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October 30, 2018

Mark Dantonio

East Lansing, Michigan

HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Opportunity to go to Maryland this weekend, an away game. Opportunity to go 63 playing against a football team that's 5-3, as well, and be a good challenge for us as we go ahead.

You look at Maryland right now, you look at their offensive personnel, they have a very explosive football team right now. A lot of big-play guys, 700-plus yards this past week and really, you look at their roster, you see a lot of guys making a lot of plays. It's a challenge for us. Explosive, explosive football team.

Matt Canada does a great job offensively. You look at their defense they play extremely hard. Been very impressed with their secondary, using a lot of different people to get pressure up front and solid and played aggressively. I think the best way to do this, I'll just take some questions and go from there.

Q. What you did you witness with Lombardi on film, your takeaways from that?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: First of all, he played very well. We just run our system. So he's been here for, you know, I guess redshirt freshman a year and a half, so he runs our system. So we don't really curtail. We favor things, maybe one quarterback to another but we're going to run our system.

Q. What did you see after watching the video?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I was impressed. As I said yesterday to our football team, I thought he played with authority. Threw the ball with authority. Played with authority. Led with authority. He did a great job. We always talk about -- the award, he won that with our team this past week and did a great job.

Q. Do you talk to Pat, try to get into Canada's head a little bit and how he thinks?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I think we talk a little bit but not too much. He's got a big game this Friday. You know, he worked for him, too. I don't want to put anybody in a situation.

Q. Going back to the quarterbacks a little bit, with the way that Rocky played, does that give you more leeway with Ryan to say, okay, we need to make sure you are 100 percent before you go back in. Does it give you that cushion where you don't feel like you have to rush him back?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think it's a good problem, let's just put it that way. You've got a guy that played well, and we'll make decisions based on health and other things as we go forward.

Q. Matt Allen is not on the depth chart. Is there an update to his situation?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I didn't put him on the depth chart because I knew he wouldn't travel this week. He's out for right now.

Q. You completed five passes to the tight end on Saturday and you've only completed six through the prior season. Is that deliberate or is that --
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: It's about time, yeah, so -- quarterback makes decisions, he goes through his progressions just like anybody. They are out there, they have got to get open and certain things are designed to go to them but other times you've got to find them. So I thought that he did a nice job finding those guys this past week and continuing to use our tight ends. They are good pass catchers.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Raequan Williams and the consistency this season. If you watch him time and time after Hill film, can you put into words what you are seeing week-in, week-out?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think Raequan came here as a guy with a lot of athletic ability and short on football experience, really, from high school, and he has just continued to get better and better each year. He's becoming a dominating football player as you move forward. He has raw skills. He's a hard worker and he's a very good leader.

He's a great guy to be around, so he's always coming in with a positive attitude in practice, and the guy is a big athlete. You know, about 315 or whatever he is right now, 310. You get over 300, who cares. But you know, he's athletic and he's playing at a very high level.

Q. I'd like to ask you about Rocky's pre-snap reads, does very well in his first start. Is that something that surprised you or something that you had seen prior to the first start?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think it's something that Coach Salem does a great job with teaching progression. I think as the game progressed, Rocky got more and more confident and I think playing football at this level, you've got to be a confident player. The more you do something, the more you see things, and the more you see things and understand what the file if I of whatever is, better you're going to play and I think he grasped that as the game progressed and did an outstanding job.

Q. Their rushing attack has been the highlight of their offense so far. For your defense, is that something that gets them up even more every week as far as a challenge when they see a Top 15 rushing attack? Do they get even more ramped up for that?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: The bottom line with that is in the football game, you have to do X, whatever X is, and certainly against Maryland, if you can control their run game, you take a big part of their offense away.

We'll focus on what we have to do to win a football game, much like we did last week. I don't think there's any question that the jet sweep series and inside zone and playaction and things of that nature are all very well designed and have been very effective.

Q. What is it like, having a freshman All-American and you get him back at this point in the season, what spark and energy can that bring to a team? It's not just any guy.
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think we've had a lot of injuries this season. And they haven't necessarily been season-ending injuries, a couple, but what ends up happening, and I've said this before, is that when you've got a guy out for our, five, six, or seven weeks, he's missed all of summer camp and he's missed all of the games and the practices up till that. You know, they have got to get themselves in shape, so he started practicing last week. Could have played this past weekend but we sat him. And then he'll start playing some, but he's got to play himself back into it. He's getting a lot of reps right now. He did last week, a lot of reps.

But to play corner in this defense, you've got to go, and so you've got to have great conditioning level, so you've got to be able to work your way back into that. I think you see that with other players who have been out for a while. Just because they are back, doesn't mean they are back fully in condition, especially at certain positions. We'll work our way back into that and we'll be able to do that but I think it will take a week or so.

But he's got one week under his belt, so we'll see how he performs this week.

Q. I know that the situation back in 2013 was a little bit different with Maxwell and Connor Cook, but when you look back at actually starting Cook over Maxwell then and maybe thinking about who the quarterback might be this week, how much do you reflect on those times and look at the success that it brought your program?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Not at all. I don't think there's any comparison. I think that Brian Lewerke has established himself with a great foundation. He won ten games last year and a couple games where he threw for over 400 yards. The he has established himself and as a huge foundation in which to build on and stand on and he's been he selected by captain by his teammates.

