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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 27, 2016
East Lansing, Michigan
COACH DANTONIO: Obviously tragic loss the other night. Mylan Hicks and family are grieving. Our thoughts and prayers go to the entire Renaissance community, Mylan Hicks' family, and Spartan Nation, especially our players and past players as well, as we try and honor his memory.
We'll do some special things in upcoming weeks. This weekend, you know, Mylan, of all the Spartan gear he liked to wear black. He liked the black Spartan gear. That's why I wore it today, in memory of him.
But also we'll honor him with the No. 6 on the back of the helmet this weekend, and also wear black socks and black shoes as well. But we probably travel down there with probably 41 players I think I counted that played on the team with him. He'll be in a lot of people's minds as we move forward.
Mylan is the type of guy that loved football. He loved competing. He went at it 100 miles an hour, and he would be very disappointed in us if we did not do that on a game-by-game basis, throughout practice, and everything we try to accomplish here and go after. So he'll be with us. Just a tragic event.
Again, it just speaks to how life can change on people very, very quickly. We experienced that with Mike Sadler and now again with Mylan Hicks. It's a tragic event. Just take into account what you have now and cherish it.
As far as the football game and what we're dealing with from a football perspective, we need to bounce back. Won a lot of football games the past three and a half years or whatever it's been. Have not had much failure at Spartan Stadium. Disappointing football game. I think I have talked about it. Hurt ourselves. Congratulations to Wisconsin, but hurt ourselves and put us in a situation where we had to -- fourth quarter basically became almost like a two-minute situation for us. Couldn't play our football game as we moved forward.
So we need to bounce back from that and learn from those mistakes and create some more toughness aspects. You know, just move forward.
IU comes in here 2-1. Play for the Brass Spittoon, which has been something that we've been able to hold on to for a little bit here.
Kevin Wilson is in his sixth year, so we've got a history with those guys. All these games have been extremely competitive. Hurry-up offense. Their wide receivers all pretty much caught the same number of passes. Their three wide-outs, so Paige and Ricky Jones and Westbrook are the three guys that are featured sort of guys.
Lagow, their quarterbacks, junior college transfer guy. Sort of came on the scene and did a nice job this last game. Redding is their runningback; Feeney probably anchors their offensive line.
Three linebackers probably are their three guys that lead the team in tackles with 44 each. Then in the back end, they have one safety that sort of anchors their group there.
Football team that's got to respond as well after losing this past week, so it will be a great matchup at 8:00 Saturday night.
As far as injuries, I've always tried to be on the up and up on things. John Rescke is out right now, and probably out for a significant time period here as he works through a severe an ankle sprain.
Reilly probably is a little bit more day-to-day, and we'll see how that goes as we move through the week. We'll make an announcement prior to the game as to whether or not he can or cannot go.
With that, I'll take some questions.
Q. Is there any plan for accommodating the players that want to attend Mylan's funeral?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, right now, as I talk to his mother, we need to get him back in the U.S. There has been no date set. At that point in time, as soon as the date is set, we'll make arrangements for players to be able to get down there, as well as do other things as I said.
I think some of those announcements are probably for the athletic director to make. We plan to honor him in a variety of ways.
Q. A lot of guys on this team obviously played with Mylan. When Mike died in the summer there wasn't much going on. Does it help the guys and the coaches to have your mind occupied, to work through stuff dealing with this?
COACH DANTONIO: It was a tough day Sunday. Really didn't want to go in there and talk about a football game for sure. Left that up in the air for people whether they did or didn't want to be there. Also had a chapel specifically for him, a chapel with our team to specifically honor him and let our players just sort of be with that memory of that evening.
There is no question it's been a challenge. Also, I think there is no question that we get on with it, because that's who he was. That's who Mike Sadler was. When you know those people and how committed they were to a football program, you don't want to do anything to steer away from what you're trying to accomplish.
Q. Moving on, you mentioned Reschke being out and Reilly being banged up. When you face an Indiana team that likes to go as a high pace, how are those losses significant for you on a defensive side from a depth and strategic structure?
COACH DANTONIO: Hopefully we get Davis back. He's getting better and better. That's the plan. That's going to add an additional guy to us. We've been deep at linebacker. We've got guys who have played and know what to do there. They can pick up the slack. It's an opportunity for people to grow.
