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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 13, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We are joined by a special guest today, All-American Greg Jones, who will kick off the press conference with his special announcement.
After he makes his announcement, we will get some comments from coach diet, and we will entertain your questions with Greg. After taking questions from Greg and Coach D, Coach D will stay and finish concluding the season wrap-up press conference.
So Greg, it's all yours.
GREG JONES: Thanks for coming here. Actually, I'm just have very excited, you know, to come back here. I'm coming back. Very, very excited. I wanted to come back most for my teammates and the coaching staff. I love it here. I'm obviously going to work towards my diploma.
COACH DANTONIO: I just think, first of all, Greg making this announcement, is a huge thing for our football program. To have a young man back that is a First-Team All-American, Consensus All-American and two-time all Big Ten linebacker, First Team, provides a nucleus for our entire program defensively and our football team.
Just as importantly, I think having a team captain coming back sends a message across to a lot of people. I always talked about discipline and maturity as a person. I think that Greg shows a great deal of that, and in doing this, he shows a very unselfish attitude, which I think sends a message across the entire country.
People come back to get better. They come back to make things better. I think that Greg has an opportunity to do that. When you look at him as a football player, extremely productive, great leadership skills on the field. You look at his productivity, it will only get better as you do things; whether you're a second year NFL player or third year or fourth year college player, you continue to get better and better at what you do regardless of where you're at.
This will afford him even more opportunities at the next level, which he is certainly going to play at that next level. There's no doubt about that. I think he's extremely goal-oriented as a person, and again, his goals are not about individual goals. It's about team goals. I think that we can reach many of our team goals with Greg Jones being our mainstay, our nucleus again on our football team and on our defense in particular.
So, we'll take questions.
Q. Just wondering what you went through in the last couple of weeks in terms of gathering information on this and how close were you to possibly leaving?
GREG JONES: I always felt like I was kind of leaning towards coming back. I kind of just wanted to make an educated decision about some things. You know, talked to people, whether it be players, or just talking a lot with Coach D. That was pretty much it. And obviously talking about it with my family, too. That was a huge decision. We talked a lot, and like over the break we had a lot of time and we just sat down and talked about things and from day-to-day, you know, we finally came to a decision.
Q. Your dad told me that your promise to your mom about getting a degree weighed heavily to you even more than the money; would you talk about that promise?
GREG JONES: Really talking about the relationship with my mom, we talk a lot about sports. But ever since I was younger, she was always more excited when I did in good class. So it was good. And I did want to keep that promise to her. She obviously means a lot to me, and getting closer to a degree would mean a lot.
Q. The reality is you can still get a degree and go pro. So what was the bottom line to this? And did the season, how it panned out and not turning out how you had hoped, affect this at all, the other things you still want to achieve here? Is it more personal than that?
GREG JONES: Yeah, the season, it was a disappointment. But at the same time, I feel like that we had a lot of those close losses and I feel like also, in 2008, we were right there. We were that far away. So I do feel like with this team, we can try and compete for the championship.
Q. Did that affect --
GREG JONES: It did affect the decision a little bit, not like a whole bunch, but it was there, though.
Q. Was there one dominant reason or was it just little bits of you wanted to stay in school, you wanted to get your degree and you didn't like what the NFL said?
GREG JONES: It wasn't just one dominant thing. It was everything together with school or what NFL said or coaches and my family, my teammates; it was everything.
Q. You've accomplished so much this year, what are your personal goals for next year?
GREG JONES: Like always, you know, just try to get better. I really felt like in the past I still wasn't as effective as I wanted to be in the passing game and I feel like I can help my teammates better with that.
Obviously if we want to get better on defense as a whole, I want to make my teammates as better as much as I can.
Q. You had said that if you it didn't hear, that you were protected in the first round, that would not lean towards you coming back. Talking to NFL scouts or people like that, what did you hear? What did some of the former players who you talked to tell you?
GREG JONES: Really I just want to keep what I said, what the NFL said, confidential. And with the former players, they just talked about staying focused and obviously ultimately it will come down to my decision.
Q. Blair White and a lot of the guys said at the end of the season going into the Bowl game they were trying to figure out what you were going to do. Did you try to keep it close to the vest, and what was it like trying to figure out what you were going to do when you know you had that Bowl game to prepare for and it got near the end of the season?