There's a lot of substance he brought in 2013 that we didn't have. Rocky did an outstanding job and put himself in a situation where he can be a starter or inserted into the game or whatever it is, but from where I sit, it's a good problem. I thought he did a very good job in the game and asserted himself and gives us another leader on this football team and every football team needs great leaders, especially at that situation.

Q. Billy hit like seven different targets in the first half, did a good job spreading it around. Cody has been running routes and practicing physically but waiting on the hand. Is he available for Saturday?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: He'll travel with the team and we'll see what his availability is like. Probably depends on his week in practice.

Everybody good?

Q. Going back to the offensive line, you've had some shuffling and injuries, obviously, without Matt there. How has that been in terms of trying to blend some new guys in versus moving the guys around right now?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: It's been a challenge I think, but as I said last week, you know, would he have got guys with experience up there that have played other positions before. You know, they are used to doing that.

We'll get those guys back and when they get back, we'll be a more versatile team than we were before, I just keep looking at it, you know, sometimes when breaks you down a little bit makes you stronger. So inevitably, they have got to do the job and we'll keep pushing.

Q. I want to say this is the first week that Tyriq has been at least on our depth chart the clear No. 1 starter. What went into that decision?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Every week we start him, so just put him out there as a starter. Really I just did that this morning. I said, you know what, play around with it. I think Brandon Randle does a lot of good things for us but Tyriq has been the starter. So let's not sugarcoat it.

Q. The last time you started a freshman quarterback was Maryland in 2016 -- you complemented him on his ability to help Rocky along this past week. Is it a case where he's sharing the experience, road start, what to expect this past week?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: They room together. I'm sure that's going into their conversations.

Q. In the game against Purdue, it seemed like there was just no residual effects from the loss to Michigan. This team came out with energy. What does it say about your football team the way they bounce back and how do you keep going the rest of the season?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Well, I commented on that to our football team. It's a game that I'll remember. With all the things that had gone on last week and distractions and things of that nature and performance, really, in some ways, you know, you get an opportunity to get up off the matt, and I thought we did that and I thought we played with focus and with energy and when you do those type of things and you come out on top and you see through in those things, you know, it's a good feeling.

Now that feeling can disappear if you don't take that to your next performance, so it's important that we do that. But you know, it's November right now, so I think every performance that you have every single week right now, sort of makes the case for what you're going to do, whether it's in Bowls or not Bowls or whatever it is.

There's a huge ceiling there and there's a lot that we can accomplish. We need to concentrate on one game at a time and see what we can do versus Maryland this weekend and go to the next one.

Q. Want to ask you more about Raequan and the impact he has, and when you have a disruptive player like that on the middle of the line, on the rest of the defense, and comparisons to other guys like Worthy, somewhat similar to him, or the impact he has on a defense?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think any time you play well up front in the defensive tackle position, especially in the center box area, it makes it more difficult to run the football. Hopefully you'll see that happen more a little bit this week. I think all those guys up there -- Mike Panasiuk has been playing very, very well and Naquan Jones has been very, very good. Owens has been solid in there.

So all four of those guys have played good football for us. I think Raequan what he does, if you can be disruptive in that center box, in that zero area, it has a lot to do with you being successful as a run defense overall. Our defense is playing solid and we're tackling pretty well.

So what you see is sort of building a wall there a little bit, as you would say, and very important that we be able to do that this week and there's a lot of different formations and motions and things like that that we'll have to be able to adjust to and leverage, but that's part of this game.

You know, Coach Canada, as I said earlier, does an outstanding job with that, and as a play caller, it keeps you on post (ph) with all the shovel passes and play-action passes off of that. It's a whole philosophy.

Q. Nobody wants to see players acting like a jackass, but when you -- this is a violent emotional game, and so when you see the penalties like the rookie slapping the fan or Tyriq or Raequan, is a pressure to legislate out of the game the emotion it takes to play at a high level?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: I told our guys, the penalty on Rocky was because he came in contact with the fan and the way I understand the rule is you can't be embraced by sparty (ph) that's the way I understand the rule. I guess they called it the way they saw it. But it doesn't make it any easier when you kickoff from the 20, so I would say, stay away from touching anybody's hand, just wave at them.

As far as the air guitar, I thought it was a nice dance and everything, but it again set us about a being and put us inside the ten. But you know, he had good rhythm.

Q. Is there a danger of legislating the emotion out of the game?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I think there's a lot of emotion in the game that probably -- I think it probably goes both ways. Sometimes you're saying he should be penalized and sometimes you're saying he shouldn't be. I don't know. I try and let those guys do their job.

Q. We talked so much about the good sides from Rocky. What did you see from him that you would like to see him clean up maybe a little bit more this week if he plays or moving forward?
HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: He made quick decisions on Saturday. I think that was one of the biggest things that he needed to clean up, and I thought he did that on Saturday.

He called -- I guess he called 1 on 2 and came out but he played pretty effectively. If you're looking back on it, he had some drops. He had five drops. We had guys out there banging the ball around a little bit. Some of the things going on with their injuries.

So he had a couple drops there but I thought he played very well and he could have hit a couple deep ones. He had a couple deep ones that were a yard or two overthrown and he comes up with those, he's having a career day. I think he left some out on the field. I think he would agree with that but I thought he played very solid, and from a leadership standpoint, he did very, very well.

He's got a big arm. I think that's just, you know, I think he over through Justin maybe twice. Justin and he probably had not worked that much together. Just the way the ball flew I think.

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