Andrew Dowell will obviously jump in there. He started before for us. He's played a lot have reps for us. He'll be a significant factor in the game. He's a guy that can go play after play after play 100 miles an hour. One of those type of guys. Tremendous conditioned athlete.
Byron Bullough will play in there; Shane Jones; Ed Davis; Chris Frey. We've got numbers. We've got guys. Grayson Miller has been a guy that's bounced there in the spring, so he can bounce in there. Indiana is a three wide receiver side set team. That will accommodate that.
Possibly have some freshmen move up and take some reps as well, too. More in a backup position type thing, but we'll play a lot people in this game. We always have. It's very important in this game to maintain freshness.
They come fast. You don't know whether they're snapping the ball in 12 seconds or 30, but they'll be prepared to snap it in 12. Substitutions, playing fresh, staying focused, that's the name of the game. We've really trained for that throughout, because that's the way so many teams play nowadays anyway.
Q. When you look at the film, looking at Montae Nicholson's performance, Demetrious Cox, what do you see back there? From my perspective looked like Nicholson had a really good game. The third downs, were they on those guys, or were they better than that showed?
COACH DANTONIO: First of all, Montae did have a good game. I think he tackled very well. Tackled well in the back end. He needs to continue to improve. There is still room for improvement, but he played solid.
You know, that field safety is a position that gets attacked some. I thought he could have come up with a big interception and got his hands on the ball and probably would've took it to the house. It was about on the 20-yard line coming out. But he's played solid.
On those third downs it was a different coverage in each situation, put on a different scenario where when you bring people you got to affect the quarterback. Quarterback connected. He was on. Thought he played very well in the game. I said that earlier.
But it's sort of on everybody. Depends on leverage. First one we lost leverage on a corner route. Ball is dropped in right on the money. Another time we could have clouded it and had a corner sitting out there. Decision was made on the field not to. This is coach speak.
All of them could have been prevented, but you got to give it to them, too. Dropped a couple right on the dime.
Q. Was Reilly hurt in the Notre Dame game or practice?
COACH DANTONIO: Reilly was dealing with an injury and further injured it.
Q. He wasn't the only one having a tough day, but are you concerned about Tyler's confidence? He made some back-foot throws, a few ill-advised throws. It's really his first taste of adversity.
COACH DANTONIO: I think as a quarterback, every experience you have is a learning experience, a growing experience. So even this guy who is in his fifth year, Tyler, he started one game; now he's started three.
He got pressure. As I said the other day, there was pressure in his face. Usually you get pressure in people's face it affects quarterbacks. Makes them throw out their bad foot. Got to do a better job protecting our quarterback, whether it's by structure, recognition of what's coming, or actual execution, combination of things.
Same thing happens if people get tied up down the field. Nobody to throw to, you end up choking the ball, bad things happen. There are some decisions he has to make that have to be better. Those are the three things all go along with the passing game. I think any of those things can affect you.
Again, it's not just the offensive line. It's the protection. Our runningbacks, for some reason, were cutting people. Give credit to Wisconsin. They got good players now. They threw some pressures at us, we didn't block them effectively, and they got home on others and beat us physically.
Q. You mentioned a couple times already about regrouping and bouncing back. You guys have been pretty successful doing that after an important loss. What's the playbook there?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, everybody is challenged. When things don't go well for you you're challenged. There is one of two ways to go: take the high road and try to get better or go the other direction and say, Hey, we can't do this. Get desperate, and things of that nature.
We've always taken the road that we're going to get better and learn from our mistakes and carry on. There was no lack of effort in that football game. None. From the first play to the last play there was no lack of effort, no lack of toughness. When you have those two aspects going for your team usually people can rise up and bounce back.
If there was a lack of effort, leadership, then I would being concerned. That didn't take place. Hey, you play on a good football team. I tried to say that all week long. Sometimes you start reading things and just expect things to happen.
But that game was a different type game and the dynamics of the game changed in the third quarter because of a fumble. Had opportunities in the first half; didn't happen. Got the ball for 50 twice. One time kicked a field goal; other time ended up fumbling it. Got to cash in on our opportunities.
There were enough good things that did happen and you saw enough good players playing well and hard that I think our future is still very bright. We can control our own destiny, as I said. That happened last year as well.
We just need to learn from these things. Same thing happened in 2014. We lost an early game and we needed to deal with that early loss throughout and we needed fight back from it, and we were able to do that.
We've had a history of doing those things. We need to rely on that history and keep pushing.
