On Sunday night I spoke with Mark Dantonio about his recently departed class of players. Dantonio is fond of saying that you can’t really grade classes before their career is over. Certainly Jack Conklin left early, but the class as a whole had five players drafted and numerous that are going to get NFL looks now. So what did he think?
His usual frankness shocked many. “I would rate our class as an opportunity — everybody that we’ve talked about it played for us, and there’s a couple unknown guys there because I have not heard, but they’re all having an opportunity to move in the league, so you’ve got to say — some guys, obviously you wanted a couple guys to be drafted a little bit higher, so I’d give it a solid B+. Very happy that they had the opportunity to win two Big Ten Championships and go to major, major bowl games, three Big Six bowl games or BCS-type games. They’ve had a tremendous amount of success here, played in big games, won games, played on TV. We’ve got All-Americans. We’ve got All-Big Ten performers, and now we have NFL players.” He went on to add “I think everything that they wanted when they came to Michigan State they’ve been able to accomplish. There is no perfect world out there, but I think that we are well-represented in the NFL and will continue to be so in the future.”
So if a class with that many players getting a look at the NFL, what has to happen for Dantonio to give out an A grade? He talked about that.
“I’ve never had an A. I don’t know. You know, I guess an A would be like the ’66 class which had four first-round picks in the first six. That’s an A. You’ve got to measure it, but it’s extremely competitive out there. I think what happens in the draft is everybody looks at what they need and they draft to their needs. So that cuts down the opportunities for people, and then they get very specific, and one person likes another person better than he likes this person and that type of thing. But when you look out there and you see the number of colleges playing football at this level, high level, and 32 teams, seven picks, that’s not very many.”
Dantonio went on to elaborate. His tough grade is not a sign of dissatisfaction with this players, just the ever realist from Zanesville, OH reaching higher like he asks his team. “You know, I’m extremely grateful that they’re having these opportunities. It was a little bit of a frustrating day for me watching our guys because I felt like they were good players and you sit there and you say, well, I think he’s better than that guy, I think he’s better than that guy, but I’m not the NFL coach. I don’t have that opportunity to draft the guys. If I would, we’d have a bunch of Spartans playing someplace.”