JW Marriott Hotel
Grand Rapids, MI
The bedrock staple of the Mark Dantonio era has been special teams. Since the moment he was named head coach of the Spartans he has called special team, “The most crucial part” of the game and the punt specifically, “the most important play in football.”
The first eight years of the Dantonio era his special teams were rock solid. Sure you can point to certain players who at times struggled, but they were a solid foundation in the rebuilding of Spartan football.
Until this season when Spartan special teams took a nosedive. In every phase at some point this past season the Spartan special teams were more like the Spartan unspecial teams. They were horrible. I know that Alabama’s game plan limited planning for taking risks on fourth down, because they saw an advantage facing the Spartans punt return team.
So I asked Mark Dantonio as the team has the 2016 recruiting class in the rear view mirror, what he is doing to fix it. As usual Dantonio was honest. Fans went after Mark Snyder the teams special teams coordinator because he was the only change this season, but Dantonio made it clear it wasn’t his fault.
So if Snyder isn’t to blame, how will it be fixed? “It gets all of our attention because all of our coaches coach on special teams, and we have one particular coach in charge of a particular unit, and what you saw happen this season was we didn’t get good enough kicks on kickoffs and it affected the kickoff team, we had a new punter, who’s an outstanding punter, and quite frankly out-punted the coverage and when that happened, something negative happened in the bowl game and then once in the Oregon game, so those are things that are uncharacteristic, but those are the things you work on, so you go to work on those and try critique those, and whether you change your system or whether you stay with your system and change maybe the players or some of the other dynamics involved with it but we’re coaching it all the time, we look at things top to bottom, and that’s what this time is for. It’s time to rejuvenate ourselves and just sort or re-energize ourselves, it’s time to get started on recruiting, it’s time to get back with our players, it’s time to look to see what we’ve done and how we can get better.”
Mark Dantonio is stubborn without a doubt, but he isn’t stupid. He wasn’t pleased with how his special teams performed this season, and he won’t let it continue to wallow in mediocrity. That is a fact.