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November 4, 2014

Mark Dantonio

Q.  Coach?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Thanks, guys.¬† Really coming off our bye week, this past week, off‑week, gave us a chance to sort of self‑evaluate ourselves a little bit, get fresh, start on OSU and do some recruiting and get with our players a couple times as well.
Hopefully got some things done last week.  Great challenge against Ohio State this weekend.  Should be an exciting atmosphere.  Game Day is here, I think this is the sixth time they've been here since 2011 so that's special for them coming back.
Obviously game has implications within our conference, especially within the division.¬† So a huge football game and it will be a great challenge for us, as I said earlier.¬† When you look at OSU's defense, athletic, quick‑bodied guys, very well coached football team, tackle well on the perimeter, play very well up front, play the ball in the deep part of the field.¬† Their offensively innovative, great skill players, well coached, again, and obviously their quarterback is having a great year and they've done an outstanding job getting him ready to play but big‑play players that surround him.¬† Special teams will be big in this football game, I think both teams understand that and there will be a special place‑‑ I think every football game like this, really every play is sort of a life event.¬† With respect with respect to that I mean every play could be the difference between winning and losing, sometimes it comes down to being that close.
I have a lot of respect when for what's going on down there.  A lot of respect for the Ohio State program in general, the history of it.  I'll just take questions.

Q.  Coach Hinton yesterday at Ohio State who you have a history with and friendship to be frank, talked about anything that's said even if it's nothing you're going to find a way to put a chip on a guy's shoulder.  What's your key to keep your guys even when they're favored to win, the underdog?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think what we try and do, first of all, I appreciate everything that Tim has done for us and he used to take me down home and let me ride his horses down there so particularly fond of Ace, so you guys can print that.  Even had me barrel racing one time around there!  Tim is a very good friend of ours, our family's.  What we have been able to do here, I think what we have always tried to do with the players I've been able to coach throughout the years wherever I've been is challenge our players.  Challenge our players to the next contest, the next goal, and that's what we do.  That's what we have done here, we've challenged our guys to become the best, to play at a high level and to expect excellence and drive for excellence.  However we get that, you know, there is different ways you get there as you move through it but we don't put something negative in people's minds to challenge them necessarily, we try to challenge them to a higher standard I think always.
Sometimes I do think you have to play with an edge.¬† I think this is a physical‑type‑‑ I'm talking football in general is a very physical game and it's a very emotional game and you have to have your tank full, emotionally full to be able to play through the up's and down's of a football game.

Q.  Mark, what is the difference with J.T. Barrett at quarterback compared to Braxton Miller?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Well, I think they're both playmakers.¬† Braxton Miller certainly had more experience this particular year, coming into this year.¬† I think Braxton is a little bit more tailback‑‑ I always used to say he's like having a featured tailback in the backfield.¬† He can take a play and‑‑ take a bad play and make it a good play.¬† I think J.T. is a little bit more‑‑ plays a little bit more controlled like a quarterback.¬† He's throwing the ball very effectively.¬† Minimum amount of interceptions, high percentage, and I think that's probably where the difference is.¬† I also think that J.T. is a very good runner as well and he's a different type of runner, he's more of a run through you type of guy, power runner.¬† But they will run him as well and he's got the ability to take bad plays and change 'em, too.

Q.¬† You were talk about the next goals and for your program, as you've built this, to beat Ohio State in back‑to‑back years in games of this significance and this importance, Big Ten Championship, where does that elevate your program to from a reception standpoint?¬† Can you talk about that a little bit?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Well, I don't know if it's‑‑ is it Ohio State or is it any other football team in this conference, you know, that's winning at a high level.¬† We've been there before, against some of the other football teams that we've played.
So to me it's not so much about, well, maybe it is about winning this game because it sort of propels you forward, but it's the fact that, can we win another division championship?¬† What used to be the legends, can we get in that championship game for a third time‑out of four years?¬† Can we do that?¬† That's the big question.
Now, obviously this game, the way the standings look right now this game is extremely important because you'll win the tie breakers, as well, whoever wins this game.  So that's what makes it even more, I think, important.  I think it's more of a conference thing rather than a personal can we beat Ohio State.  I think can we represent our division in the Big Ten championship game.  What can that spring board us towards?

Q.¬† Mark, I hate two‑part questions, but can you address‑‑
COACH DANTONIO:  I can't remember the second part!