GREG JONES: I think I kept it close to the vest as you say because I didn't want to tell anybody things I didn't know for sure are or not. Yes, I did keep it kind of close.
You said about the Bowl game? Really going to the Bowl game, I just wanted to go to the Bowl game. I didn't think about it too much and after the Bowl game I would decide. My personal gain was put aside. I really wanted to win the Bowl game and do what I do for my teammates.
Q. When you think about the next level, do you feel like next year you want to gain weight? Do you look at yourself as a middle linebacker, or are you best suited to play outside linebacker in the NFL?
GREG JONES: I'm trying to gain weight the best as I possibly can without slowing down or anything like that affecting my play. It's going to be difficult. I always keep weight on during the season, but it's definitely a focus.
Q. Maybe we can get this from the horse's mouth but while the horse is here, can you tell us how he reacted what you told him?
GREG JONES: He's far from a horse, but anyways -- (Laughter) -- I think a lot about Coach D and I love him to death. He was very excited and I was very excited to tell him. The last month a lot going on at the time with my family and everything, so it was good news.
Q. When did you tell him?
GREG JONES: Last Friday.
Q. Mr. And Mrs. Jones said that they trusted you as the ultimate voice in his decision; would you talk about those relationships that you have with parent?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, first of all, Greg has outstanding parents. I think they have guided him through his entire life. He's a product of Cincinnati Moeller High School, which gives you an indication how important his education is to his parents and to him. And I think that he's finishing something. By doing this, he's getting within 12 to 15 hours, I would say, probably about 15 hours from his degree, as opposed to leaving with 50 hours to go now, and I think that's a huge difference.
In regard to where I was at with this whole thing is I want what's best for our players. So my role in this was to be a facilitator, I guess, in terms of educating everybody in what the process is and showing both ends of the stick. And if you leave, this is where it would be at; and if you stay, these are the things that can happen.
I think there are so many intangible things that you can grow from as a person, by coming back another year, sitting in front of all these TV cameras and talking to all of the reporters on a weekly basis, now, probably, as a consensus, All-American, and all of the things that he'll have to go through, or he'll be going through here in this next year is an education in itself and it will serve him well in the future.
He had the opportunity to talk to I think four GMs, a number of scouts and director of college personnel, had the opportunity to talk to John Lewandowski, to talk to Greg and his parents and talk to people academically. So we just leave everything out.
The bottom line is, when you look at it, Greg said the education is such an important piece of the puzzle in terms of the full thing that he wants to accomplish from college. It's not just college gets you ready to play in the NFL, but college gets you ready for life, and life after is being a self-sufficient man. I think that he's made a wise choice.
I talk to our players all the time about maturity and discipline, discipline being a true evaluator of where a person is in their life, and I think he shows a tremendous amount, as I said earlier, of that, and I think it will serve him well in the future, and I think he will only grow from his experience.
Q. I did want to ask you one thing about Greg, the next level, where do you think he is best suited does he need to bulk up to be a middle linebacker?
COACH DANTONIO: I think that the answer to that question is: What defense are you playing?
So relative to the defensive type of system that he goes to will be dependent on where he plays. And I think people usually draft out of needs, much like you recruit out of needs. So it depends on who needs what and those type of things.
There's no doubt across the board that he is an NFL player. And you know, that's exciting to have a player -- to talk to four GMs on NFL teams and for them to all come back and say that he is a definite NFL player; it's exciting to have him back playing college football in 2010 for Michigan State University.
Q. How were you involved in the process?
COACH DANTONIO: I was the facilitator, I guess, in terms of I tried to acquire as much information as I could, and giving the information to Greg.
And last week, I had a very important home visit down in Cincinnati with Greg and his parents. You know, just like I said, it's about Greg Jones and what's best for Greg Jones. And so regardless of what path he chose, we were going to be extremely happy for him.
With that very, very excited about 2010. Very optimistic. Very exciting with Greg Jones coming back with the pieces to the puzzle that we have coming back. We were an extremely young football team last year in certain positions that acquire experience, really, to be truly successful at a high, high level, championship-type level.
You know, we have our quarterback situation, think squared away in coming back. When you look at us as a football team, you know, we hear Greg talk about disappointing, when you hear me talk about disappointing, the bottom line is, we won four games and lost four in the Big Ten, went to the Alamo Bowl. We lost some very close games, but the glass is half-full, not half-empty. We are building a foundation here.
