Mark Dantonio and the unranked Michigan State Spartans finished a disappointing 2018 season 7-5. They now head to San Francisco for a New Year’s Eve tilt at the Redbox Bowl on Monday, Dec. 31 at 12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, versus the Oregon Ducks.
The above video is Mark Dantonio moments ago at his 2019 Signing Day press conference. This is the ENTIRE press conference. Below is the complete transcript:
MARK DANTONIO: Afternoon, guys. Everybody is doing all right?
Real quick, just want to start off generally talking about our class. We believe really the game of football starts up front. I thought we signed a great, very impressive group of what I call power football players, guys that can play on the offensive and defensive lines in the trenches.
Most of our signing class has been committed for quite some time, months I think. The February 19th signing has been a positive thing probably for most people around the country. Sort of allows you to move forward. It certainly is challenging in terms of everything you’re trying to get done relative to bowl practice and everything else this week, the things that go on with it. You don’t have as much time making home visits, things of that nature, because you have three weeks in. I do think it’s a positive.
A lot of outstanding players this year, highly ranked players as always, Dream Team members as well. Outstanding students in this class. Good balance of big skill and skill players, I feel. As I said before, power players, we have some outstanding power players as well.
I thought we attracted a good group of specialists, so important in every football game. Majority of our class has been signed probably, but we’ll probably continue to recruit to finish it out, much like we did last year. I think we signed Jalen Nailor and Dashaun Mallory late last year. You see what kind of player Jalen turned out to be.
We have seven players early, which is the most we’ve ever had really since we’ve been here. I think that’s I guess a coming trend. But that’s the most we’ve ever had. It will be exciting and interesting to watch those guys as they make their way through winter workouts and spring practice their first year here.
I think the best way to do this, just go through the players. We’ll hold questions till the end. If you have any other questions at that point relative to the program, within reason, can’t stay here too long, happy to answer those as well.
The first guy up is Devontae Dobbs. He is from Belleville High School, coached by Jermaine Crowell (ph). Outstanding football player, ranked as one of the top five offensive tackles in the country. A five star player, as I understand. Number one blue chip prospect in the state of Michigan, by the Detroit News. Two time Dream Team member.
A guy, when I look at him, I remember back, noticed him as a ninth grader when he came to camp. He was playing against the seniors, doing outstanding. At that point in time we started recruiting him and made sure he knew we wanted him as a football player and person. He became a Spartan early on in the process, never wavered. Outstanding football player. I think he’ll have an opportunity to play very, very early in his career.
Played on the defensive side of the ball, as well, for them obviously, as do all these guys, both sides of the ball. He’ll play on the offensive side, could fit into any of the three basic positions up there. Looking forward to him being here. He’ll play in the Under Armour game, as well. Great player. One of only seven juniors in the nation to attend the opening finals in 2017. Outstanding football player. Very excited to have him.
Adam Berghorst from Zeeland, coached by Derek Pennington. 6’7″, 265. In the meantime I go back to Devontae. Listed at 6’3″, 295. Adam 6’7″, 265. Those are measured sizes. Very long, athletic player. Very active player. Uses his hands very well, pass-rush guy. Can really accelerate out of his pass-rush to track people down. Dream Team player, as well. Will also play baseball here. I think that’s very interesting, be a pitcher for him, a highly recruited guy in baseball, as well. I think he might be able to touch home plate from the mound, his fingers.
Outstanding player. Was one of the guys that we felt like we needed to get in this state. He’s a highly recruited player. Very excited and appreciate his trust as a person in us and our program. Outstanding player.
Spencer Brown, two time all state player, first team all state player. 6’6″, 305. Played defense, will play offense here. Played guard, tackle. Big, athletic player with power. Also played basketball as a sophomore, junior. Early enrollee. First committed the class back in July 2017. Really stayed the course throughout the process. Was up here a lot. Some of these guys, I asked them how many times they’ve been on campus, they would say 15 times, things of that nature.
High school coach, Coach Grigdon. Outstanding football player. We’re very, very excited about him, as well.
J.D. Duplain from Strongsville High School, first team Division 1, all state Ohio. Played offensive line and defensive line. Projects right now to be a defensive lineman. Recruited him as a power athlete. Can snatch and clean 350 pounds, bench presses 225 15 to 18 times, something of that nature. Early enrollee. The guy snowboards at that size, pitcher, 90 mile-an-hour pitcher. Outstanding athlete. Got a lot of shock, a lot of ability to run and move.
You see him possibly as an offensive lineman. I don’t think there’s any question that’s a possibility or a reality. But we’ll work with him on defense initially to see how he moves on that side of the ball. I think he has a huge upside, very highly recruited player. 6’3″, 303, an athletic 303.
Michael Fletcher reminds me a lot, 6’5″, 250, of Will Gholston personality-wise and the way he moves and reacts on the football field. Outstanding basketball player, as well. Two time first Flint Dream Team selection. Impact pass-rusher, outstanding basketball player. Coach Jerry Parker is his high school football coach. Number one defensive end in the state of Michigan. Again, another guy highly recruited.
When I go back and look at the places these guys could have gone really all over the country, very excited they’re all coming to Michigan State. Michael was an early commit, maintained that commitment throughout, as well. Always been a pleasure to talk to. Looking forward to going over and watching him play basketball later in January.
Maverick Hansen, as well. He was a guy that was on our radar. Just kept looking at Maverick. 6’5″, 275, 6’4″ or such. Tough, athletic guy. I continue to watch him, reminds me of Kevin Pickelman, high motor guy, Kenny Willekes. I just felt like he was one of those type of guys that was going to bring it.
Was in camp for us. Long jumps about 8-5. Ran really well in camp. Vertical as well. Projects as a defenseman for us. As we watch more, the more we liked. He was a late take. As I said before, late takes oftentimes work out because of the effort aspect, things of that nature.
Good student. Played for Coach Harrington over there. Well coached in a great program. We’ve had so many Spartans come to us from Harrison High School. Be exciting to watch him. He will be here with us.
Damon Kaylor, again, continuing through the power, what I call power players. Early enrollee. Big, powerful guy. Played right tackle and left tackle in high school. One of the top ranked players in the state of Indiana. Attended our camp last year. Light on his feet. Big, strong guy. Will be an outstanding guy, as well, I believe from a smaller school down there. Showed very well in camp. Offered in camp, coming out of camp, then accepted early in the summer.
Nick Samac, 6’4″, 285. Played in one of the best programs in the state of Ohio. Incidentally, Damon’s coach, not listed here. So there we go. Coach Trevisano. Good feet, good balance, ability to run. Probably can play offensive guard, center, tackle up front, plays with great toughness and power. Highly recruited. Look for, again, another young man who I believe, a number of these guys are going to be early contributors. I would think maybe Nick would be as well. Early enrollee, outstanding player.
I don’t know how many I read there, probably six, eight guys, eight big guys that are athletic guys that can play a lot of different positions for us offensively and defensively. They all sort of played across the board on their high school teams. Big skill positions, linebackers, runningbacks. Got a quarterback in there, as well.
Luke Fulton from Ohio. Played at Cardinal Mooney High School, an outstanding football program there. Played for Paul Meckley. Ranked as one of the 10 best overall players in Ohio, one of the top inside linebackers. High impact player. Really what we’re looking for in a player. Linebacker, ability to catch the ball, has shock, explosive power. Runs extremely well. Can probably play inside at the Mike position or outside at the money position. Ranks in the top 10 in his class with over a four point grade point average. Will be a big, thumper type of guy for us.
Marcel Lewis from Chippewa Valley. Six foot, about 220 pounds. Excellent linebacker, play making skills. When you watch his highlight film, he’s a guy that can really get into the ground. Very explosive guy. High impact player. Really runs well. Hits with great shock. Two time Dream Team player, first team all state selection. Captain of the team on defense. State champion. Went to a perfect 14-0 record. Scott Merchant is his high school coach. Has coached a number of our players, players that have played for me in the past, has done a tremendous job with those guys.
I think Marcel is a guy that, again, all have an opportunity to get on the field early in some capacity. I was extremely impressed with his film.
Payton Thorne, quarterback. Top ranked quarterback in the state of Illinois. Really makes all the throws. When you see him, the intermediate throws, bubbles, slants, down-the-field throws. Great timing as a play-maker, three-sport athlete. Great leadership qualities. Threw for three thousand years and 40 touchdowns as a senior. Three varsity years, more than seven thousand yards with 65 TDs. Impressive also, his dad is a college coach, his grandfather is a college coach. He grew up much like Rocky Lombardi with father as a college coach. Think he’s got very good football awareness and sense. Very excited to be working with him. 6’2″, 180 plus pounds right now. When you see him play, he has the ability to run, quick body guy on the basketball court, can get out of problems.
Anthony Williams, Bolingbrook High School, all purpose back in the state of Illinois, number one. First team all state. Six foot, about 197 pounds. Explosive. Early enrollee. Camp as MSU, very impressive athlete. A lot of these guys camped here. 10 foot 3 long jumper. Gets to the ball extremely well, great feet.
John (indiscernible) is his coach. We have a track record with the players certainly that have come out of Bolingbrook High School, an outstanding program. Early enrollee, as I said. Catches the ball very well.
When he came to camp, really catches the ball like R.J. Shelton in a lot of ways. Sort of compare him to him a tailback coming out of high school. I think he can do a lot of different things for us. Will come as a tailback, but I think he’s a guy you can flex out, throw the ball to effectively.
Brandon Wright, Euclid, Ohio. Rushed for over a thousand this year as a senior. Plays for Jeff Rodski. 6’2″ plus probably, 220 plus. Big bodied, physical runningback. 60 meter sprinter, runs a seven flat 60, very good time. 22-3 long jumper. He is an explosive player. Also plays on the defensive side of the ball, defensive end for their high school team. Very active player. I think he will have certainly a great future here. He will have his moments.
Get into the skill players. First guy up is Julian Barnett. One of the top players in the state of Michigan, Under Armour All-American. Ranked number one corner in the state of Michigan, number one corner prospect. Dream Teamer. Plays multiple positions, corner, receiver. You watch the highlight film, there’s no question he can play receiver for us. Just all over the place. Led them to the Division I semifinals. Obviously Coach Crowell is his coach. 6’2″, 193 pounds. Hits with shock. Has the potential to be a contributor. I believe that’s going to happen. One of the first commits for the ’19 season. Has been with us throughout the entire way. Very excited about Julian, what he’s doing.
Jase Bowen from Toledo Central Catholic. Another guy that will play baseball here. One of the highest ranked shortstops in the country. Top ranked shortstop in Ohio, as well. Greg Dempsey is his coach. Central Catholic has an outstanding program. Always competing for the state championship there. Played multiple positions, receiver, runningback, kick and punt returner, quarterback in the wildcat formation. Did it all there. Very athletic. Again, was an earlier committed guy. Extremely excited about him being a Spartan.
Tate Hallock, Dream Teamer, 6’4″, 190. Played on offense, defense, special teams. Outstanding lacrosse player, as well. Legacy dad, brother Tanner is also a redshirt freshman here. Great ball skills. Extremely tough. Tackles extremely well. Really we minds me a lot of Matt Morrissey, great vertical jumper. Coach Rogers at Forest Hill Central is his coach. The more you watch Tate, the more you see the dynamic player he is, whether it’s receiving, punt returner, safety, whatever it is. He’s going to excel to a very high level.
Tre Mosley, West Bloomfield High School, 6’1″, probably 185 pounds. Number one wide receiver ranked in Michigan. Big-time play-maker with outstanding pass catching ability. Extremely outstanding route runner. I think Coach Bellamy over there does an outstanding job, especially with their wide receivers in terms of coaching them to a very high level. Great run after catch. Early enrollee. 55 catches for more than a thousand yards as a senior. Another guy I believe is going to get involved very, very quickly. Doesn’t take long when you watch the film to see he has a college skill level for wide receivers. Can pluck the ball out of the year, start and stop. Very outstanding player.
Our specialists that we signed. Jack Bouwmeester from Victoria, Australia. Punter. Pro kick Australia, had a connection with Shane Graham, our analyst for special teams. Came on a visit during the Purdue game. Sent Coach Tread to do a home visit. He took the plunge and went 22 hours. But he’s got a unique skill set. He was just too good to pass on.
In Australian style football, you’ve seen that happen over here more and more in terms of our punters in American college football. 36 punters from Pro kicking over here in the States. Very explosive leg. Can basically put it anywhere on the field in any way, spiraling or end over end. I just felt like the unique skill set with his background, he was too good to pass up.
He is an early enrollee. Exciting to watch him in the spring, see how he adapts to American football. I’m sure there will be — he’ll have to adapt a little bit, but I’m sure that will take place. Outstanding athlete.
Evan Morris will be a free agent for us. One of the best punters and kickers in the class of ’19. Very good kicker, especially a kickoff guy. He’ll compete for that. First team all conference, camped as MSU. Travis Long is his coach. Also a guy that played a number of other positions. Very impressed with him. 6’5″, 205 pounds. A big, long guy with a great leg. He also punted. When I saw him he’d only punted for two weeks, but he could turn the ball over. Outstanding kicker.
Jude Pedrozo, rated as one of the best long snappers in the nation. Also played on the offensive line, linebacker, in high school, Westerville South. Outstanding student. Will compete for playing time immediately if he’s as good coming out of high school. Very excited with him.
I believe that is it. Very excited about our class again. I think these 18 signed guys right now, the possibility of another couple coming, then a couple specialists that are free agents, but that are in with us, in solid with us, guys that will probably earn scholarships as we go.
I will take some questions.
Q. Regarding the two baseball guys, have you ever had one before? Is there a tradeoff knowing you might have to give up some spring football practices?
MARK DANTONIO: Trent Gillison is a guy that may play a little bit in the spring here. My take on it, if they’re good enough to play and contribute, I want our guys to reach all their dreams here. There’s a give-and-take with that.
One of the reasons they’re coming here is because of that opportunity to do that. I want to make sure that happens for them. They’ve got to be able to keep their grades up, which both those guys are outstanding students. I think they’ll be able to do that. We’ll make it work. Not sure how, but we’ll make it work.
We’ve had guys run track here before, at Cincinnati. Our spring practice is moved up. It should work for them a little bit. As long as they’re getting on the field, we’ll make it happen.
Q. You mentioned the focus on the power type players. I know these guys don’t wait till the season is done and commit, but when you look especially on the offensive line, how much of that focus in recruiting is out of need for what you believe you have to fill on your current roster?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I think we’re always going to look to see what we got to try and fill, do the very best that we can do on those things. Some guys are sort of sitting out there not signing, a couple of them that we’re recruiting they’re going to wait. Other guys are making the decision now.
I think most of the people making their decision now, probably 90% of the players out there. We’ll see how it all shakes out.
I do believe from an offensive line perspective, this may be the best class we’ve ever signed in my 12 years here. I see the quality of the players up there. If you want to include J.D. Duplain in that, who certainly can play over there, no question, it’s the best offensive line class we’ve signed.
They’re big, they’re athletic. They come from very good programs. They’ve been very successful. They’ve been extremely highly recruited players. I also probably think they’re the best two defensive ends, clearly just big, long, tall defensive ends that we’ve recruited. They can get up and go. When you stand there in the doorway, they can almost put their head in the doorway, you feel pretty good about them walking by.
Q. You mentioned Duplain. What goes into that decision to try him first on the defensive side? With Maverick, how much what he showed this year on the defensive side allowed him to flip that side of the ball for you guys?
MARK DANTONIO: J.D. is just an outstanding athlete. He plays a little bit of defense for at Strongsville. But I felt like a guy — we had our four offensive linemen, that’s what we wanted to take. We looked and said, can we take him as a defensive lineman? Possibly. Power guy, big, strong, athletic enough to do this. He was a guy we would have certainly taken.
I stretched out there, we’re going to fill the need here, taking a fifth guy at offensive line. At the end of the day you’re going to take your best players. Wherever he can get on the field fastest, that’s where he’ll play. We’re going to allow him to see that on the defensive side initially probably because of things like his 40 time and because of his bench presses, because of his ability to clean. The 350 clean is unheard of for a high school player. The fact that he high school great balance, things of that nature, would lend me to believe if he can use his hands. He’s a lot like Matt Carrick when we recruited Matt. Just depends on where he fits and gets on the field fastest.
As far as Maverick, really just kept looking at him throughout. We visited him every week in this contact period. Had him in camp. Grown to 275 now. Kept looking at little things like his ability to get off a block, his ability to stay on his feet in a situation where he needs to continue to stay on balance. He runs down the field on kickoffs. His vertical jump versus some of these other guys, long jumps, this guy is above the others. His toughness, the fact that he’s a doer. I think you win with doers. I started to believe, this a guy like Willekes, a guy like maybe Jack Conklin, an effort guy, Kevin Pickelman, an effort guy.
I think he’s going to overachieve. That’s what you have to do at this level. Everybody comes in with a foundation, who they are, and it’s what you do after that that really sends you to your limits.
Q. I don’t know how much you’ve seen of Michael Fletcher, but Will Gholston, pretty high praise. Do you expect him to be a pass-rusher extraordinaria?
MARK DANTONIO: You watch him on the basketball court, he’s athletic, he can run. Guy played tight end, too. He can run, a versatile player because he’s just athletic. But I think Will was a lot like that. Will was an outside backer. After two days, we made him a defensive end. At least we don’t have to go through that. He taped his hand up, said he was a defensive end, there he went.
I think he’s a big guy like that. He’s 6’5″, approaches 6’6″, much like Will, athletic.
Q. Beyond the five stars and the four stars, which you’ve never cared much about, is there an ingredient you look for in an athlete that fits the Spartan mold? Is there a Spartan DNA you want these guys to fit?
MARK DANTONIO: I don’t know if there’s a DNA. I just want people that are going to come here and overachieve. I think we come with a certain foundation, as I said earlier. I think you’re coaching players, you want to feel good about the type of person you’re coaching. They had to measure up in that area.
We look at these guys, I’m looking at all these guys again today, looking at them throughout, watching them. You try to pull their game apart. You watch a lot of film, highlight film. We make hit films off of them, here is 60 plays of the good, bad, whatever. You stack them against these other guys.
We try to do our homework. Thus far, we seem to hang in. I think we have an abundance of players that have gone to the NFL, All-American, all conference, academic all Big Ten. I think these guys will come and exactly do the same. Excited about them. There’s always going to be one or two that get away. That’s the nature of it, too.
Q. Back to Maverick, this is a kid that committed to Central but was very honest with them, I want to be a Spartan. He kept pursuing you. At some point did that get your attention?
MARK DANTONIO: The entire time he’s remained on our board as a guy we talked about weekly a guy we had to assess and continue to ask ourselves which direction we wanted to go. This morning I made that decision. Slept again on it last night.
He was a guy that throughout the entire process, we just kept saying should we take him, should we not, what should we do here. There’s nothing that’s perfect, but his work ethic, his measurables, the way he got off blocks, tracked people down, then you start watching him against some of the better players in this state, started saying, why not him.
I think again, we got a guy that is going to be very important for him to be here and be a Spartan. I think we’re going to get 100%, maybe more, out of him. He’s a doer.
Q. You were adamant about wanting to run the ball. Your offensive lines have been traditionally not among the biggest. Does this offensive line recruiting class maybe send a shift in philosophy?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, I always want a bigger line. We always want guys that are going to be 300, a number of them that are, or 310. We want our guys to be athletes. You have to be athletes up there to block the guys they have to get on. I think a couple guys have had to gain weight to get there, Cole Chewins. Trying to still get him over 300. A couple guys have reached that plateau and higher.
It is what it is. You need to have athletic guys up there. You have to block people on the edge. You got to be able to run and block the linebackers, things of that nature. It all sort of fits in. We’ve had good players up there. We need to play more consistently up there, I feel. We have some young players up there that are true sophomores. Here we go.
Q. Five months without a quarterback in the class. Describe the patience it requires to evaluate a number of guys, wait till you find the one guy you like, really move on him.
MARK DANTONIO: We never stop looking for the quarterback in the class. Couple here at the end. Really Payton had an outstanding senior year, but probably more importantly what he had early on, his sophomore and junior years, sort of started. We got involved with him probably the last three or four weeks.
When you go back and watch the senior tape, you start watching the throws, then you put the hit tape together, watch his games, you have a guy watch three or four games in a row, he makes all the throws. He gets out of trouble. He’s got a very quick release. He can shoot the bubble out there, slants, deep balls.
But he made all the throws, really I was just waiting for the right guy we saw that we really liked. He was the guy, so… It wasn’t a fact that we weren’t going to take a quarterback, it had to be the right guy. I think he’ll come and compete.
Q. Through other recruiting classes, ’10, ’11, when you look at the run that happened from that group, do you ever go back and look at groups where you had many guys that panned out, what were the common themes here?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I got a little thing in my phone that says 2012 class, 2013 class, there they are. Some panned out, some didn’t. Some made it through, some didn’t. Majority did make it through. That’s the other thing, too. I want our guys to graduate, make it through.
We haven’t had as much — I don’t think we’ve had that much, you know, attrition. But it always happens because when you come to this level, you’re going to be rechallenged. Everybody in the program, they’ve all come with the same type of hype. Now they have to rechallenge themselves. They’re at a foundation, how do they learn, compete against that next level player.
I think we have some players in those classes that probably under-the-radar guys. Certainly Le’Veon Bell was. A midyear guy we took right in December. I think he was a two star player at that time.
It happens. A good job recruiting. A lot of services out there. I think with social media getting more and more, what should I say, popular, more and more experts, maybe I should say it that way, there are more and more experts in recruiting. There’s more variety and more different things that are being said.
We’re going to try to do our job to the best of our abilities, analyze every single player in the state of Michigan, we’ll miss some, be late on some. If we’re late on some, apologize for not getting on them earlier because maybe we would have got them. Do our best to let it sort of soak through.
Q. Which offensive line position do you see Devontae starting at? Your recruitment of him, being a five star guy, seems like a little bit of a different guy in terms of he’s a low-key, unassuming type, what was his recruitment like?
MARK DANTONIO: What’s nice about our recruiting class, really don’t have to play a lot of games with them. You don’t have to go through all this stuff. I didn’t see anybody down 15 hats, other than me.
They are who they are, Devontae included. Very low-key. The recruiting process was about he and I, he and his position coach, his grandmother and us. It was people sitting down. His father got involved a little bit at the end there. It was just about people.
We don’t play games here. We don’t come in and do a lot of glitzy stuff. They like who we are, they come here. They want to go someplace else, they go someplace else. That’s okay. It’s going to happen.
We’re going to try to be who we are through the process. I think that attracts certain players. You understand when they come here, it’s the beginning of another level really of hard work. But Devontae was outstanding. So was Fletcher, so was Berghorst, all these guys. A lot of places they could have gone. They chose Michigan State for a reason. I appreciate their trust in us as people.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARK DANTONIO: Initial spot for Devontae? I would probably say guard, tackle. I’d say tackle based on his feet, based on his feet that I saw in camp way back. He’s got power and he can run, he can move. Really let Coach Staten make those decisions as we go. I think he can play any of those positions up there, which is a big positive.
Q. You mentioned Julian being obviously a talented cornerback, wide receiver. Are you going to start him at corner or fitting into the mold of some of these guys?
MARK DANTONIO: That’s a tough question. Probably have to ask me that in August. Based on when you watch the film, you could put him at either place, he could be a guy that could play either place early. He tackles extremely well, outstanding ball skills, he can run, he’s long in the back end there in the secondary. On the flipside of that, you watch his tape, he makes some tremendous catches. Impact player on that side of the ball as well.
That will be a tough one. I think the key thing will be to teach him one side of the ball and implement him on the other. It’s usually easier to teach a guy on the defensive side of the ball, implement him to the offense, rather than vice versa. We’ve done it both ways. It will be interesting. Probably based on more need and see how he sorts it all out.
Q. Similar plan for Tate?
MARK DANTONIO: Sort of similar plan as well for him, uh-huh. I think when we recruit a defensive back, the first thing I want to see or I ask is, why isn’t the guy playing wideout? Can he not catch? When we’re recruiting a wide receiver, I ask, why is he not playing defense? Is he not tough?
In the course of Tre Mosley, playing defensive football. I think all these guys fit that mold.
Q. When your staff puts so much time and effort into this, especially with the early signing period, is there a relief when this is done? Is it time to exhale and get ready for the bowl game?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, we never really exhale. We’ve just been getting ready for the bowl game, keep working. A lot of things going on, obviously.
I do think it’s a relief that these guys are signed, you know they’re there, now you can say, do we need this guy, a tight end, another guy here, a guy here, or you wait for a couple guys to make their decisions.
You’re not working on as many players. The bulk of who you signed, you’re putting candles on the cake.
Q. Speaking of the bowl game, obviously Oregon comes up New Year’s Eve, series you played in 2014, ’15, good matchups, what does this series mean to you for Michigan State and Oregon to be playing again? ’28 and ’29 these teams will be playing each other again.
MARK DANTONIO: ’28 and ’29, all right.
First of all, you have two national brands playing. People are going to turn on the TV to watch Michigan State play Oregon because of the past two games. Very close games. Because of the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, the nature of that. I think you’re going to have a lot of people watching that football game. It’s at a good time on FOX, it’s a prime time game on FOX, I believe on New Year’s Eve. That’s a positive.
They have the number one quarterback maybe in the draft. They’ve got some other outstanding players. We have some guys that people will want to watch. I think there’s a lot to that. We’re excited about the opportunity. We’ve been working on them really since the announcement. Practicing on them really since Friday. This will be our fifth practice today.
Q. Pretty much everybody, all recruits, seem to commit before their senior year these days. When you’re evaluating these guys, taking commitments, you’re also betting on the rise a little bit, they will become something their senior year. One or two players when you saw their senior year, that’s exactly what I was hoping that player should and would become?
MARK DANTONIO: All those players, if you watch their highlight films, they sort of are what they are. They’re exactly what we wanted. Fletcher and Berghorst. Not going to miss any of them. You see guys making plays on the film, the reasons we recruited them. To see them do that as a senior is gratifying. You feel good about it. In the case of Maverick, you saw probably more on senior film than junior film. That’s the nature of it.
As we go through it, we’re constantly evaluating and analyzing each prospect, each guy, doing the best we can do. Very excited about this guys. Very immediate contributors, early in their career. The way I look at it, can a guy contribute as a true freshman, some guys can, tough sometimes, relative to the position they’re playing. Can they contribute as a redshirt freshman.
I would say most of these guys are in that capacity or earlier. Are they competing as a sophomore on the field because that’s three years in, beginning of their third year. They know what to do. It takes time to understand what to do, to be able to grasp all the different things in the college game, just like it takes time to grasp everything in the pro football world. Guys make it through in the first year, but not many.
Usually it’s based on need, injury, then expertise or ability. We’re excited about all these guys. I think some of these guys will show up on game day next year.
Q. Last week Justin Layne said he was going to enter the NFL Draft. Is he planning to play in the bowl game? Any other players contemplating leaving early?
MARK DANTONIO: Justin Layne has left the football team, so obviously he won’t be playing in the bowl game. Everybody else is still with the team. I imagine they’re playing.
Q. Is that disappointing to you?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, disappointing. Everybody these days has a different philosophy on how these things are working out. My philosophy is you finish, you finish the season, that includes playoff or bowl games. Other people feel differently. Doesn’t mean that I’m right and they’re wrong, just a difference of philosophy.
Q. You had some years where there’s been very little late action signing day. This year a little different. How much of that is due to the early signing period?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, I think people are going to flip. Don’t ask me why, how, whatever. We don’t force it on somebody. I’m not holding anybody’s hand through it, saying that you got to do this. People make decisions which are in their best interest, just like the last question I answered. I’m not here to say I’m right or wrong. It would be nice to have clarity at times rather than get a text at 10.
Q. With these guys that are making these decisions right now, do you feel all those decisions have been made, those guys are going to stay with the program through the bowl game into next year, or situations where they’re still going to make those decisions after the game?
MARK DANTONIO: I think they’re with us through the bowl game. I think those decisions are made by them in an announcement format. I don’t want to speak for them. They’ll make those decisions and make that announcement based on what’s best for them at that point in time.
Q. Josiah, you said everyone on the roster to play. Do you expect him in the bowl game?
MARK DANTONIO: He will play in the bowl game. That’s his wish. We talked about it at length. He sees it as great opportunity to perform as a high level, national game, great quarterback, wide receivers. He’s going to play.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARK DANTONIO: LJ will play, as well. Has been practicing l play in the game. He’s healthy.
Q. The redshirt rule, that ability to play four games, does that affect recruiting at all?
MARK DANTONIO: I don’t know if it has any effect because most of these guys expect to play when they come. The opportunity to play four games is a great opportunity. Guys like Davion Williams will play in his fourth game coming up. I think Kalon Gervin will be playing in his fourth game if he plays in the bowl game. They haven’t played a lot, but on special teams. Gives them on opportunity to go on a big stage and play. We have seven or eight guys that have done that. I think that’s tremendous for their development in terms of they understand there’s a difference. There’s a difference in practice and playing in the games. They need to understand that, so…
I think it’s a positive. I do think players probably look a little deeper than that in terms of guys, in terms of from a recruiting standpoint, who is there. They look a little further down the line, how it would impact them as a freshman, not just four games.
Q. In some ways does the ability to play as many younger players as you have the last few years, does that shrink?
MARK DANTONIO: I don’t know if it shrinks because we’ve been hit with the injuries this year, which probably put some of those guys in those situations.
I want to always play our freshmen to give them an opportunity in those four games. If they’re like Xavier Henderson, he’s played throughout. Can’t really think of everybody else. There are a couple that have played throughout, La’Darius Jefferson, he’s played throughout. Elijah Collins has not.
I think it benefits players to play a little bit, so I always want to do that because that’s a huge upside for them in terms of next year. They’re involved, they’re in the boat. They’re not just practicing to go through the motions. It’s real. What they do may be seen on game day the very next week.
Thank you, guys.
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