Duffy Daugherty Football Building
East Lansing, MI
Mark Dantonio is not one to wax loquaciously about players. Good or bad. That is why when he speaks it isn’t like many coaches. There are some coaches that will go on and on about a player they never intend to use, while minimizing critical players, and vice versa. Certainly there can be an argument made for gamesmanship. That isn’t Dantonio.
That is why when asked about several players this week Dantonio opened up and really delivered some critical nuggets of information. I hope these give you a good inside look at how the coach is seeing several important players.
It is not secret that the Spartans are dinged up and banged up still from a long 2015 campaign. Although you never want a player injured there is a major advantage when some guys aren’t necessarily full go in spring. Dantonio already admitted as much, “We’ve got some guys nicked up, really from last season that will add depth as we work our young players right now.”
One of those areas is the offensive line. Dantonio talked about getting so many extra reps for his young big uglies. “We got young players and it is baby steps. The first focus is on the first step. If they can get their first step right they usually succeed. If their first step is not right they don’t. That is a process. We have shown some good things. Guys are doing their job.”
One name that surprised some early this spring was Kodi Kieler. The youngster earned his keep last season at right tackle and I would expect him back there next fall, but he will also get a look at center.
Although Kieler may be more of an observer this spring than a participator, that doesn’t mean he can’t learn. Dantonio said, “Kodi is doing pretty well right now. Doesn’t take a lot of live reps, but that is something we will look at more closely as we get close to summer camp. But he is training there. Especially mentally.”
As Dantonio looks to get his best 11 players on the field, one experiment this spring that we already told you about was Delton Williams getting some looks at fullback. So how is he coming along coach?
“He is making the transition, but again it is a slow process. Still can play tailback and does at times. He has gifts and there is no question about that.”
When Malik McDowell committed to Michigan State he was one of the nation’s most sought after defensive lineman. Despite the drama of his recruitment he has grown steadily in production on the field since getting to East Lansing. This off season several publications and media outlets are speculating that he could be the best defender in the Big Ten. What does the Spartans head man think of that?
“I think Malik (McDowell) has a huge ceiling, and I think as good as he was last year he is just scratching the surface. I think he can be every bit as good as people say. I think he can be outstanding.”
McDowell is a unique talent. He can be as good as he wants to be. His only kryptonite is himself. Every day McDowell needs only look in the mirror and ask himself how good he wants to be.
Defensive end Montez Sweat has struggled to stay on the field. Not because he lacked talent, sadly it was because he couldn’t stay out of Dantonio’s disciplinary doghouse. With the DE position wide open for the taking this year and plenty of reps available last, his foolishness cost him dearly.
To his credit he has fought back and earned the right to be on the roster. At 6’6” 230# he is athletic and fast with the potential to be dominating if he can grow up and take care of himself on and off the field. He comes in to this spring second on the depth chart, but the young man has a golden opportunity if he can seize it.
So how has his spring been? We asked Coach Dantonio who said, “He missed the entire year, basically, so again just trying to get his feet up underneath him. He’s go talent. A big athletic guy and he can run.”
One name that is getting an amazing amount of attention is true freshman early enrollee WR Donnie Corley. The 6’3” 185# young man from Detroit was wowed his teammates and his coaches. Last week in a very brief and limited scrimmage he looked like a star. As the word of his play spread like wildfire people where excited. He has the chance to be an immediate impact player.
One person within the program told me of Corley late this past weekend that, “He may be the best receiver we have had since Charles Rogers. Chuck (Rogers) would have been an immediate impact player but had to sit out his first year. Corley doesn’t have to sit and we have to make up ways to get him the ball.” I 100% agree.
Dantonio said of his burgeoning new star that, “He looks like a guy that can really play. He reminds you of a (Tony) Lippett (Current Miami Dolphin CB) type guy in terms of his height. He’ll have a tremendous career here I feel.”
So there you go folks. That was several updates on some key cogs in the Spartans wheels for the 2016 season. Today the Spartans will have the first length team scrimmage of the spring. Check back with Spartan Nation this evening for the update.