EAST LANSING - As Michigan State set out today for their second day of double-session practices, head coach Mark Dantonio said there was a need to take football conditioning to another level, after processing Saturday's jersey scrimmage.
"Sometimes you sort of come out of it (a scrimmage) feeling like, 'Well we need to do better at this or that,' but after watching the film, what you see is guys getting a little bit tired," Dantonio said.
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The offense scored a 67-63 comeback victory over the defense in Saturday's scrimmage.
"The defense started very fast, played very well in the scrimmage and then they tapered off," Dantonio said during Monday morning's media briefing. "I thought the offense maybe got handled a little bit early in the scrimmage but as the scrimmage went on they got stronger."
Dantonio indicated that the conditioning problems on defense are not borne out of lack of work during offseason workouts. Rather, the defense hasn't yet been repped into proper football shape.
"It's one thing to run 17 intervals, which we did the other day (for the conditioning test)," Dantonio said. "It's another thing to come back and play 12 or 15 straight plays; completely different conditioning.
"We haven't put them in a situation where they have had to play 12 straight plays and those type of things," Dantonio added. "That is to come this week, where they have to maintain what they do over the course of a series. We have been going three or four plays, then going with the twos, then going with the threes, trying to get everybody reps. We need to start with the ones and twos and making them six- or 10-play series, those type of things, so that we can get them in condition. Now with that, there is a risk. So we have to weigh the risk versus the reward, but we have to be able to come to that."
Dantonio expected that a lengthy defensive series would begin during Monday's practice.
"We will go live a little bit today," he said. "We go live every day but we have to put longer strings of plays together in a series so that we are conditioned and ready to go."
In addition to noticing the conditioning problem, Dantonio was additionally bothered by the defense's reaction to their struggles.
"We have to keep that belief moving with each other regardless of the situation," Dantonio said. "We didn't see that and I think it was because we were tired."
Sophomore defensive end William Gholston stood out statistically in the scrimmage with 2.5 sacks, and also forced a fumble. But Gholston did not finish satisfactorily.
"William was one of the guys I thought played very well but then sort of faded a little bit," Dantonio said. "He needs to be able to play at a consistent level throughout the scrimmage. But that's normal when you have a long scrimmage, as the scrimmage goes on you have to condition yourself."
The good news is that Gholston is playing stronger.
"He has stepped up his weight. He is about 275 pounds," defensive line coach Ted Gill said on Monday. "He was playing at 255 last year and he was getting thrown around. I think he saw that, and had to strength-up and (as a result) has really improved his overall knowledge of the game. One thing that Will did that I thought was really good is that he studied football in the offseason, he studied all of the different things that he did right and wrong and I think it has made him a better player."
Michigan State will scrimmage again on Saturday, and then hold a 'rehearsal' scrimmage about a week prior to the season opener on Sept. 2 at Spartan Stadium against Youngstown State.
Izzo Speaks To The Team
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo attended practice for a few minutes of the morning session on Monday. He was joined by assistant MSU coaches Dwayne Stephens and Dane Fife.
Izzo spoke to the team during the Spartans' short 'focus' period, in which the players huddle at midfield for prep-practice pep. Izzo spoke for about a minute.
"We have a certain fundamental that we talk about every day, and today it was about faith and belief," Dantonio said. "He talked a little bit about that. It's always great to have Tom out here. He is such a great supporter of all of our athletic programs and is a great friend."
MSU conducted most of its practice with loud music piped in as the backdrop. First song of the day: Jay Z's "H to the Izzo."
The Rest Of It
Was there progress on the offensive line? "I thought there was. Skyler Burkland is playing pretty well. You see Fou Fonoti getting in there with the twos and learning what's going on. I think Dan France is playing pretty well. The center position, Travis Jackson and Blake Treadwell continue to battle that out."
On freshmen linebackers: "The freshmen look like freshmen. They are over-loaded on what to do. Ed Davis performed very well in the scrimmage in terms of running and hitting and flying around. I felt the same with Taiwon Jones. They ran around, they hit people. They just have to learn what to do on a more consistent basis. That comes with time."
First-string cornerback Johnny Adams and second-string corner Tony Lippett missed the scrimmage with minor injuries. Both were back in action for practice on Monday.
With Adams and Lippett out, Mitchell White moved up to first-string cornerback. White has been bothered by a minor lower-body ailment as well. This has created an opening for redshirt freshman Jeremy Langford. Langford played tailback last spring. He moved from tailback to cornerback during the summer.
"Jeremy Langford has made the transition from tailback to corner and has made plays pretty much throughout fall camp," Dantonio said. "There is a guy that probably played 70 plays in the scrimmage. But when he is fresh, he can get his hands on you. He is 205 pounds, a 10.7 100-meter guy and he is physical. So it looks like he has found himself a position and he should do very well. I would say right now he is probably the fourth or fifth corner."
On Other Linebackers: "I thought Max Bullough had a good scrimmage," Dantonio said. "He is very powerful. He gives you that guy that can get everybody lined up. He is a student of the game. He goes about his business in a very professional way.
"TyQuan Hammock, solid. He needs to be able to play through a number of plays from a consistent effort standpoint, but I feel good about both of those guys right now, especially Max."
Hammock had been repping at Sam linebacker at the outset of training camp. With freshman Lawrence Thomas out due to a shoulder contusion, Hammock spent most of Saturday back at Mike (middle) linebacker. Junior Steve Gardiner, who can play the Mike or the Sam, served as the No. 2 Sam, behind Denicos Allen. There are some indications that Gardiner is pushing Allen at the Sam position.
"I thought Steve Gardiner had a good scrimmage."
Dantonio's response when asked about comments made by former MSU quarterback Tony Banks which appeared in the Detroit Free Press. In addition to complimenting Cousins on several fronts, Banks also said he would like to see Cousins be more "courageous" in the pocket.
"You know I like Tony," said Dantonio, who was a first-year defensive backs coach at MSU in 1995 when Banks was a senior for the Spartans. "He was a great player here. I really like him as a person. I think his statement may have been taken out of context a little bit. I think he is trying to probably (say) just like everybody gives an adjective to describe something that he wants to talk about where he can get better, so maybe it comes off in a negative respect. But Kirk Cousins has always been very courageous here. He is a leader on this football team and he does an outstanding job. So it is no big deal."