EAST LANSING - Early on, it was hard to tell if Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio felt good about his team's bye week before the Spartans' Big Ten opener at Iowa on Saturday, as he opened up his weekly radio show.
The seventh-year coach was more decisive in his assessment of the Hawkeyes.
Especially since, after opening the season with a loss to Northern Illinois, Iowa has reeled off four straight wins. And Dantonio knew why as he gave an overview of the formula for Iowa's success.
"They'll run the football, they'll throw it some, they'll stay balanced on offense and they don't make a lot of mistakes when they're winning. And their defense is strong. They do a nice job on special teams and I've always thought that Coach (Kirk) Ferentz's teams were very well coached. They play with toughness and it's been very competitive these last six years.''
So much so, that Dantonio sounded like a coach who was well aware of the problems that MSU has had in the past with the Hawkeyes. As a matter of fact, the Spartans are only 2-4 against the Hawkeyes under Dantonio, and 1-2 in his team's trips to Iowa City.
Four of the last six games have also been decided by seven points of less, with two going to overtime in 2007 and last year.
That being said, Dantonio did finally address what he thought his team got out of the first of what will be two bye weeks this season.
"When you have an off week and you come off the week, and you've watched a lot of film, you have a little extra time. I chose to spend a lot of that time talking to players individually and our players are ready to play. I have a very good feel about things. Very positive vibes, great energy and I thought we had great practices this week all three days.''
The three R's
Dantonio's first caller on Thursday wanted to make sure he got his money's worth so he asked a three-part question, wanting information on bye week recruiting, redshirts and what the running back rotation would be at Iowa.
"From a recruiting standpoint, our guys all went out and the biggest focus that we have are on guys that we already have committed or that we offered scholarships to, and we're still recruiting those guys. We want to make sure we watch them practice, play in games, when we can, and then we're on to juniors. We're really into the juniors right now because we have 16 committed guys and we usually take about 21 guys. We're down to our last four or five of our recruiting class.
"As far as our running back rotation, you'll have to wait and see.
And redshirting is a pretty subjective term. You redshirt guys if they've not played because you're trying to save guys unless they're going to play a lot of football. But that's all subject to how people go, in terms of getting injured or how they've played (in practice). We took the redshirt off of R.J. Shelton. That was important to recognize that he's a very good player and that he's going to be an outstanding player for us.''
So while Dantonio really wasn't as forthcoming as the caller probably wanted, he was basically saying not to expect the removal of anymore redshirts unless circumstances warranted that removal to re-fill certain positions from a depth standpoint.
So then, what about Delton?
The freshman running back was listed as the fourth running back on this week's depth chart behind Jeremy Langford, Nick Hill and Riley Bullough.
The show's host, George Blaha asked Dantonio if there were thoughts of removing running back Delton Williams' redshirt.
"He's been impressive in practice. He's a banger-type guy and he's got great hands. He's learned through the process of repetition about exactly what to do in terms of pass protection and different things that we're trying to deal with. So, he may or may not be, we'll see. Because that's how we play it, we don't let the cat out of the bag.''
The thought here is that Williams is being rewarded for his progress and hard work and will travel to Iowa and dress. He probably won't play unless injury warrants his participation.
In terms of recruiting, Dantonio addressed some of the strategies in putting together next year's class.
"This year, we lose four offensive linemen, so we need to recruit more offensive linemen. We have three committed right now. We'll probably take one more and he'll be a national recruit or a junior college player. So it will be a guy that I feel like can come in and play immediately rather than sit and watch and wait.''
In terms of that strategy senior tackle Fou Fonoti is someone MSU brought in the strengthen the depth of the o-line and looking back at it, especially with Skyler Burkland's medical retirement, the addition of Fonoti was a good get.
Dantonio also addressed the linebacking position, which will lose Max Bullough, Denicos Allen, Jairus Jones and Kyler Elsworth after this season.
''We lose four linebackers and we've got three committed but we may take another one but it's got to be a certain guy that can play maybe defensive end and linebacker .''
Brains and Beauty
The player guests for Thursday's show were junior linebacker Taiwan Jones and junior punter Mike Sadler.
While Jones is probably more well known than his kicking teammate because of he role he plays on the Spartans' nationally-recognized defense, Sadler is about as intriguing a student athlete as you will ever get to know.
Not only did he finish his undergraduate degree in three years after taking advanced placement courses in high school that allowed him to enroll at MSU with sophomore eligibilty academically - where he completed his undergrad work in just three years, while compiling graduated a 3.9 grade point average in applied engineering sciences - but he's not even in grad school because he was awarded a spot in MSU's PhD economics program.
That means he has an office on campus and holds office hours.
Additionally, Sadler is on the Ray Guy Award Watch List, meaning he's under consideration to be named the nation's top punter.
And there's one more thing that his coach wasn't about to let him stir clear of on Thursday night - Sadler was recently named as one of college football's hottest players by the teenage girls magazine Seventeen.
While Sadler was jokingly lamenting the fact that he didn't have a nice office you would think someone of his academic stature might be afforded, his coach reminded him that there were more important reasons for people to stop by for a consultation.
"I'm sure you had a lot of people stopping by though because of the whole teen magazine thing,'' Dantonio said, earning the loudest laugh of Thursday's show.
To which Sadler replied:"That's bad. I just hope the Iowa fans don't get a hold of that because they can just reach out, (because of proximity of the stands to the team's benches and sidelines) touch me and ask me about that.''
Dantonio went further by reminding everyone that Iowa's fans are pretty good at putting a famous person's face on an opposing players body as a joke.
Sadler knew exactly what his coach was talking about because he earned the face of actress Hilary Swank from the Iowa faithful during his first visit two seasons ago.
"They definitely do do that and I haven't lived that one down yet,'' Sadler said. "It's scary too because I actually looked like her when she had the short hair but good for them.''
All jokes aside, there is also a possibility that Sadler could apply and be accepted as a Rhodes Scholar.
In the Pink
Although people may have forgotten, one of the things Iowa's football program is known for s having an all-pink visitors lockerroom.
One of the audience members asked about the space and if it has had any effect on visiting teams like the Spartans.
Sadler, who stayed around until the end of the show, had an interesting perspective.
"Everything's pink. The toilets are pink, everything's pink. And growing up, my dad's from Iowa, so I watched a lot of Iowa games growing up. So I'd known about it but had never seen it. So getting to see it in person was pretty cool,'' Sadler said of his first visit to Iowa City two seasons ago. "But I actually think it's one of the nicest lockerrooms in the Big Ten. It's big, it's not cramped. So I'll deal with a little bit of pink as long as I can have some space to stretch out before the game.''
Added Dantonio: "Yeah, it is laid out very nicely and we have a lot of room in there but this is our fourth time up there, so we're past the pink and we're getting on the green.''
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