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May 4, 2015

Mark Dantonio

COACH DANTONIO:  As I said on the night, it was a life moment I think for myself, Coach Barnett and Coach Salem to be there with Trae and his family.
It's a great moment for everybody, but then also collectively as the program, to have two corners drafted in the first round back to back.  Our players and players that come after them will be able to sit in the meeting rooms and just say, hey, we can be big and do these types of things.
I think it validates our program, validates the position of coach, Coach Barnett, that's developed both his players and really he competition in the Big Ten Conference.
And there's group awards, team awards like Rose Bowls and Cotton Bowls like we've accomplished and those type of things, but there's also that individual goal, why they are playing football and dreaming of playing in the NFL and having something like this happen.  It's very exciting.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions?

Q.  Coach Izzo has often commented that even more than Final Fours, when guys get drafted, it's almost better for recruiting in his program.  With all the success, Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowls, how much does consistently having multiple guys get drafted help more in recruiting and does it help even more than the big wins like Izzo says it does in basketball?
COACH DANTONIO:  First, I don't think you get to where we are at in the Rose Bowls and Cotton Bowls, things of that nature, without having great players.  So I think the two sort of go hand in hand.  But I counted up the number of players that were in camps, that will go into camps in the last two years, and that number now is at 17.
So there's also about 18 guys that have played in the NFL actively since we've come back to Michigan State in 2007.  So I think it speaks volumes about the caliber of players that are here and also that individual player and his skill set as well.
They grow and they just get better as players with the competition again, and at this level they have had a chance to play at a level that is comparable in size and attention, I guess, at times as the NFL, such as the Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl, or the football game in the Big Ten Conference.  So there's things that perform at a high level.

Q.  Tony Lippett and Jeremy Langford benefited from playing on both sides of the football, according to the management that drafted them.  Can you just talk about how you do that with players maybe a little bit more than the next program, as far as being willing to let players play on both sides of the ball?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think, first of all, you're always trying to get the player on the field.  You're always trying to get those guys on the field.  We play our guys on special teams just like any other program.  But we'll look across the way and play them on offense or defense.
In the case of Jeremy, and really even Tony Lippett, we had an opportunity to play them, they were playing their positions, particular positions such as Le'Veon Bell and Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham at the wide receiver position, that gave us additional depth.
So while those guys still played those positions, we flipped them over and allowed them to learn the other positions as well, the defense positions in this case.
And Jeremy‑‑ what's so impressive about Jeremy is he played on special teams all the way through his junior year.¬† So he ran down on kickoffs.¬† He's a tackler.¬† He was physical at the point of attack on certain things, relative to blocking, getting off blocks.¬† And he would run and hit.¬† And I think that will serve him well as he's a young player in the NFL.

Q.  When it comes to Tony Lippett, specifically, obviously the Dolphins want to use him as a corner.  You being a guy knowing a lot about defensive backs, do you think see that as a position he'll excel at in the National Football League as opposed to as a receiver?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think that he will excel at that.  I think he would excel at either one, if he had gone the other way.  But he's big and he's long.  And he's got tremendous, tremendous ball skills, out of the corner of his eye and that ability to time things up.
And I think those are things that are very, very difficult to teach at times.  So he's got a good understanding of offensive schemes and offensive football having been a quarterback and now been a wide receiver.
So he studied defenses.  He understands that.  And he's also played extensively in 2011 in the secondary, and then we flipped him back over there the last three, or I guess the last three games, the last month of the season, and he just transitioned like he didn't even miss a beat.
He understands concepts, and that will be a strength of his.  And he's got great ball skills and he's long and he'll come and tackle you, tackle you, and he'll play the ball down the field.  And he understands spacing and things of that nature from an offensive perspective.

Q.  What about Keith Mumphrey, maybe a guy a little underrated and unsung in your football program, goes in the fifth round, what allowed him to hear his name called this weekend?
COACH DANTONIO:  If you look at Keith Mumphrey across his course of time here at Michigan State, he was a big play guy, whether it's running reverse or scoring against Ohio State in 2012.
I think he had another one against somebody this year, much the same.  But he's a big play guy, just quick strike guy, great speed.  He's big.  He's physical.  Another guy that can play a lot of positions on the football field for you relative to special teams.
He's tough.  Extremely strong.  And he's got that sprinter mentality, strength kind of guy.  So his speed and size and physicalness I think allows him to move forward.  But catches the ball very well.  Plays Z position for us.  Played a lot of different positions, but Z primarily.
And I think he's a guy that a lot of people talked about as I was sitting there on Pro Day, a lot of people would just look over the way and say, man, that guy is 216, 218 pounds, wide receiver.  So there's no question that he attracts a lot of attention.