Q.  Can you address if this is the biggest game you have coached in at Michigan State, given all the stakes and how has this program handled evolved into handling big games because you've had some in your stay and you've done very well in the last few years.
COACH DANTONIO:¬† No, I don't want to put that pressure on this program or upon our coaches or upon our players.¬† It's not the biggest game.¬† The biggest game is usually‑‑ will still be coming, the championship game last year, was it the biggest game?¬† That may have been because of the ramifications beyond that.¬† But it's a big game there is no question about that, it's a big game at Spartan Stadium, should be a great atmosphere, like I said earlier with our crowd into it, our students will be into it.¬† It's everything that you want in college football, in a college football game, I think.

Q.  In terms of evolving in big games?
COACH DANTONIO:  In terms of?

Q.  You had some big games earlier, you've had a lot of big games here in the last three years.  Is it a process?
COACH DANTONIO:  It's a process, I think that's exactly what it is, it's a process.  You're going to get that inevitably, if you play in 'em enough you're going to play more confidently and I think that's what we've been able to do.  We're a confident football team, our players have played in these games.  We're confident and we expect success.  When that's happening to you for the first time there is a learning process, there is a curve there.

Q.¬† Mark, I think you guys really struggled to run the ball in the 2012 game against Ohio State, but with the way your offensive line is playing this season, how much better suited do you think you are to match‑up with bow son and their front four?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think our offensive line is an improved unit and there is a lot of things that go into running the football, obviously, but‑‑ whether it's scheme, concept, players themselves, you know, the tight ends, the running backs, all the different things.¬† So there is a lot to be talked about there, the balance of your offense, but I think you have to‑‑ to be successful you have to do both, you have to be able to throw it and run it.¬† You can't be one‑dimensional in this game anymore and if you look across the board statistically at them and us, there is a lot of parity and there is a lot of balance.¬† There is parity within each other, statistically, but there is a lot of balance from both football teams, equally balanced run and pass both teams, about 50/50.¬† In a lot of situations that you look at as a defensive coach or offensive coach I think you see a lot of balance.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, they've got very, very good players up there.  I'm not going to rank 'em one, two and three, that's not fair to anybody, but obviously they're one of the better one's we've played.

Q.  Mark, go to a coach's convention, coaches admire the way you play, do they ever tell that you?  Your style of grittiness, physical style?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think coaches respect guys playing hard, that's what I think.¬† They respect execution ‑‑ they respect execution, they respect the toughness aspect, the ability to handle adversity and when you look at people and say that's a well‑coached football team, why?¬† Because they can handle stress?¬† Pressure?¬† They do the little things that make you good and when you look at height Ohio State you see the exact same thing.¬† You see guys paying attention to detail, quick‑bodied guys, their eye control on defense, you can see the different things they get to on offense, you can see the repetition, the down field blocking, you can see things on special teams that are very specific and that's being coached.
So I appreciate that aspect of it, but, you know, that's always‑‑ like I said, you're always chasing excellence, I think.

Q.  Mark, a lot of people clamored for the national playoff, very celebrated, people wanted it.  Now that you're in the middle of it in the mix of it and every win is dissected and teams are eliminated allegedly on this coming Saturday, do you like it in reality as much as in concept now that you're in the middle of it?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think the concept is good, I think the reality is good.¬† To me there is no difference in‑‑ you're just adding two more teams and you've got a committee doing it and they're taking away some of the maybe power angles from other polls, which to me is a positive.¬† But if‑‑ for us, you're still playing for a Big Ten Championship, you're trying to get into that championship game because you have to realize if you don't get there you're not getting to the next step.¬† Everybody wants to get beyond where they've been before but that's down the road.¬† That has to be talked about in December.¬† Right now the focus is what's occurring right now and Ohio State is occurring right now.

Q.  Coach, I don't know if you had a chance to watch Game Day this weekend or see film of it.
COACH DANTONIO:  I saw film.

Q.  You've commonly been personified as a grouchy, stingy guy on the sidelines.  Do you laugh at yourself?  Do you realize that's the personification?
COACH DANTONIO:  What's my take on that?  I laughed, you know?  (Laughter.)
I'm just about business on the sidelines.  People that know me know how I am, but, you know, when you go to the sideline, there's a focus that has to be kept.  I don't know, maybe I just look mean.  Underneath it all I'm really a good person.  (Laughter.)  Try to be.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I saw that.  Missed the gray.