When the expectations become such that we are expected to go to a New Year's Day Bowl game, we have succeeded in some respect, and we are progressing. The bottom line is we are building a foundation here, and sometimes you step forward and sometimes you step back a little bit. We didn't fall off the mountain; we didn't fall off that plateau, we continue to maintain.
Our experience in the Alamo Bowl was a great experience for us. It was a growing experience for us as a football team. We went there with some turmoil, found more turmoil while we were there, found distractions. I thought we had a great Bowl experience representing ourselves off the field, as I said after the game or before the game. And I thought we had an opportunity to win the football game. And I thought that we had seized the momentum in the fourth quarter, but one play turned it.
So you move forward. But with that, I was very proud of our football team.
Young football team with two freshmen tailbacks, a sophomore quarterback who I believe that between Cousins and Nichol and Keshawn Martin, I think we threw for 28 touchdown passes this year, which I believe is an all-time record at Michigan State, various offensive categories of high achievement.
So all of those things are very, very positive, and we are a young football team and we are moving forward. When you look at our defense, getting Greg back is a huge, huge thing for us. When you look at that, you know, to have your linebacker back who is, I believe, in on 154 tackles last year gives you something to build around and to continue to get better at.
We have a young defensive front, our secondary will be revamped obviously, but I think there's a lot of positives that are there with that.
Our special teams, we lose Swenson and I think we have two kickers in Conroy and Muma who have shown some great ability this fall, and it will be a battle this spring. But we return Aaron Bates and our kickoff return team that ranked, I believe, eighth in the nation with an all-time number of yards accrued.
You look at our football team right now, we have four incoming freshmen that are starting -- that started classes this week, that will be Joe Boyster (ph) at quarterback, Nick Hill at tailback, Levon Bell (ph) at tailback and Max Bulle (ph) at linebacker. So those four players will give us an additional number of people to compete this spring, and that will be exciting to see them out there.
Losing Dan I knows, want to congratulate publically Dan Enos on his head coaching position at Central Michigan. I think it's an outstanding opportunity for him and his family; and not many people have an opportunity to work so long, so hard throughout your entire lifetime as a football coach; to become a head football coach is truly an accomplishment, and he will do an outstanding job there.
But we will move forward with that, and it will be exciting for us. But very, very -- I'll just take questions, but extremely excited about 2010. We had a team meeting on Monday morning, and a lot of guys are ready to get back to work. We are looking forward to our season.
Q. For the disappointment of what happened after the season, and maybe the devastation for you, as you build the program, is that adversity also a part of the process?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I think absolutely. I think everything that goes on for you as a person, you grow from. You are going to grow from a championship experience, you are going to grow from the experience of going to the Capital One Bowl in '08. You are going to grow from the experience of an altercation off the field.
You hopefully allow these things to mature you as a person and as a program, and as a coach, and allow yourself that opportunity to grow in those areas, and I think good things will come as a result of trials and tests. And you know, those things are going to happen for us, whether it's on the field or off the field. It's unfortunate, very unfortunate, and it affects so many people.
But you have to grow from these things, and they are a part of mature and discipline, as I said before, I guess, but I do think there are some positives that can come from our season this year. Much like '07, we were so close in I think five games, and you know, we had some situations off the field; but I think in those times of crisis, I think your leaders step up. They have to step up, whether it's head coach, position coach coordinator or seniors or our guys this year that are stepping up into that senior position or the captains; they have an opportunity now to step forward and that's exciting for them and that's very, very promising for this football program.
Q. You have talked about having the same coaching staff has bred success, and now that you have lost an assistant, how do you think that will affect your team and your recruiting?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, you always hate to lose someone, anyone, but at the same time, you are happy for people when they have the opportunity to move forward.
You know, when I left Ohio State University, as a coordinator, we were 27-2. I think they have done well. They didn't miss a beat. It's our job to get everybody together, whether it's the recruits or our running back situation or whether it's our staff, and sort of collectively get together and move forward, and that's what we will do. But we are extremely excited for Dan and his family about this opportunity, and I think they have made a great choice.
Q. On that note as well have you begun identifying candidates to fill that position, are you expecting any further attrition whether it's to join Enos or anything else?
COACH DANTONIO: I'm expecting any further attrition, but my phone keeps buzzing. But you know, there's a lot of people that would love to have this opportunity at Michigan State.
