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April 9, 2013

Dantonio: 'Looking for more'

EAST LANSING - Mark Dantonio says his team has met the benchmark of getting three percent better each day of spring practice.

But the Michigan State coach is stressing better consistency to his players and coaches.

"Everybody, I think, on our football team, has certain levels that they have to accomplish," said Dantonio. "When you have played a year, you need to be farther along. If you are a true freshman, you need to come into your own. If you have never played, you need to gain some ground. I think everybody is looking for more. And I think we need to check ourselves, including myself. Check yourself, where are you at? What do you doing? What are you trying to do to get better? And I think we all need to always improve, and so I'm looking for improvement. That's a round-and-about way to answer that question. Just keep pushing."

Click below for portions of Dantonio's pre-practice press briefing on Tuesday.

The transcript of Dantonio's pre-practice media briefing:

Is the offensive line playing as well as you expected?
"We have some guys nicked up. We really had three starters not go in the scrimmage, so it's a little tough to see on that. But we have to run the ball more effectively. And that's the one thing coming out the scrimmage - we didn't run the ball as effectively."

On tight ends and fullbacks:
"Tight end and fullback - young players. There is a big learning curve there. But we'll continue to make improvements."

On wide receivers:
"I think the biggest thing is consistency. I think if you look at the end of the game, yeah, you saw consistency. If you saw early on, you sort of felt like maybe you could play a little better.

"The passing game, so much of it is involved in not only catching the football, but delivering it and protecting the passer as well."

Has there been any separation with the running backs
"I didn't see any separation. We need to be better."

On sophomore-to-be WR Aaron Burbridge:
"Yeah, he's playing. Consistency. That's what you (need) to see in young players. A lot of times a player will take a big jump and then he'll settle back a little bit. We have some good wide receivers but they need to be consistency."

there been any ones move down the depth chart, and not due to injury?
"I would say no."

Do you have any special teams returners picked out?
"We have been inside so often it has been hard to do any of that at game-speed. AJ Sims had a nice return on Friday in a live punt situation. From a kickoff return standpoint, we haven't done that yet just from the nature of what's been going on."

Is there ever a fear that your success on defense gets taken for granted?
"No. We need to be good on defense but we continue to critique what we do. It's about fundamentals and execution of fundamentals, I don't care really what you do. And obviously, conceptually need to be tied together and have a foundation."

Who has been your best place kicker this spring?
"Kevin Cronin."

With things getting away from you on defense late in games last year, how do you focus on that and what do you see in that regard from the scrimmage?
"That is a focus. I think that is one thing that we have to guard against. In the scrimmage, that's what happened, but you are playing ones and twos, and you are creating situations as well, but I felt our offense did a nice job in those situations. We just have to keep working it. But that is a concern.

"We went ones vs ones and twos vs twos."

What kind of progress have you seen from Evan Jones and Josiah Price at tight end?
"They are freshmen. They need to be more consistent. I think that's what you hear when you're out here - when you've got young players, the need for consistency. So when you have a state of the union address and you talk to your players, that's what they hear."

What did you see out of Connor Cook and Tyler O'Connor?
"I think Tyler O'Connor can make a play with his feet. He ad libs very well. And when you see big plays from him, a lot of it, he has created them. So that is a positive thing.

"He needs to be a little bit more consistent - again, there's the word - in your everyday things. The things that he should do, when he should be able to make a throw, sometimes he is not 100 percent. But he has done some good things.

"I think Connor Cook is much the same. He is just a year removed from it. Sometimes he becomes, I don't want to say disoriented, I just want to say a lack of consistency. But he makes plays. He made some plays with his feet out there. He is big, he is strong-armed.

"So all three of those guys are good football players. I think we are farther along this year than we were last year with our quarterbacks due to the nature of the experience that Andrew Maxwell has, the experience Connor Cook has and then we have a third that is playing that can play himself into playing time, actually. So we have three guys that I think have good ability, raw ability, throwing ability, but the consistency needs to be there, but that's what has to be said when looking at the whole offense.

"But we are playing against a good defense, pretty much."

What did you think of Maxwell in the scrimmage?
"I think when he has time and everything is good around him I think he is very efficient. When things break down, which is usually with most quarterbacks, when things break down the separation is not as great between the other two."

What are you most pleased with this spring?
"The chemistry is always good. We come out here and work hard. We are aggressive. We play the game. Quarterbacks have been live. We cut on the edge. So we are playing this game as aggressively and as game-like as we can. And with that in mind, I think our players have done a great job.

