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Dantonio talks titles, reversing history

8/5/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio just finished addressing reporters on media day. Here are some of the items Dantonio discussed. 

  • Dantonio reiterated the high expectations he has for his team this fall, but cautioned that with a small senior class, the program is still building.

The second-year coach keeps most of his materials from past years and recently was reviewing a depth chart from the 2002 Ohio State defense that he coordinated. Players were given grades for their play: Big Ten championship performance, Big Ten performance, winning performance, average performance and losing performance.

Not surprisingly, the Ohio State chart was filled with Big Ten championship performers.    

"I don't want to say that about every single [Michigan State] player comparatively, but we have a lot of players on this football team that would qualify [as] bowl-game players," Dantonio said. "They're capable of playing at the bowl-game-performance level. ... I'm not going to shy away from talking about Big Ten championships. That has to be talked about here. I'm not going to sell our players short."

  • Michigan State has been in this position before, the preseason darling primed to shock the league after a breakthrough season. It happened in 1998, after three consecutive bowl appearances. And the Spartans went 6-6. It happened in 2000, after a 10-2 season. And the Spartans went 5-6.

After serving as a Spartans assistant from 1995-2000, Dantonio is well aware of the perils of preseason hype at Michigan State. He's making sure his players know about it, too. 

"They have a history here of fattening everybody up after a so-so season, saying great things are on the horizon," Dantonio said. "The progression is they want to deflate you very quickly as well. ... If we want it, we need to recognize that fact and not look past it."

  • Quarterback Brian Hoyer doesn't have to worry about his starting position, but Dantonio wants to build more depth behind the senior. Michigan State has done a good job of grooming younger players at several positions, but quarterback isn't one of them. Hoyer was responsible for 376 of the team's 393 pass attempts last fall.

Redshirt freshman Kirk Cousins, the primary backup, will throw his first pass in a college game this season.  

"It's obviously a position of a little bit of concern in terms of depth," Dantonio said. "But we'll rectify that situation."

  • Defensive tackle Antonio Jeremiah is the last Spartans player needing to pass the team's conditioning test. Jeremiah practiced with the third-team defense Monday even though he'll eventually be in the mix for a starting job.

Dantonio expects Jeremiah to pass the test soon, but the coach took a dig at the beefy sophomore.

"When you're 320 pounds one day and 330 the next day, that's a big meal," Dantonio said. "He's got to get his weight back down to 319. He ran well for 330. ... When we make a blanket statement that everybody's going to pass that running test, I have to hold to that statement."

  • Dantonio praised the offseason performances of defensive end Brandon Long and guard Joel Foreman. He also introduced Tim Allen, his new director of football operations. Allen admitted he's already being called "Tool Time" around the office.