondo, last week you took a hard stance/defense of Pat Narduzzi.  I am one of those that have been critical of him.  What is the biggest thing about him you think the fans don’t know?  Jack

First of all Jack, his players don’t like him, they love him.  I would say nearly 90% of the defense just love the guy and his passion.  They play for him.  If you took Dantonio out of the vote the three most popular coaches on this staff are Brad Salem, Dan Roushar, and Pat Narduzzi.  It doesn’t mean the other coaches are not, but those three carry almost cult status with the team.  That is something that the fans don’t get to see.  As intense as Narduzzi is, he is one of the most tender men on the staff and as one former player told me last year, “I know without any doubts Coach Narduzzi loves me and thirty years from now will still pick up the phone for me.”  I have other things, but for those you will have to catch the July Spartan Nation Magazine and my “Meet the Real Pat Narduzzi” article.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for all of the great comments and email for the 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 SpartanNationMail@yahoo.com