Q.¬† You mentioned that the grittiness that you like to have as part of your program, with a top‑five offensive team that's more explosive, those things aren't normally things people associate.¬† Has it been tricky keeping that mentality while having an offense that puts up 40 or 50 points a game?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† No, because we're still going to go against each other, we're going to go in the spring, there will be live periods where everybody has to dig deep a little bit.¬† We are not going to become‑‑ win, loss, whatever, we are not going to become an entitled team.¬† We want to be grounded in hard work and that's what I've said over and over.
That's who we need to be.¬† That's just a part of the mentality that has to exist here.¬† That helps us get better, it helps us develop players, it helps us go beyond where‑‑ to continue to climb.¬† When I talk about that, I'm saying individuals continue to climb and make themselves better.¬† We've got to do that.¬† I think that's coaching.¬† I think you've got to do that because you can never be satisfied with your individual performance or your individual coaching aspect of it.¬† You've got to try and find the new things to try and make it better and, you know, even just watching last year's game and you see the different things we did there when you self‑analyze, here is a way we can make this better.

Q.  What role has Dave played in that and what were you wanting from him when you promoted him a couple of years ago?

Q.  Yeah.
COACH DANTONIO:  I think our entire offensive coaching staff has done a tremendous job.  It starts obviously with Coach Bollman and Coach Warner, I think Coach Bollman has brought some new ideas in here, some new concepts.
I also think that Coach Warner, Coach Salem, coach of the quarterbacks, now Coach Staten, coach of our offensive line, now those were two changes that we made in the last three years, Coach Salem with‑‑ excuse me, Coach Samuel is with the wide receivers, I think they've all done an outstanding job and they add to it and I think our players have faith in them.¬† Like I said over and over we have won here because of chemistry and because our players believe in our coaches and our coaches believe in our players and we believe in each other.¬† I think that's been our secret to success.¬† We have been able to regroup when we have had failure and we've been able to push forward when we have had success.

Q.  Marcus Rush is approaching the career starts record at Michigan State, I believe matching it this week.  Over the four years what has he meant for this program and as a coach and coaching staff how beneficial has it been knowing that you have a reliable guy like him in the lineup for the last four years?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Marcus has been an outstanding player, Cincinnati Moellar redshirted him in I guess it would have been 2010, and since then he's become a starter so, we're talking a lot of players here through a lot of years consecutive starts and he's sort of‑‑ he's a heart and soul type of guy.¬† Extremely tough guy, place very well, plays with his hands very well, playmaker on the field.¬† Made a lot of plays for us throughout the years and in big games he's risen up and played extremely well and we expect that again from him this week.¬† Very active player.

Q.  Looking at the success you had against OSU in the Big Ten Championship game last year will you be reminding your squad about that success?  Is that adding any added motivation or incentive?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think because we have a history versus them the last‑‑ I guess the last three years, we have a history in terms of playing against them.¬† There is some good you take away from that and there are some things you need to get better at but at least you have a history there that you can draw on.¬† Obviously with success comes more confidence and confidence breeds success, too, so however you want to look at it.¬† I don't think we really use it, we look at it and say that football game if you look at it, which we have looked at it numerous times as a game that went our way first, then turned their way, they fought back and did an outstanding job with that so can they handle adversity?¬† Absolutely.¬† Then it went our way again, so it was almost like three games there.
I think the key to the success of this football game a lot of times or any game is how are you going to be able to handle adversity?  That's going to come at inopportune times so we need to understand that's part of the game and play forward.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Well, you know, I've said since I've been here that coaching that goes on in this league is outstanding.¬† You see different ways people are running the football, different ways they're passing the football.¬† Very innovative, cutting‑edge offensive football being played in this conference on a week‑to‑week basis.¬† I think you see the same thing defensively.¬† You see more people trending toward some of the things that are done defensively in this league as well.¬† So outstanding coaches and great skill players.

Q.  With Bosa, how do they move him around?  Is it random?  Where do you expect to see him and how much do you think he will match up with Conklin Saturday night?
COACH DANTONIO:  I'm not sure on that, that's probably up to them but he plays right, left, boundary field and they do move him around so what predicates that is a little bit, probably, "coach speak."
He is an outstanding football player, great, tough, active, great hands, powerful, relentless, great football player.

Q.  Speaking of "coach speak" you've talked about winning a game of inches, isn't to simplify this, what this is is about, two evenly matched teams winning the inches?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think we're trying to find those inches in every football game so there is no question we gotta find them this week, too.