So what we will do is I've always tried to slow it down a little bit, slow the game down a little bit when things start to roll up on you, and I think it's important now that we just step back and allow the recruiting to be the priority and allow the chemistry of our football team to be the priority. And we will look the at X number of candidates and make the best decision for this football program.
Q. Do you have a timetable -- indiscernible -- do you know what you will do in your mind in Detroit -- indiscernible.
COACH DANTONIO: We made a statement when we came here as a staff that recruiting Michigan was going to be a high priority. So obviously Detroit is a high priority in that recruiting area.
But with that said, we have always tried to get as many people in our staff involved in the recruiting processes as possible. Even though a person has Detroit, recruit's a defensive back, Harlon Barnett has been involved in that; or any defensive player, Narduzzi I has been involved, but by position, we have all been in there. I have done a lot of things down there, whether it's high school clinics or those type of things.
So we will miss Dan's expertise there in that area, and the ability to find the guy that's not being as highly recruited, we will miss his ability to understand the overall infrastructure of every high school, not just the head football coach but some people in the school; but there is a vast amount of people on our staff that have been in Detroit in the last three years. And you know, that now has to step to the forefront and become something that we look at and say, okay, this is why we do things this way and this is a strength for us. It's not like we have had a void there. We have always had a presence there as an entire staff and that will continue.
Q. Unless something has changed, neither of your players are going to court tomorrow, knowing this ongoing police investigation continues, how do you kind of deal with it? And what do you do now as far as your involvement, knowing you kind of have to wait in a lot of ways for the legal process to play itself is out?
COACH DANTONIO: We will do exactly that, we will allow the legal process to take its course. With that being said, as I've always said, I'm not going to alienate our players. I'm going to make sure that just as you would your son or your daughter that you are going to be there for them, so that we have brought them back into the team chemistry right now to at least sit in a team meeting room.
We are not doing anything as a team right now, but at least to sit in a team meeting room for our initial meeting back, they were welcomed to be in there, and then we will make decisions based on what happens at a later date.
But I think it's important that we be supportive and understand that it's a football team, and again, as I mentioned earlier, that we need to move forward. So that's my take on it.
Q. (No mic).
COACH DANTONIO: Well, just for clarity, I didn't use that word, but they were sitting in that meeting.
Q. Some of the players -- (no mic).
COACH DANTONIO: They have been outside of the football facility and everything to do with football for the last six or seven weeks. And at this point in time, we are going to welcome them back into that environment for clarity purposes. Yeah, they are on our team right now, yes. They are on our football team.
Q. Talked about the secondary, where do you anticipate the improvement coming from next year, will there be position changes, maybe guys that we didn't see as much this year will step up?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, you know, when you look at our football team, there's always positions. There's always some things you do well. There's always some things you need to improve on. Obviously we need to improve in that area.
But when you look at pass defense, just like when you look at run defense, it has to do with linebacker play and it has to do with defensive front play, and it has to do with secondary play and the same thing would be said for runs. It has to do with -- Texas Tech when they are throwing the ball out there on a hitch, who is supposed to stop there. Is it the linebacker or defensive back who is getting up there? It's a pass, but it also is almost like a run in some respects the way they do some different things, shovel passes and those type of things. It changes week-to-week.
So the answer to your question is: We will look at some guys. We want to have all of our players make an impact on our football team. Our goal will always be to put the best players on the field.
So you have a wide receiver that can be a starting defensive back, he's going to make the move over there. Certainly if you have a quarterback who can help you at wide receiver, we are going to make that decision and put him out there. I think Nichol has found a place that he can add great value to this football team, and he's done that at quarterback, too. But it's a competitive situation and you know, nobody wants to have a quarterback controversy. You can feel that, but I think he can be a tremendous football player for us and do a variety of things for us as a football player.
In answer to the secondary question, we need to get better and do the things that we need to do to allow us to be successful. That's why there's pass rush or whatever it is. You know, we had a lot of sacks this year. So it's not a total negative thing in terms of our pass rush. We just need to play better defense, just like if we were sitting here talking about our offense, we need to do some things better on offense, too, special teams, as well. But we will continue to get ready.
Q. Not to harp on this too much but for clarification purposes --
COACH DANTONIO: Clarity.
Q. You said that -- you mentioned the nine players that are facing the charges, but there's an additional three more that you suspended. Are they allowed to go to meetings, team meetings, too, and kind of be around the team?