Q. Are you optimistic you'll get John back by the end of the year?
COACH DANTONIO: I'm optimistic we'll get him back by the end of the year.
Q. You made a decision to play some freshman, Trishton Jackson, for example. So what is his role now as a guy you want to use if you're gonna burn that redshirt? Same for the defensive ends.
COACH DANTONIO: Well, we got to use him, because I think when you're sitting there saying, Do we redshirt? Do we not redshirt? You're sort of the crossing that bridge. Once you cross the bridge, you got to use them.
Now, it's up to them to play and make plays and be prepared for a football game and play at this level. That's up to them. But they put themselves in a position of use based on their ability.
We also have to look and say, Okay, based on our defensive end situation or our wide receiver situation. We need to get guys ready for the future as well.
So if they're able to play as true freshman and have the talent and ability to do that, they're only going to get better. And Lukusa. All four of those guys, along with Corely and Panasiuk have that ability to get and grow throughout the season.
There may be a couple more that have to play as we go, but we've got a deep football team. That's reality.
Q. (Regarding Trishton Jackson.)
COACH DANTONIO: That remains to be seen.
Q. Is there a difference in preparation during the week coming off a loss in a big game as opposed to coming off a win in a big game?
COACH DANTONIO: I think you got to talk about it. I think when you win a football game everything looks great. Not usually as great as you think it is. There is always something that's going to be there for you that you have to deal with.
When you lose a football game, all is not lost. I've said it many times. Rule of a head football coach is to make sure that when things don't go well you're able to walk in there and steady the ship.
It's easy to walk in there after we win. After we beat Notre Dame it's easy to walk in there and say -- or last year at this time we were 7-0 playing Indiana -- it's easy to walk in and say, Everything is great. Hey, fooled 'em again, you know. Fooled 'em again.
It's more difficult then things aren't going right, but I think that's when -- I've always said that -- that's when you're defined. That's when you're defined as a senior; that's when you're defined as a leader, a quarterback, whatever position you're in.
You're hired to make things go well. You're not hired because things are going well. That's how I've always felt.
Q. Kind of along those lines, with the resiliency of this program over the past few years, not just the what, but why do you think the guys that you've had have been able to turn a corner after a loss so well?
COACH DANTONIO: I think, as I've said before, we've got good chemistry in the locker room and good leadership. The culture here has been a culture of winning, so when you do lose, you know, it hurts you. You take it a little bit personal or a lot personal.
People usually get themselves ready for the next challenge. I think that's human nature. I think that's basically human nature, and I think in football especially. Doesn't mean it's going to happen. Got to make plays and do things on the field.
But I think that we can draw from things that went down and just push forward.
Q. I know you guys are ready to get back at it today, but have you seen the response from Tyler that you would expect from a fifth year guy?
COACH DANTONIO: Oh, yeah. Tyler is fine. He's a confident player. I talked to him. Texted him Saturday night, and he had already watched the game twice. He's a responsible, responsible guy. He'll take ownership in what he did. He's not a finger pointer. He's mature in terms of how he handles things.
This hasn't been the first time in his football career that something has gone wrong. A lot of things can go wrong at that position.
I'm sure he's prepared to handle these things, and he has an opportunity to bounce back and make it happen.
Q. You mentioned that John's injury was his ankle. Reilly there was reports it was a shoulder. Is that what it is?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I don't get too specific on injuries. Just say that he's sort of day-to-day. He'll be back.
Q. Along those lines, with the linebackers that you mentioned, Davis getting back into the flow, how much more was he able to do last week and how much more can you expect of him?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, he practiced much better last week. He had full day of practice couple days of the week, so that was very positive.
It's sort of day-by-day, game-by-game. I want him to feel confident. Part of this is him having confidence and going back and playing at game speed. He needs it regain that as far as. He had a knee injury, and it takes a little bit of time to get back in there and get acclimated. I think he's close to turning the corner.
Really the only person that knows that is Ed.
Q. Couple field goals last week, but again a kickoff went out of bounds. How deflating is that, and is there anything you can do about it?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, it ticks the head coach off, okay? Is there anything you can do about it? I know Kevin Cronin is not trying to do that. He's got to relax and hit it with confidence. Rest of the time he's been really great. Good kickoffs, placement.
So something that's frustrating, but got to deal with it and move past it. He's still our kickoff guy.
