East Lansing, MI
Mark Dantonio led his Spartan football team into a spring that had a lot of questions. That is why moments after his tenth spring game at the helm of the Spartans the head coach had a lot of thoughts assessing his team and their progress.
In front of a school record and top ten in the nation attendance of fifty-one thousand for e annual spring game, Dantonio saw a lot from his troops. But to be honest it was the practices and scrimmages that happened away from the public eye that told him more.
“I thought, first of all, great crowd. A lot of people came. Tremendous crowd for us. I think the all time highest crowd at a spring game for us. We keep trying to raise the bar a little bit as we move forward, but very appreciative of everyone coming and being a part of things. They turned it up out there a little bit, which is good to see and good for our players to experience. Much like a gameday atmosphere, so that was very positive.”
Dantonio went on to address the good and the bad, “When you look at any spring game, you’re going to see good and bad. You play a lot of different people. We drafted up the teams, so people aren’t playing with each other in terms of the ones and the twos and things like that. I thought the hitting was crisp, I was impressed with the way our running backs ran the football, but I was also very impressed in terms of how we closed on the running back and made tackles and space. I think that’s what you have to do on the defensive side of the ball.”
Without eyeing the film yet when making these comments, some people did stick out the MSU head man. “I thought Gerald Holmes looked particularly good. Madre London as well, you know, Nick Tompkins busted out a couple times as well. They were relatively short runs, things were pretty much contained. Quarterback position – we tried to play all of them and give everybody a look. It was unfortunate we had to go to a running clock a little bit at the end, so, you know, it was a little bit fast paced and that type of thing. I thought Tyler [O’Connor] did a nice job, all three guys, really. First three guys made plays with their feet. Big gains at one point in time, so that was positive. Obviously, we have to correct some things with our quarterbacks, but quarterback is about decision making and leading in the huddle, and then also about creating plays. We’ll look at the film and sort of evaluate that.”
The Spartans have made defense and more importantly defensive toughness their staple since Dantonio arrived, this spring was no different. All spring the defense dominated the offense prompting many inside the program to talk about the upside potential of this unit.
“Defensively, sort of continued the trend. Playing well on the back end, playing well on the perimeter in terms of playing against the run. I thought we tackled successfully, and we have good players on the back end. I don’t know, spring games are spring games. We ask our guys to go 15 for 15 in April. All 15 practices. We ask them to get a little bit better every day, three percent better. That’s what we talk about when we first came in here on the first day of spring ball when we first had a press conference. I thought we got that from our football team. We move forward, we set our goals high and we’re looking forward to the start of the 2016 season.”
Dantonio is not a liar. He is my friend and I know him well. I can tell you that the excitement from the Spartan head man was tangible and that alone should have Spartan fans excited about 2016. For those wondering it is only 185 days until the MSU vs. UM game, but who’s counting?