Media day, conveniently scheduled early enough in the camp so that when a coach or player tells the media "I don't know yet." in response to a question about 'who's starting where' (the only question most people really care about), it is deemed an acceptable response.
The players also answered questions from the media but, in general, their answers seemed to be considerably shorter and more 'boiler-plate' than some of the responses from the coaches. I'll look through them again tomorrow and put something together if a couple of quotes catch my eye. But here's some fairly good stuff from the MSU coaches to look over.
Via Coach Dantonio(emphasis mine):
Q. The loss of Keshawn Martin in the special teams game is something that really hasn't been talked a lot about. But how critical is replacing him? Where do you think that you'll be with that, and how many guys are competing for that punt return job right now?
COACH DANTONIO: Quite a few are competing for that job right now. Nick Hill is a guy maybe a little bit overlooked in the whole scheme of things, special teams wise. He had 999 yards in kickoff returns last year. Pretty successful. He's a guy that we really brought here specifically to be a tailback; yeah, we understand that, but also to be a return guy.So he's been very, very good back there. If you watch him out there, he does a cartwheel and still catches the punt. Whatever we want him to do. He's got great hands.
As Most Glorious Manager Chirs Vannini mentioned on Twitter, there's really no need for this type of flashy showboating. Hopefully the coaches can iron this mechanical flaw out of his game.
Dantonio further commented (emphasis mine):
Beyond that, you have some other guys. Le'Veon Bell can go back there, which gives you a big guy that can break tackles. AJ Sims has been very, very good throughout the year coming up to this. We have some freshmen that look pretty good back there. So we're going to see about that position as we move forward. Johnny Adams can go back there. I know Mitchell White has caught punts in games back there. We have a lot of guys who, I think, have the ability to do that. A lot of guys with deep ball judgment. I've seen Keith Mumphery back there. I've seen Darqueze Dennard back there as well.
#Le'VeonBell4PR #Le'VeonBell4PR #Le'Veon Bell4PR
Look, I don't know how we did it, but somehow the MSU twittersphere got JLS hired at Arkansas. I think if we really believe in ourselves, and give it our best shot out there on the social media playing field, we can at some point see the very special joy of a 170 pound punter desperately hurling himself into the path of a 245 pound punt returner to try and save a special team's touchdown, and then watch that same punter be flattened into the turf so hard, that the grounds crew just has to paint the lines for the next game-field right over his now two-dimensional corpse. Let's make this dream a reality. For America.
It is also pretty clear from his answer naming about a tenth of the team that the PR job is very much an open competition (or at least, that's what he wants everyone to believe).
Q. Isaiah Lewis said that probably one of the most deepest times of his life was after he went after the blocked punt, when you hugged him and told him you loved him. 14 games a year if you're lucky you play, but there's 351 days a year where you do that part of the coaching. Would you talk about that side of coaching, please.
COACH DANTONIO: First of all, again, just to make sure everybody understands: I turned Isaiah loose on that. I told him to go get it. That's my responsibility. If you're not going to play to win, if you're not going to take the risk, you know, then you're playing the wrong game. The things were set up for him to have a clean sweep at the block. So things happened.
But I believe you coach because it's competitive, because it's exciting, all those different things, it's challenging. But I honestly think you coach because of your love for people and you want to impact young people. You want to see people grow. You want to have people graduate. You want to have people get on with their life, get married.
Joel Foreman got married this year. Some of our other players. Sorie Kanu played for us in '95 through '99, married this year. Rocco Cironi married this year. We want to wish them all the best. Those are a couple. Otis Wiley got married this summer. So you're looking to them to see how they move in their life. I think that's what coaching is. Coaching is just an extension of teaching. It's just an opportunity to teach in athletics.
There's more in his response but, let me zero-in on this section. So, OK, even the most money-hungry, win-at-all-costs, program hopper of a head coach has a good response to the 'Is coaching just about winning games?' question (See: Graham, Todd). But still, if you can read through that bit about Isaiah Lewis, and then read how Dantonio once again totally owns and accepts the responsibility for the 'roughing the punter' play and not have at least a little bit more respect for the man, your heart is pretty hard indeed.
And then how he off the top of the head shout-outs not only a player who just graduated, but also guys from his early years as an MSU head coach and a player from when he was the secondary coach in the 90's(!). If Arthur Ray's omission from Fall camp was an unpleasant reminder of college football's, at-times, ruthless competition, this is at least a nice note that it can still build positive relationships that last far after a player has left the program.
An actual real-live question posed to Coach Dantonio during this press conference:
Q. A lot of the guys today talking about Andrew Maxwell's swag. How much do you know about swag?
Haha, bitch please. Just who do you think you're talking to here?
To his credit, Dantonio responded:
O-Ok I got chrome on this Bugatti/
I'm strong in this Bugatti/
Ain't no such thing as driving calm/
In this Bugatti/
Bitch I'm bad/
I pass the purp/
Don't fuck with Maxwell/
Cause right now he's higher than Captain Kirk
Before later using the media day to address the advantages of taking the QB out from under center:
You don't get no sack yards/
Bitch I ball hard/
Breakin' all the backboards/
Reports are unclear as of the exact drop-date for Dantonio's new mix-tape: Tha Sparter IV
Video Board fluff (emphasis mine):
Q. You talked briefly about the new video boards. What was your initial reaction when you saw the new video boards?
COACH DANTONIO: I was sort of stunned. Sort of in awe at the size of those. I've not yet walked on to the field since June. And I won't do that until they're fully operational next Saturday. I just want to do that because that's the way I want to go into that stadium.
But I think it changes the entire dynamics of the stadium. It closes everything in. There will be a great amount of excitement for our fans and players alike. So it should be very exciting. But tremendous accomplishment, I think, to get that in here this year. Greg Ianni, Mark Hollis, they should be applauded in getting all this done.
I think this is a hidden benefit. Obviously, the MegaBigHuge Screens and new speaker systems should vastly improving the viewing experience of fans when seeing replays or pregame intros, and get them more into the game (it's easier to get revved up again after the initial shock of a big play if you get to quickly see it once more in high resolution). But just the fact that these big objects are now standing in what were once open spaces leading out to the outside air, fans and players should hear a noticeable effect in the amount of trapped sound (and as we already know, when Spartan Stadium gets loud, it can get very loud indeed.)
One last bit from Dantonio (emphasis mine):
Q. What are your early impressions of the challenge you face against Boise State?
COACH DANTONIO: I was just watching Boise this morning. I think they do a great job, obviously, offensively. A lot of different things. Throw a lot of different formations at you. I think on record we have 178 different type formations that they've run in our breakdown. A lot of different personnel groupings. Defensively they're going to be very solid.
I think they're an extremely well coached football team. When you look at the offensive line, I think they pass things off very well. You don't really know who the quarterback is going to be at this point, but they have four of them that they're working. So obviously the guy who comes out of that is going to be pretty good.
But they're a little bit of an unknown at certain positions because they've lost some guys. But they're an extremely well coached team; and all I do is just keep looking at 73 and 6, which is Coach Petersen's record overall. And you don't have to go much beyond that. They're going to be a very good football team. They'll be a great challenge for us our first game. And we've grown a lot of respect for them just from the time since we've been watching them since whatever, January or February.
Haha, holy shit. I mean, seriously, good heavens. Pray4VideoCoordinators.
Via defensive line coach Ted Gill (emphasis mine):
On replacing All-American and second-round NFL draft pick Jerel Worthy...
"Nobody ever recognized Anthony Rashad White until the Georgia game. Rashad made plays like that all season. What happens is when Jerel steps out of there we had (Kevin) Pickleman and Rashad and they played just as well. People don't remember how we were ranked in our defense and Jerel wasn't our whole defense. A lot of those guys stepped in there and played well also. You replace Jerel with getting more depth at different positions, a different kind of guy there. Someone else will step up and we will have some other guys be able to help out there."
Anthony Rashad White:
1st two games- 1 TFL (tackles for loss)
next eleven games- 0 TFL
final game of the year- 3 TFL
If Coach Gill is wondering why A.R. White got so much love after Georgia and didn't the rest of the year, that's why. TFLs aren't everything, but they are the type of statistic that makes you really notice a DT. A 'big play' so to speak. It's also why so many people are high on White this year, maybe it took until the bowl practices for that switch to flip. Or maybe the bowl performance was just an outlier. We'll see.
Via Offensive Line Coach Mark Staten
On establishing the run...
"I think we could have established the run last year and we did more in the second half of the season. I just think you play the cards you are dealt. And knowing Roushar as long as I've known him he is very smart in knowing protections, knowing how we can get the best. We had a guy drafted at quarterback, two of our receivers, one of our running backs who is good at catching the ball. We feel like things are going good right now...That has been our motto since the spring, let's run the ball."
"We're gonna be a kick-ass, road grading, run the ball, kinda team." has been a company line at MSU to varied results over the last five years. In years when the running game isn't working out, (2009, 2011) the team has typically been pretty quick to ratchet up the amount of times they throw the ball. When the passing game has proven lackluster (2008) they've ratcheted up the amount of times they've run the ball. Like Staten says, this staff isn't too stubborn to adapt to their best tools. Good thing too, because that's not true of all coaches.
Via Linebackers/ Coach Mike Tressel:
On Chris Norman...
"The big thing with Chris is he is a concise kid and he wanted to be perfect all the time. Football isn't a perfect game. Especially at the linebacker position where your job can completely change depending on what happens, your job can completely change from A to Z. That caused him to freeze a little bit and over analyze things, paralysis by analysis. Now he is starting to realize, I know this game more than the people that are going to be on the field, I just have to trust myself and go. And we are starting to see that."
On the linebackers role and what they need to do...
"I want them to trust their reads and rep those reads. We will get them to the point where they are good at reading their keys. I want them to trust their reads and go. He (Chris Norman) always wanted to read it, re-read it, and verify it. Can't do that, the game is too fast. You have to trust your reads and go. I think he trusts himself now."
Interesting stuff on Chris Norman. I think Norman always gets shorted on credit a little bit because, unlike blitzing cruise missile Denicos Allen and Max Bullough doing his 'defensive Peyton Manning thing' where he points around and lines everyone up and changes assignments, he doesn't get to do a lot of flashy stuff. At the STAR linebacker position in the MSU defense, he has to do a lot of thankless work covering slot receivers and playing shallow zones on zone blitzes, and containing RBs from blowing past him for big plays. Still, the fact that he fills this more conservative role allows the rest of the defense to be much more aggressive. The better he gets at his role, the more freedom someone like Allen has to attack the backfield, and the more effective Norman can be in those instances when he does get turned loose.
Via Offensive Coordinator Dan Roushar:
On the receiving corps and Bennie Fowler...
"Let's start with Bennie (Fowler), obviously he has playing experience, so he brings that to the table. Unfortunately we lost him last year for the most part of the season. What I see from him is a big, strong guy that has developed a lot of confidence in his ability to catch the football. We want to see him continue to gain consistency there. He'll be a guy that as we look at him, can work underneath and work on coverage in there and be physical and separate. At the same time, we think he has the vertical explosion and speed to threaten the field deep. He brings that to the table. That is the first thing that I seen in the first two days. When you go to Bennie you have a longer guy, taller, right in that 6-3 range. (He's) physically mature right now.
*Looks at Roushar's comments* *looks at the roster* *looks back at Roushar's comments* *looks back at the roster* I call four fakes out of five on that height of 6-3. 6-2? Maybe. 6-1? Most definitely. 6-3? Height inflation, sir. I charge you with height inflation.
Still, despite the fact that Fowler filled in for Martin two years ago at slot receiver, I expect him to transition to a Cunningham/Nichol style outside receiver role this year (for the record, I'd guess the race to replace Martin at the slot right now goes Mumphery, Arnett, Sims Jr, in that order).
Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi (emphasis mine)
On William Gholston and his growth...
"Will has always been a quiet leader. Whether it's out with youths, he is always willing to spend extra time with people. That is what he is, he is a people person. He takes the young guys and feels like he can give them something stance wise and technique wise. Yesterday we were fighting after practice trying to teach LT (Lawrence Thomas). It was like, I'll do it. And he said, `No, I want to do it coach.' He's obviously matured every day and every year. He is an impressive individual."
Thugs! Thug practice drills from a Renegade Program! I would expect nothing less from the kid who punched- Oh, wait. Fighting over who got to be the one to teach a younger player proper DE techniques? Oh. Uh, never mind.
Alas, Narduzzi, who is almost always good for one quote an interview that makes you both nervous and incredibly excited to see him running his own FB program someday at the same time, had nothing too exciting to say in this sit-down. Miss u, unchained Nardawg :(
Alright fine, one more piece of fluffy cotton candy:
Q. When you look at Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard at cornerback, where would you rank them in the conference or nationally in terms of that tandem. And does that make you feel a little better about playing a team like Boise in the opener that likes to spread it out when you have two guys who can cover like that at the position?
COACH DANTONIO: First of all, I don't think I'm qualified to comment on who are the best corners in the country or the best corners in the conference. That's beside the point.
What I try to concentrate on is what do I have knowledge of. And based on what I know, from my past as a secondary coach, my past here, wherever I've been, those two guys are as good of corners as we've had at any place I've been. And I can't say anything more than that.
Be sure to brush your teeth after reading that.