It has been quite a week in East Lansing, as Michigan State prepares for its first game without head coach Mark Dantonio, who continues his recovery from a mild heart attack suffered after last Saturday's dramatic win against Notre Dame. Dantonio is already home from the hospital, but when he'll return to the sideline is unknown. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell is handling the head-coaching duties in Dantonio's absence and will lead the 25th-ranked Spartans on Saturday against Northern Colorado.
I had the chance to catch up with Treadwell earlier Thursday.
What has your week been like?
Don Treadwell: I've had a great role model and mentor in Coach D. He's always taught us to take one day at a time, and that's the approach I've taken. I've tried not to put too much on my plate in advance. We've got tremendous direction and support here from everyone involved, and they've done a phenomenal job of keeping me abreast of what I need to do next.
How has your role as a coordinator helped as you take on these added duties, leading larger team meetings and so forth?
DT: Anything of that nature is a challenge. Certainly because of the situation, the entire staff has just stepped to the plate and rolled up our sleeves to say, 'What do we need to do collectively as a team and as a staff to get this program continually moving in the direction that Coach Dantonio has it going?' That's really been the prevailing thought. Anything I might be able to do to assist that while Coach D is temporarily out, then we're certainly willing to do that. He's more than just a coach. He's a very close friend, and I'd do that for any good friend.
Are there certain areas where you're spending more time? Do you do more with the defense this week? Are you more involved in recruiting?
DT: Most of that is still status quo, to a certain degree. Without question, one thing Coach Dantonio's always put in place is the offensive side takes care of what the offense does, the defensive side takes care of the defense. We've been blessed to have a head coach who will bounce back and forth, just so we can keep him up to speed and allow the interaction that he may want to have. So I've had no thought process about the defense. It's in great hands, Coach [Pat] Narduzzi and that staff does a phenomenal job. Again, with that same mindset of all of us stepping to the plate, we're pretty much, within reason, business as usual, outside of the extenuating things that [Dantonio] lends himself to do on a weekly basis.
How is Coach Dantonio doing?
DT: He's doing good. We pretty much talk or see him daily, and each day, he continues to become stronger. You can just see it in every part of his demeanor, as he goes through each day. So we're excited and anticipate his return whenever that time comes.
As far as game day, how do your responsibilities change, being the acting head coach?
DT: One of the adjustments we've already made and talked through as a staff is I will be on the field. Typically, as a playcaller, I've been in the box. So I'll be down on the field, and then certainly, as issues may potentially arise when it comes to game management, be able to handle those. And also have a bead on the team and be able to closely connect with them as opposed to doing it through a headset. It's not the first time that we've done that where I've been on the field, so it's not like that part is totally new. From that standpoint, we've done it before and it's been effective, so we'll continue to move forward and do what we need to do.
How much thought have you given to some of those head-coaching decisions in a game? You obviously saw a big one last week from Coach D.
DT: That's a combination as well, to a certain degree. There are certain things that arise that you talk about each week in preparation, and then also when those times arise, should they arise in the game, obviously everyone has to point to one person. But much more goes in behind the scenes well in advance. Certainly, we have our checklist week to week, just like when Coach D's here, to cover all those particular things as they would arise. Trust me, there's no replacing Coach D, his presence and all the things he brings. We're just trying to fill in and do the best that we can, knowing what he would want done.
Have you given any thought to your pregame speech?
DT: I haven't gotten too far ahead.
Are you excited, though, for some of those things? It's got to be a little different for you, to have that feeling for at least one game.
DT: The one thing about football, when you've been a veteran and you've been around it for quite a while like a few of us have been fortunate to do, you've been in that atmosphere quite often. So to flip the switch and maybe have to do a little more, that's something that can be done, but it's only done as needed at this point. And I think the team will be fine. We've got great leadership in our seniors and our captains, and you'll really see them step to the forefront and rally on Coach D's behalf.
How has the team responded to an emotional situation this week, and how do you expect them to respond in Saturday's game?
DT: They've handled it very well. With the great leadership we've had here from the beginning, from the administration, in setting the table and making sure we were immediately able to communicate with our players and, within reason, put them at ease that Coach D is going to be just fine, he's going to be back as soon as possible, it gave them that opportunity to hit the ground running on a typical Tuesday practice. You could see they've already worked through some of the emotional things and were really more prepared, 'OK, we're going to continue to concentrate like we do every week.' If anything, as you can imagine, there may be even more emotion come game day, just because of the thoughts of Coach Dantonio.