Q. Mylan, I don't know how many players you get to keep track of, but do you remember the last time you had any dialog with him?
COACH DANTONIO: With Mylan?
COACH DANTONIO: I can't remember specifically, but he's been around in the spring, or I might have saw him this past summer at one of our camps or a camp down in Detroit. I've seen Mylan around, and he's always a guy -- he had that gleam in his eye. You always saw him and he always brought something good out in you as a person.
I had an opportunity to talk to the GM up in Calgary at the Sam Peters, and he said the same thing. Just something about Mylan Hicks that brought out the best in people.
He was a great competitor and teammate, and our guys are missing him. A lot of people are missing him. Guys from Renaissance that played with him, the Chris Normans, the Lawrence Thomases of the world. Those guys. Guys at PLS, guys from Detroit. He was quite a person.
Q. On Saturday Malik seemed a little frustrated with the amount of double teams he was seeing. How has he been dealing with that and what are you and Coach Burton doing to kind of help him work through that?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, when you're a good player you're going to attract attention. Just got to stay the course. He's playing extremely hard. He plays extremely hard on the field. Just keep making plays, keep playing.
When you're a good football player, that happens. I would think that's a natural process to where he's at in his football career.
Q. Can you talk about the recruiting impact Mylan had on the 2010 class and how that sparked other recruits to follow him?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, Mylan committed early in the process. As I remember, he was a four-star corner. He could really run. Like I said, he has a great demeanor with people, and I think with other recruits he did talk with them and he did help that cause immensely.
With he did on the outside -- I really can't speak to what he did behind the curtains, but I know he was one of our early commits? That was a great recruiting class in 2010. I think that was the year that Max Bullough came and that whole group.
Q. Going back to Mylan, the day that he committed to Michigan State he told us how you got on the phone with him, and he said, I didn't know he could raise his voice like that. He quoted you say saying to him, Thank you for believing in me. Anyone can commit now with all the new facilities and the championships and the rings, but what did it mean to you on that day when you still hadn't had those rings to have a guy like that compete?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, all those guys from back then, you know, LT and Chris Norman from that school, from Renaissance. I can go through a lot of players. They all had to believe in the dream because we were coming off 2009 and had gone to a bowl game and all that, but we had not yet won a Big 10 championship at that time. Been to a couple New Year's Day bowl games, which was good, but we lost them both.
We were on a rise, but he had to believe in a dream, that we were going to get there. When he did come he experienced really two Big 10 championships and New Year's Day bowl games and BCS bowl games. I think he had a great career here.
I saw a picture that his roommate had laid out his stuff. Maybe it was last night. Just showing me that today. Laid his stuff out in his room just like he liked it, and it was all Spartan gear, all green Spartan gear. Just trying to keep his memory alive.
Q. Kind of a two-side-of-the-ball question here. One, from your running game, what kind of things do you see looking back that tape that you want to get more of or maybe do differently? Then on the other side, how do you stop the quarterback from Indiana? What have you seen a little more on him as he's three games in?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, what you saw from the game, sort of turned last week, like I said. We're going to have the first down; be on the 40 or 37 or whatever it is. I think it was a 63-yard pickup with a fumble?
So we're on the 37 with the first down, and all of a sudden it's not. It's touchdown the other way. So it goes from 13 to 6 that's sort of threatening to 20-6, and then very quickly thereafter 23 and then 30 because of the punt drops.
So the complexion of the game changed. We were only going to have certain amount of possessions, so we needed to throw the ball.
What I saw from a running game standpoint, we were close. We busted out the first play for the 19-yard run, and after that they do a great job closing gaps, you know, playing gap football, gap scheme, filling their gaps correctly. Shut us down a little bit. They tackled pretty well.
Getting some yards, but not enough to break one. We didn't break one. So, again, we're talking about the first series of the second half. A lot of things go into running the football. One guy misses or one guy has a missed assignment or doesn't get the job done in the execution, things tend to break down.
I think you saw a lot of that probably happen from time to time. A 3-yard game which should be maybe a 7-yard game hinges on small things. We got to go back and find the inches.
From the perspective of IU and their quarterback, yeah, he makes it happen. He's a big, tall guy. He throws the ball very well. They're the same football team they've been in terms of asking him what to do.
Kevin Wilson has a system. It's a very good system. It's a very well-run system. He's had a lot of success with it. He plays within the system. I think that's what all great football players do, play in the system.
But he can make plays.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports