Duffy Daugherty Football Building

East Lansing, MI

Mark Dantonio has been successful doing many things since he arrived to lead the Spartans. Perhaps the most impressive thing he has done is stockpile top tier talent at every position so that after a season that saw the Spartans make the Final Four and lose multiple players to the NFL, expectations don’t relax.

He likes it that way. He has said it both privately and publicly. That is why 2016 might be the single biggest example of what Dantonio has truly built yet. With his most heralded recruiting class as of yet, Dantonio has another batch of top tier players to add to a stable of top tier players. He talked of his freshman.

“I think the challenge for every freshman is to play hard every single play because they can play well at the point of attack and they can play well when the ball is coming to them, but from a pursuit angle on defense or doing the little things on offense or playing through the whistle – those are the most difficult things on a consistent basis. That is the case every year when you get freshmen. There are certain players that can play early. Skilled position players usually can play faster than offensive and defensive lineman. Nevertheless, you have those opportunities. It is their opportunities out there as you move through summer camp to learn that trade and be able to put that principle into effect.”

One blessing that emerged from last season was not just the success of the team record wise, but even with a decimation of injuries all over the field, but especially in the defensive backfield and offensive line, a multitude of players got significant and meaningful reps. Something that Dantonio can’t let people over look.

So as a former defensive back coach, is this one of the deepest and most talented groups he has ever been around” “ I think it is. On the defensive side of the ball we started seven different players. I think we go pretty deep at safety, at corner. We moved some guys around a little bit. Vayante Copeland is back. That’s a big plus. Tyson Smith is another year older. Darian Hicks was a guy injured three different times, he’s back playing well. Nicholson, Arcuri, Miller, Demetrious Cox, they’ve all started for us in big games. That’s really just the tip of it. Our linebacker situation is very solid as well. Ed Davis is coming. We’ll get that squared away. My plans are, he’s going to be a factor here. So we’ve got enough good people up front, so we should be good.”

To have great players on and off the field is critical for any program to sustain success. Something that Dantonio has done. In his quest to lead the Spartans to Back-2-Back Big Ten titles it is mandatory.

The Spartans enter the most critical non-game week of the season today at 10 AM. I will be there to watch, and the depth of the Spartans will shine at every position. The national pundits will rule out the Spartans, but wise people won’t. They aren’t sexy, they may not sell a ton of magazines nationally, but they win football games. That is what Dantonio is all about. He’s proven it.

Button your chin strap, the strongest steel is made in the hottest fire and this week the Spartans lay it all on the line. In 18 days the season kicks off and the Spartans of 2016 and how they look, will be greatly determined by this week.