Q.  What about like just the character aspect?  I think people talk about that a lot.  Seems like maybe something with Keith, and blocking, too, which people don't talk about with receivers, but he was very good for you in that aspect.
COACH DANTONIO:  Coach Salem does a great job with all of our wideouts.  You've got to block and gotta be a complete player any more in football.  Catch footballs.  Gotta run the right route.  You've got to understand spacing.  You've got to be able to block.  You've got to be able to get people on the ground.  Point of attack.  You've gotta do things like that, otherwise the bottom is going to fall out on you.
So everything that Coach Salem has taught our guys, our receivers coming back, and also Tony at the wide receiver and Keith Mumphrey at wide receiver, right on task.  They're ready to go.  They've performed well, but they've also been taught very well.  Developed.

Q.  Position groups that haven't been drafted, curiously, your defense is ranked number two and number one in the nation in run defense the last two years.  And yet we haven't seen a front seven guy drafted yet.  How do you explain that phenomena?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, we've got some left.  I thought I would explain it, too, some guys still playing like Shilique Calhoun and L.T. and Joe Heath, some of these guys still playing.
But I would say that college is different than the NFL.  They put a lot of stock on times and sizes, and they project.  And it's not a perfect situation, as you saw.  Max Bullough is playing for the Texans.  I fully expect Marcus Rush to do very well in camp.  I think he's got some very unique abilities in terms of pass rushing abilities.  He's a playmaker, can really run.
He'll transition to the 3‑4.¬† I also think a lot of NFL teams play 3‑4s right now.¬† So he's got to have that William Gholston guy who has been drafted and be able to play at 285, 290, which those are guys like L.T. and Joe Heath right now.
So I think we're representing‑‑ those are individual choices.¬† Like I told our guys Saturday who were drafted in the fifth round or something like that:¬† Hey, there's five guys, there's four guys that the Dolphins took.¬† And then they took Tony Lippett.
There's four guys that the Texans took, and then they took Mumphrey.  So in a very select group.  I think great names, great football players, towards the end of that draft that have played a lot of great football with respect to colleges.  So it's very rewarding when your name is called in any area.

Q.  To follow up on that, you mentioned a couple names there that we'll probably hear drafted relatively early next year.  This next class, I know your largest class is six guys drafted.  But this next class could reach double digits drafted, and I know you said you're not ready to anoint anyone yet.  But can you talk about the next class and their talent?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I just really think we have to take things step by step.¬† We can‑‑ there's plenty of time to talk about those guys as we go, but I think collectively as a group, we've got some guys with great ability.¬† But again gotta play your way to the top.¬† And as we've just said, you can see how difficult that is.

Q.  I'd like to take you back to the moment when Trae gets picked and the hug and all of that for just a second.  If you could separate yourself from just being his coach, just your human emotion to see a kid who has listened to you, who stuck with you when other people came after him after he committed to you, a kid that listened.  He did everything right in the classroom and everything right on the field.  For you personally to see that euphoric joy from him, can you talk about how rewarding it was for you individually and as a coach?
COACH DANTONIO:  As I said, it was a life moment.  I think when Brad Salem recruited him, saw a guy and looked into the future on him.
And so I wanted Brad to be there, had been a big part of his life since he's been at Michigan State.  And Harlon Barnett really helped develop him and really, day in, day out, he's in that meeting room with Harlon, Coach Barnett.  I wanted him to be there as well.
So for all of us, it was a moment we wanted to be able to stand back and say:¬† Wow, here we are.¬† Picks up that phone, thinks he's going to go one direction, and he goes a little bit‑‑ the projections are for him to go to the Vikings.¬† But right before that he was, minutes before saying he thought he was going elsewhere.¬† And then maybe a couple of picks after.
But then the Vikings call and he's sitting there listening to him talking to them.¬† And he was just‑‑ just when you're teaching, coaching is teaching, and you see someone have a life moment of their own and you feel you shared that moment, helped them develop it, it gives you a sense of contentment.
That's how I feel whenever we succeed, I feel that goal's been reached and, okay, let's go back and let's try and do something else special.

