Mark Dantonio previews Spartans' spring

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
3:40
PM ET
Before Michigan State hit the spring practice field for the first time, head coach Mark Dantonio met with the media to give an update on his team Tuesday.

Dantonio disclosed that senior starting linebacker Chris Norman will miss the spring with a shoulder injury, as will freshman linebacker Lawrence Thomas. Receiver Bennie Fowler, who's being counted on to take a bigger role at a position decimated by graduation, will miss at least the first half of spring practice with a foot injury.

But if that's the bad news, the good news is that the Spartans have a lot of depth and returning starters elsewhere, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines.

"I look around the conference right now and people are having a hard time with their numbers in terms of having a spring football game," Dantonio said. "We've got numbers on both the offensive line and defensive line which will enable us to do that really throughout the entire spring."

With Norman out, sophomore Taiwan Jones is listed as No. 1 at the star linebacker position. Dantonio sees promising things for the youngster.

"I think Taiwan will be an outstanding player for us here, and I think he'll compete for playing time," he said. "He pulls the pin, he's got as much power and explosiveness as any linebacker out there. He's big. He's quick, but he has to learn to play fast at all times. He can't second guess himself. But that's part of the experience and what spring is for."

The areas of intense competition include the offensive line, which has seven players back who started at some point last year, and at safety to replace Trenton Robinson. Kurtis Drummond, RJ Williamson, Jairus Jones are among those battling it out there.

Offensive lineman Skyler Burkland and defensive tackle Tyler Hoover -- who is listed at No. 1 at defensive tackle after moving over from end -- will go through spring after missing most of last year with injuries. Dantonio said he may limit both players a bit this spring but is excited to have them back.

Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell will draw serious scrutiny this spring as he tries to replace Kirk Cousins. Dantonio expressed confidence in both him and backup Connor Cook, a redshirt freshman.

"[Maxwell] is game ready," Dantonio said. "What he hasn't been able to do right now is be in front of a media situation as much, be in front of a live situation as much. But he's gotten the reps and I think he'll be an outstanding quarterback, Connor Cook as well."

Receiver remains a concern, especially this spring as the Spartans await the arrival of several wideout recruits this summer. Right now, Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery are listed as the No. 1 receivers. But Dantonio said the petition to make Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett has been sent to the the NCAA, and the team is hopeful it will be approved. Arnett could provide a huge lift.

"We'll work him as if he's going to be game ready, and it should be a very exciting player, based on high school and how he ran around in winter conditioning," he said. "A very fluid athlete, very quick, explosive. He'll pay us great dividends, I think, as a person and player moving forward."

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