COACH DANTONIO: Let's see, I'm trying to think here -- okay.
Q. 12 current players total you suspended.
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah.
Q. So they are all I believe to --
COACH DANTONIO: Who are the other people that are suspended?
Q. (No mic. ).
COACH DANTONIO: Dismissed? There's a difference between dismissed and suspended.
Q. You dismissed two.
COACH DANTONIO: Dismissed two.
Q. And there's three others that don't face -- that haven't faced any charges that were suspended; right?
COACH DANTONIO: What are the other two? We've got some number issues here. Hey, all I know is we did a heck of a job in the Bowl game short numbers.
Q. I guess one thing is everybody that you suspended --
COACH DANTONIO: If they are on this football team or have been on this football team, unless they have been dismissed or are no longer in school, they will be in that meeting.
Q. Following that up, we heard some rumors about some guys transferring, Ashton Leggett?
COACH DANTONIO: Ashton Leggett is transferring to Illinois State. We wish him the best. I think he will be an outstanding player there. You know, I guess Brynden Trawick has transferred and Williams has transferred, Jamilhr Williams has transferred to northeast Mississippi Junior College, and I believe that's it right at this point.
Q. Ishmyl Johnson still with the team?
COACH DANTONIO: No.
Q. Transferred somewhere?
COACH DANTONIO: I'm not sure where.
Q. While we are on that, Cameron Jude?
COACH DANTONIO: Why do we have to do this? This is a celebration. It's not about other people. Keep in mind, guys -- keep in mind, this is about optimism. This is about moving forward and I want to keep it in that perspective, please.
Q. He's with the team, you said, though?
COACH DANTONIO: Mm-hmm.
Q. As far as recruiting, how many more commitments would you like to get? I think you mentioned five before.
COACH DANTONIO: Four or five. Four or five. Probably five. But recruiting, we will finish up here in the next -- we have two more weeks of recruiting and then signing date, another dead period. I think recruiting is going very well, but you need to finish. You need to finish. The opportunity to finish is right there. Another opportunity for recruiting this weekend, a lot of guys will be attending that basketball game this weekend, so it will be a very energetic atmosphere for them to see Michigan State basketball and athletics in general. Recruiting is going well.
Q. Looking for the spring, your offensive line, do you feel like this is going to be the time where you are going to finally see some of the yields of developing young players at that position is that a key going into the spring do you feel like?
COACH DANTONIO: The offensive line it takes time to develop as an offensive lineman. Our true freshman this year, David Barrent and Micajah Reynolds and Henry Conway, they are true freshmen still. I think the Bowl game has definitely benefitted them so they will have like another spring practice and get them received squared away.
In addition to that, we have some redshirt freshmen who were red-shirted that were true freshmen again or were redshirt freshmen again this year. We were young at that position but I think we are talented at that position, so I think that things will come about there and Coach Roushar will get them ready, but feel good about the position in general.
Q. You're No. 4 now, the bar rises, doesn't it? You expect --
COACH DANTONIO: The bar always rises, doesn't it? Just nature of it, yeah. I think as I said earlier, we were a 6-6 football team and I certainly wasn't happy with it. But nevertheless, we went to a Bowl game and competed well.
But 2009, there was a lot of heartache along there. There was some very close games that we lost that we had an opportunity to win, and you know, when that happens, you know, it's tough. It's tough on our football team and we were able to always comeback and we were always able to be resilient.
You know, I look at our football teams, our football games, I guess, and 39 games that we have been here as a staff, I believe almost every one of them go down to the end, to the fourth quarter, with the exception of maybe two or three. So 36 out of the 39 games we have had opportunities to win, but we are sitting here at 33-3 everybody would be happy.
But we have been extremely competitive and we are not as far away as you would believe, and there are other times that you would think, well, we have got a ways to go. But that's the nature of this profession I think. That's the nature of this sport, because parity in college football right now.
But you can certainly see the light at the end of the tunnel here. I think that we are developing depth. We lost some seniors, but when you look at our two-deep and the amount of players that we have coming back, we have much more depth. We have young players in the program, 54 players this past year were freshmen or sophomores.
So that will provide a very -- it should be a good spring. It should be a very competitive spring because we have got some depth in certain areas, and you know, so it will allow for a very competitive spring on both sides of the ball. I think that's a good thing.
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