Q.  How surprised were you that Kurtis Drummond and Taiwan Jones did not get drafted?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, I'm surprised, but I've seen it before.  There's a lot of good football players that signed free agents.  I saw it with Isaiah Lewis last year.  I was very surprised about that one.
But there's been other guys that that's happened to.  And as I said earlier, you're looking for specifics as a program.  And if I had to say, hey, we've got seven guys to draft to take and put on scholarship every year and some free agents, I'm sure we would have a lot of guys that would make our football team at Michigan State.
So it's a tough situation.  I talked to both of those guys, and they're looking forward to the next step in their life, Kurtis with the Texans and Taiwan with the Jets.  Very exciting opportunities for both those guys.  And I think those guys have, for their situations, as well as Kurtis Rush with the 49ers and Gleichert with the Eagles, all four have an opportunity to make their football teams.
They played great football here.  Did tremendous things.  It's now time for them to take the next step.  And I think everybody understands what the NFL is about.  It's a business.  And people make business decisions, and those decisions are cut and dry pretty quickly sometimes.

Q.  Question on those who got drafted and didn't.  All of them came through your summer camps.  How important is it for a young man to get to summer camps, and how do you see the development going forward with getting guys on campus now that the success of the program is taken to another level?
COACH DANTONIO:  We get a lot of guys on our campus, no question about that.  A lot of this year's 2016 guys are on campus.  But I do think camps give you an opportunity to look at a guy, and a player can look at you, too, and say, okay, he can develop me.  It's a little bit more than talking on the board.  It's about working with the player and doing some of the drills that maybe you would do at a later time.  And also obviously it allows the coach to look at the player a little more closely, too.
So there's no real science to all this.  Some of it is projections.  Some of it is seeing and understanding and implementing and developing people.  I think that our camps are very beneficial for players that have come, such as Trae Waynes, such as some of these guys who didn't have as many starts.
And then you've got other guys who come, and they were four starting guys and they've excelled as well.  Camps are important to us.  And we're going to continue to work on those and the players and start developing.  That's when you start developing that player/coach relationship on the field.  And those take place first in camps probably.

Q.  I wanted to follow up on the Trae Waynes stuff a little bit.  Obviously Harlon is regarded as one of the finest defensive backs coaches in the country.  But I'm curious if you could share with us how involved you are.  You obviously developed some NFL players, defensive backs as well, at Ohio State.  Can you contrast how you and Harlon work together maybe to how you and Nick Saban once worked together?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, yeah, very similar, in the fact that he played for Coach Saban as well.  So the vocabulary, the things that we talk about and the basic foundation of what we believe is people who coach the secondary are identical, very, very similar, because of that relationship that he has with Coach Saban and the relationship I had with Coach Saban.
And even further than that, because of the people he worked for whether it's Bill Belichick or Jerry Glanville or whoever.  So it goes back pretty far, really.  So that as much as anything allows me to step in and step out of the secondary to some degree, to a large degree or some degree, more to some degree than maybe most head coaches, because not only am I a secondary coach, but I also basically use a lot of the same terminology.
Sometimes they clarify:  What do you mean by that?  Why do we call that this?  Or vice versa to me.  Because we're always developing.  We're always critiquing and trying to move forward.  So we're always going to implement things.
But I think it's been an easy transition.  That's why we hired or I hired Harlon Barnett as secondary coach from Cincinnati day one and that was done very early in the process when I became a head coach and also hired a Spartan and so he played for Coach Perles.  And so I know there was a lot of similarities there in terms of what I wanted in a secondary coach and just in a football coach.

Q.  Just in general, there's obviously a lot of talk out there about the recruiting momentum, how you can't get into specifics here.  But is there another level right now that you guys are approaching in terms of being able to interest players from all over the country?
COACH DANTONIO:  As I said earlier, we're selling results.  We're not selling hope.  I think that said it all right there.  We've been to these games.  We've won bowl games.  We've won a championship.  We've won a Rose Bowl.  We finished in the top five this year, did some good things.
Our players are being drafted.¬† We're graduating our players.¬† There's a lot of positive momentum moving in this program.¬† And I think you always‑‑ you're always are going to need to get better or you get worse.
The bottom can fall out on you at any point in time.  So you need to continue to push forward and reach higher, as we said earlier in this spring, we've got to reach higher in what we're trying to accomplish, because it's all a part of this, too.
But I think there's traction right now, and a lot of that is based on some of the people who have committed and what they're doing in terms of trying to gather their class together, and those are positive things for us right now.
But, again, it's just like our senior class this year:  This is just the beginning of everything and everybody's gotta play their way to the top.  In the NFL, to do some different things, they've got to play their way up.  The same with graduating, they've got to work towards that.  And the same with winning a championship, those are works in progress.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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