April 15, 2010

Dantonio feels good about team's progress

EAST LANSING - Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and his staff believe that they have a good handle on the state of their team. The Spartans have finished 11 of the 14 practices allotted to them during the spring.

On Thursday, Dantonio's team had their second practice after Saturday's 150-play controlled scrimmage. That initial scrimmage was the first of three scheduled for this spring. The second scrimmage will take place on Saturday followed by the annual Green and White Game on April 24th.

Based on what he has seen thus far, Dantonio believes that this year's spring game will be competitive and productive as players on both teams compete in front of fans at Spartan Stadium.

Dantonio and his staff came away from the first scrimmage feeling that it had been a successful tool for evaluating progress on both sides of the ball. Michigan State's defense had a handful of plays that they would like to have back, but the Spartan defense also made plays when they needed them most.

The fourth-year head coach had positive things to say about a number of players on defense including Johnny Adams, who played a significant role in the Spartan defensive backfield as true freshman in 2008. Adams took a red-shirt last year following the death of his grandfather, who was very close to the Akron (Ohio) Buchtel star.

"I think Johnny Adams is having an outstanding spring," explained Dantonio. "He red-shirted last year after his grandparent passed. He is having an outstanding spring."
Dantonio likes the way Adams competes and how aggressive he plays the cornerback position. The former All-Ohio standout is also one of the best in the program at making plays on the ball.

"Again, he has another year of experience and he is a much more confident player because of that," said Dantonio. "He just knows where to be. The complexity, the attention to detail, those things are just better for him."

Depth and ability make the position of linebacker one of the strengths of the Spartan defense. The work ethic of the group is strong and is fostered by Michigan State's senior standouts Greg Jones and Eric Gordon[/b].

"Greg Jones shows up every single practice," Dantonio said. "It is almost a given every single day. [db]Chris Norman is coming and Eric Gordon has been very solid as well. Tyler Hoover has improved greatly. We are moving forward and doing some great things."

  • Baker and Caper showing growth in their knowledge of the game: First-year running backs coach Brad Salem came to Michigan State as an assistant coach with head coaching experience on his resume. During his first couple of months on the job, Salem has worked with his running backs on understanding the offense as a whole in addition to their specific responsibilities as tailbacks or fullbacks.

    Dantonio is pleased with the spring that both Edwin Baker and Larry Caper after getting their first taste of college football last season.
    "I think coach Salem is an excellent teacher," said Dantonio, who made it a point to sit on at least one of each position meeting during the spring. "Baker and Caper are both having excellent springs running behind their pads. They are growing as players too."

  • Battle between Muma and Conroy ongoing: Michigan State recruited Kevin Muma as a scholarship kicker with the intent of finding a quality replacement for one of the top all-time kickers in program history in Brett Swenson. Dantonio liked what he has seen from Muma, a red-shirt freshman with a strong , and he also likes what he has seen from Dan Conroy, who is also competing for placekicking duties. Dantonio said on Thursday that the competition between Muma and Conroy could last into fall camp.

    "We need to put them in pressure situations as much as we can," said Dantonio. "We were able to do that on Saturday and they responded well. Both guys have had good springs but it will probably go into August."

  • Ray still pursuing football dream: Former Chicago area standout offensive lineman Arthur Ray continues to hold onto his dream to make a full recovery from cancer and work his back toward medical clearance. During the spring, Ray has been at every practice working on drills by himself in shorts. Dantonio said Thursday that Ray could make a full return next spring. If Ray does find a way to make it all the way back it would be remarkable and inspirational.

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