"But with that comes more mistakes. If you are just going 'thud' and you are not wrapping up, you are not taking them down every day, and you are not making the quarterbacks live, it's a little cleaner. But sometimes you have to get your hands dirty a little bit to find out exactly where you're at, and that's what we have to do."

How much of your offense do you have in? Are you still adding?
"We are still adding things. We have gone slow because of certain ... the tight ends are young and there are some different positions ...

"I think in the spring what we need to find is who can play the game. It's not so much what we do ... it is to some extent because we need to experiment with things but we need to find out who can play and then get those players into a game and get those players into the right positions. There are some positions, quite honestly, that are still up for grabs. I think you guys are aware of that."

You had a state of the union address with the guys?
"Just talking generalities."

On walk-on wide receiver AJ Troup, who scored 2 TDs in last week's scrimmage:
"He took a slant to the house against the twos, he also caught a fade for a touchdown against the twos, so he has had a good spring thus far.

"He's a big-bodied guy. He is still a young player. He's a big-bodied guy that can run. He can caught the ball pretty cleanly."

On explosive plays, is that what you're looking for on offense?
"Yeah, explosive plays and not turning the ball over. And then you're looking for just the opposite on the defensive side. You are sort of sitting there in a catch 22 situation a little bit as a head coach."

Is Juwan Caesar still getting reps at TE?
"He's a little nicked up right now. But he is still getting reps there."

On Keith Mumphery:
"Keith is a good player. Everybody, I think, on our football team, has certain levels that they have to accomplish. When you have played a year, you need to be farther along. If you are a true freshman, you need to come into your own. If you have never played, you need to gain some ground. I think everybody is looking for more. And I think we need to check ourselves, including myself. Check yourself, where are you at? What do you doing? What are you trying to do to get better? And I think we all need to always improve, and so I'm looking for improvement. That's a round-and-about way to answer that question. Just keep pushing.

"I think Keith is one of those guys that does push himself. He plays hard but he needs to mature, just like a lot of our players. If they have been in the games, they need to mature, they need to grow. You expect that growth to take place on the field and you need to expect that on a consistent basis.

"I'm not dissatisfied, I just think we need to be as good as we can."

So no one would walk out here with a clean slate?
"No, including myself. That's just not the way we're made up here."

Are you seeing that three percent improvement you crave from every player in every practice?
"Yeah, I'm seeing the three percent but it is not from everybody. And that's the problem."

If you were to line up at wide out right now for a game, who would be the first three?
"I think you're looking at Bennie Fowler, you're looking at Lippett and Mumphery. And you're looking at Burbridge. The same four you saw show up a lot last year. I think all four of those guys have made plays here this spring. You see some things from Madaris and AJ Troup, but you haven't risen to a player like B.J. Cunningham. And that is the standard. And we can't accept anything less than that. That is the standard."

Is route running a big area of emphasis with those guys this spring?
"Yeah, everything is. Blocking, catching the ball in traffic, route running, getting off press, whatever we have to do, growing in terms of alignments, and just growing in terms of experience. That's why we do this. That's why we practice.

"But our effort is very good and our chemistry is very good."

Was it Cook or O'Connor with the twos?
"What we did is we rolled 'em. We tried to give everybody opportunities with the ones. Cook had some opportunities with the ones. Tyler O'Connor had opportunities with the twos. Andrew Maxwell played with the ones. We tried to give those guys equal reps because we are trying to evaluate and allow everybody to grow."

On second string offensive guard Connor Kruse and second-string tackle Jack Conklin:
"Jack, a lot of things coming at him. Sometimes he is playing straight-legged. Sometimes he needs to bend his knees and play with a little more umph. But he is talented and he wants to play very, very well, and it's important to him and I do think he has a sense of urgency, but he's a freshman."

On co-offensive coordinators Dave Warner and Jim Bollman working together in the first scrimmage:
"Good. As I said when we did this, Dave Warner will be the lead guy, the play caller. And Jim Bollman serves as more of a consultant in that area. I don't think you can have two guys calling the plays. But I think you can have a consultant and say, 'Hey, what about this? What about that? We're getting this.' And I think all of our coaches do that but I think that's where Bolls is looked at, at this point right now."

On the big plays in the scrimmage:
"It's not scheme things. It's an individual breakdown but again I go back to saying we needed some. We needed some big plays in that scrimmage too. I was sort of glad we saw it. The game came down to the end and the offense drove in a two-minute situation and had a chance to kick a field goal at the end to win it, and they didn't make it. It was partially blocked. So the defense wins the scrimmage. But it came down to the end, which is the way I like it."

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