Q.¬† You talked about making sure the emotional tank is full and whatever‑‑ using whatever motivational things there are.¬† Urban Meyer said yesterday that Ohio State only has one rival and is referencing Michigan instead of Michigan State.¬† What do you think about that?¬† Does that stir your emotional tank?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† No, not at all.¬† You know, our rival is right here, right now are Michigan and Notre Dame.¬† That's how I see our rivals at Michigan State.¬† I think there are teams that go‑‑ I would agree with him because I read his comments, I would agree with him there are certain football teams that you start to stay shape as a rivalry as you play them.¬† People were talking about us and Wisconsin a couple of years ago I saw he referenced that, too, but a couple of years ago was us and Wisconsin, the championship game, in 2011 playing in the big game here at night and all those kinds of things.¬† It's been Iowa, playing a lot of close games with Iowa, it's Ohio State, so I think it goes back and forth but I think you need to have a very long history.¬† I do think we have a lot of players playing from Ohio and I do think that makes it personal.¬† You grow up in the state and you listen, you hear, you go home, you listen, you hear, and you know a lot of people that sit on that side of the fence and I think it's natural.
As I said earlier, I think it's just natural you want to measure up.  You don't want to measure up to Ohio State, you want to measure up to the people at home that you know because that's where you're from.  It's no different than if you're playing University of Wisconsin and Trey Williams was playing against Wisconsin, it becomes more personal when you're from there.  It's just natural.

Q.  Along those lines, can you talk about what the recruiting wars have been like in Ohio and the emphasis that you have placed on going into Ohio in your tenure and getting quality players?
COACH DANTONIO:  Ohio has great high school football.  They have a lot of great football players in that state, and, you know, we've gotten quite a few.  I think we have 27 maybe on our team right now.
We've been able to develop those players into great players.  As far as the recruiting, it's just tough recruiting everywhere and you're recruiting against whoever and we know a lot of their players by name, obviously, we know them, they have been on campus here in the past.  So there is quite a few of those guys here.  That's recruiting, that's a part of college football or college coaching.
I wouldn't say that‑‑ I wouldn't say it's over the top.¬† We just recruit, doing our thing.

Q.  Coach, about not being entitled and that type of thing, your players were talking about the biggest difference of this offense is how confident they are in themselves and how they move the ball.  Is that a delicate balance to strike, having that confidence without push that go too far into entitlement?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† No, I think you can be a hard‑working player and be extremely confident in what you have been able to do thus far, so I don't think there is a conflict there at all.¬† We want to be confident.¬† Nothing wrong with being confident.¬† What I don't want to happen to our football team is for it to get soft.¬† So, soft in terms of whether it's physically or mentally or think, "Because I'm here that I should be granted certain things that weren't accepted before."¬† I think we always have to ground ourselves in that, whether I have to call people out who at times because they're‑‑ whatever it is, just small things.¬† I think you've got to make sure that you stay the course and remain who you are.¬† You cannot forget where you came from and I think that's been something we have talked a lot about here, never forget where we came from and what we had to endure to get there, because it can change, like that!

Q.  No my Mylan Hicks on the depth chart.  Is there a chance he's back?
COACH DANTONIO:  There is a chance he will practice today.  We'll see where he's at.

Q.  Coach, make sure I'm not misunderstanding you, when you say never forget where you came from and what you had to endure to get there?  Are you talking about Michigan State's rise in the Big Ten and how the program has grown?
COACH DANTONIO:  I'm talking about everything that we've done as individuals and as a group, whether it's how you got to Michigan State or how you became a starter from being a scout teamer, or how you became the head coach of Michigan State.
I think that's a lesson to all of us, just in terms of, you want to stay grounded, that's all.  That's the only thing I'm talking about, there, just stay grounded, persevere, understand there are challenges ahead and we've got a great one coming this weekend and understand that you need to be at your best to meet those challenges, they just don't happen.

Q.  How much of a climb and what have you had to endure from 2007 to put the program on the stage it's going to be on,  on Saturday night?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† A lot of positives throughout those years and there have been some steps back, set‑backs.¬† When there has been a set‑back we have been able to regather people and move forward.¬† Started out 4‑0 in 2007 and then we lost some games, close games.¬† That's been a trend.¬† We didn't win bowl games for a while, now we've won three straight bowl games.¬† I think we're trying to take the steps necessary to be successful, or beyond where we're at.¬† I think that's human nature, I think that's team sports, athletics, everything.
THE MODERATOR:  Thanks, Coach.
COACH DANTONIO:  Thank you, guys.

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