MSU Football Head Coach Mark Dantonio always amuses me when he speaks to the media. I made the joke that I found his media day press conference transcript Wednesday night and proceeded to tweet out a link to the MSU 2011 Spring roster. Anyone who has had the privilege of interviewing Coach D knows he'd rather describe every position on his team than actually get into an opinion of his. It's a tough style to get used to and is horrible if you are a radio producer. Naturally coming into Big Ten Media Day I didn't expect to learn much from Dantonio about his team. Here is what I was able to take away from his presser.
Let's first get into the picture of Dantonio. For those who did not see the press conference to understand what he's talking about, Dantonio was asked about how not getting a BCS Bowl bid can fuel and motivate his team this year. "We climbed one mountain. You think you're getting to the top of one mountain you find out there is another mountain there to climb as well. When you look at the team and how we performed in the bowl game, we took a step backward." Dantonio is a sensible man. He knows that the team didn't deserve a BCS Bowl bid with its pitiful performance against Alabama. Mark Dantonio and MSU benefit the most from the new Conference Championship. As Coach D said they can now deal with what they can control. More than that they won't get screwed by being a lesser hyped team.
Dantonio started his team talk with QB Kirk Cousins. Dantonio used to use a line when asked about former QB Brian Hoyer: "a QB is judged by wins and losses and we won so he had a great game." Well that's what you use for a QB who doesn't do anything fantastic throughout a game. Coach D described Cousins as someone who brings a great sense of calm and confidence to the team and provides a lot of leadership and locker room management.
Chemistry was a big focus when Dantonio talked about his team. He focused on chemistry and athleticism in order to side step the fact that the team is very inexperienced. That is what scared me most. I've known since last year that the MSU OL was going to be sketchy this season. Throw in offseason moves of Dan France from DL to starting LT (WHAT!?) and former highly recruited center turned NT Blake Treadwell coming back to the offensive side of the ball and I'm still not thrilled with the O-Line. Guard Joel Foreman is a returning 4-year starter, but it's at the least important position on the line. Dantonio said "When we've lost we got beaten up front. On the offensive side...we have to be able to run the ball to be able to be multi-dimensional."
After another comment about how athletic the O Line is ("we have more guys who bench press 400+ pounds and vertical jump 30 inches than we've ever had across the board") Coach Dantonio slipped momentarily..."I have a great. I have a good sense that we'll be just fine on the offensive line and we can make it work." He started to say that he had a great sense but quickly adjusted back to just a good sense that they will be fine. A good sense that they can make it work? That is not a confidence building statement and is not what I want to hear. I don't care if he's being dead honest. As a fan I want to hear a lie. Tell me that they are making great progress and they should surprise a lot of people with how well they play together. Anything but saying they should be able to make it work.
Making the offensive line work does not lead to a BCS Bowl bid. It leads to having three good runningbacks struggle to find holes through which to run. It leads to one of the 12 "B1G Players to Watch," Kirk Cousins, being rushed out of the pocket and forcing throws. That flows right back into one of Coach Dantonio's most important bullet points: limiting turnovers. The MSU O-Line is deep and athletic and as Coach D said "we can make it work." Hopefully that means running over teams and not a constantly struggling to move the line of scrimmage forward.
Follow me on twitter @ChatSportsEckBack to the Michigan State Spartans Newsfeed