Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Dantonio talks expectations, recruiting
By Adam Rittenberg
Michigan State went through the previous offseason with a chip on its shoulder, the product of a subpar performance on the field in 2009 and a more disappointing display off it.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is working to make sure the Spartans build on the momentum they created with 11 wins last season.
Throughout the winter, spring and summer of 2010, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio talked about adversity making a team stronger. His team responded with an 11-win season and a share of its first Big Ten title in 20 years.
So has the mood changed around East Lansing following the success of 2010? Not a chance.
"We have not taken the approach that we're the hunted," Dantonio told me Tuesday morning. "We still feel like there's something we have to prove and work on. We've talked a lot to our players about handling success. For every team that had a good year last year, the opportunity to repeat that same type of success becomes even more difficult.
"But with that being said, we're a more confident team, which should [help], especially when we have to go on the road this year."
Dantonio spent much of May and June meeting individually with every Spartans player for 30-40 minutes. He met Monday with quarterback Kirk Cousins.
"It's more about continuing to gain respect," Dantonio said. "We've got the same type of attitude that we carried in last summer, that we've got to prove our worth on a daily basis."
Recruiting remains a focus for Michigan State after the spring evaluation period, and lately it has been a bit of a touchy subject for Spartans fans. After several years where Michigan State excelled in the local and regional recruiting scene, archrival Michigan has re-established itself under new coach Brady Hoke and his staff.
Michigan already has 16 verbal commits for 2012, including seven in-state prospects and seven from neighboring Ohio. One of Michigan's recruits from Ohio, linebacker Kaleb Ringer, is the nephew of former Michigan State All-American running back Javon Ringer. The Wolverines' class ranks No. 6 nationally according to ESPN Recruiting.
Michigan State isn't exactly struggling on the recruiting trail. The Spartans have five commits, including Ohio quarterback recruit Tyler O'Connor and their lone in-state prospect, linebacker Riley Bullough, the younger brother of Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough.
But not surprisingly, Michigan's rapid start to recruiting has taken away some of the spotlight.
"Michigan's got a great program," Dantonio said. "When somebody new takes over, there's always going to be an influx of energy into that program. They have a lot of positives to draw from. In many ways, you grow up in this state and you're green or you're blue. That's the way it goes sometimes, but we'll continue to recruit Michigan hard. They have great high school football here, and we'll get our guys."
Dantonio described Michigan State's 2012 recruiting progress as "very, very good."
One state both Michigan State and Michigan will continue to recruit is Ohio, which could be more vulnerable because of the recent turmoil at Ohio State.
"I don't see that right now because it's so new," Dantonio said, referring to the changes at Ohio State. "We have an opportunity every single day to recruit people from all over the country."