EAST LANSING - With Michigan State running back Javon Ringer beginning to gain mention among the leaders in the early checkpoints of the Heisman Trophy race, Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio has started to field questions on the matter.
During Tuesday's weekly press conference, Dantonio was asked if he would like to see Michigan State's public relations staff go to extravagant lengths to promote Ringer for the Heisman.
"My belief is you always put the team first," Dantonio said, "and you don't want to focus on one particular person, or go out and say, 'Hey, we are going to run you 40 times regardless of the situation.'"
Actually, the situations have warranted heavy Ringer activity through Michigan State's first four games. A heavy rainstorm led to a ground-bound gameplan in Michigan State's victory over Florida Atlantic on Sept. 13. He carried the ball 43 times that day for 282 yards, the fourth-highest single-game total in school history.
Ringer then eclipsed the 200-yard mark on Saturday against Notre Dame, rushing for 201 yards on 39 carries in the Spartans' 23-7 victory. His performance marked the first time a Michigan State running back has broken the 200-yard mark in consecutive games.
Ringer leads the nation in carries (143), rushing TDs (11) and scoring (16.5 points per game).
Ringer also ranks second in the nation in rushing at 174.8 yards per game.
All of these numbers, including his five-TD performance against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 6, have put the senior from Dayton, Ohio into the conversation for the award annually given to the nation's most outstanding college football player.
Ringer ranks eighth this week in a weekly Heisman Watch poll of college football experts at ESPN.com.
Ringer ranks third on Rivals.com's Heisman Fan Poll, trailing only Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel and Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno.
Michigan State has had players mentioned in the Heisman hunt at this stage of the season in recent years, but Drew Stanton and Charles Rogers saw their hopes evaporate amid mediocre seasons for the Spartans. In 2002, Rogers became the first player to win the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's best college wide receiver, while playing for a team with a losing record.
Before Ringer can become a serious candidate for the Heisman, the Spartans (3-1) first need to show that they can break into the Top 25 and stay there, and perhaps rise.
"We have to make sure that we are succeeding and winning as a football team," Dantonio said. "When that happens, more recognition will follow; more TV games that are on a national venue, more opportunities to be heard, more plays to be made at a higher importance. The best thing we can do is to continue to win and surround him with good players and good people that are all going toward the same goal. And that's the way he is too."
What about silly, attention-getting trinkets that universities send to Heisman voters to promote candidates?
"As far as the little things that people do, I don't know, I guess you get a little card, a little sticker, you put it on your ... refrigerator," Dantonio said, eliciting laughter from the media gathering at Spartan Stadium, Tuesday. "I don't know that that's going to get him the Heisman. I think running downhill, breaking tackles, scoring touchdowns and getting yards would do something that would help him. The more successful we are as a team, the more media exposure there is. I think that's natural."
SpartanMag.com will have video of Javon Ringer's weekly post-practice interview session with media, Tuesday night.