Spartan Stadium East Lansing, MI

With the best DL true freshman class in the nation and a stable of great athletes, Mark Dantonio walks away from game one 28-13 win over Furman encouraged by his DL. He should.

I did not think it was appropriate to ask Dantonio after the Spartans win on Friday night about the loss of DL Coach Ron Burton who had a medical procedure that morning and was not on the sideline, but I did so at his press conference on Tuesday.

He answered my question saying, “Ron had an emergency procedure done on Friday morning, so we worked out our defensive line coach on Saturday. Coach Snyder moved down to the sidelines, he sort of handled the defensive line. He’s a long time defensive line coach, as well.”

One fan emailed an asked, “Is Burton already focused on Notre Dame? He should be ashamed by this performance.” He shouldn’t have been ashamed and he wasn’t. Burton wasn’t there as you know now, but his guys did lack some fire and concern for their coach was part of that reason.

So with no time to prepare, Michigan State entered game one with Burton out and the normal routine of the sideline out of rhythm. On more than one occasion some of the confusion was due to the absence of Burton. I bristled with frustration as some “experts” took to social media and verbally pontificated about, “Concerns with the defensive line,” while not thinking it was my place to comment on Burton’s absence before giving Dantonio the respect to do so.

So now that it is out and we move on, Mark Dantonio was upbeat talking about his defensive line. With only true freshman Mike Panasiuk having played he talked about deciding if any other true freshman on the DL could play. He was non-committal, “I think we want to see where the young players are, we didn’t want to play those guys without fully playing them a lot of plays. So we’ll see how — again, this week is an advantage, when you look on the our young players and trying to get them extra reps and seeing if we can bring them forward, bring them along.”

He had some high praise about his DL performance as a whole adding, “I think on our defensive line, I thought Kevin Williams did I a nice job, obviously Malik McDowell played extraordinarily well, great effort. Big guy, rushing passer, doing all the things that you wanted him to do. But the biggest thing was I thought he played with a lot of effort, and he was our defensive MVP, and had a lot of production, as well. So that was a positive.”

That didn’t mean that the Spartans plain spoken leader was all roses and lollipops. He saw some things he wants cleaned up. “There’s always things that you’ve got to — there’s are things, what we have to do is transition better from run to pass, when there are run action and then it’s a pass. And we’ve got to be able to transition more.”

There was one big area on the stat sheet he wants fixed and quick, “I thought we needed to come up with more sacks. We had two. But we need to sack the quarterback more often than that. Good plan by them, keeping us off base, run, pass options.”

So while the Spartans did not look like the Fearsome Foursome against Furman, there were several issues that played into it. Not the least of which was the loss of their coach and don’t forget that the Spartans failed to show ONE new concept, blitz, stunt or defensive package or scheme that was new and installed over the off season. None.

The Spartan DL should grow into a major force as the season progresses and the team they will face next in South Bend had a DL that was exposed to look more consistent with Swiss cheese than stout by Texas. The time to be worried about DL play is not in the Spartan Nation, that problem sits squarely on the shoulders of Irish head coach Brian Kelly.