CHICAGO (WOOD) — Michigan State football head coach Mark Dantonio entered Big Ten Media Days this year under drastically different circumstances than he faced just one year ago.
Last year, fresh off a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the College Football Playoff, he talked about the program’s culture and dedication to winning. This year, coming off a 3-9 season in 2016 and an offseason plagued with off-the-field incidents, he talked about change.
“We’re a young football team and so we need to re-establish ourself. And there’s new names, new faces, but that does not mean there’s not talent that’s there and we’ll look for good things and go one inch at a time,” Dantonio said Monday.
Dantonio also spoke about how the team is coming together and making strides in all aspects of life.
“They’re going to re-establish themselves on the field, off the field and in the classroom,” he said. “We’re going to do things right. And all of those things create a winning environment for us moving forward.”
“We want to make sure that we understand one incident doesn’t paint the entire program,” he continued, speaking about the off-the-field issues that resulted in four students being kicked off the team this offseason. “We have good young people here who are doing great things for people across this state and we want that to be recognized.”
Three Michigan State players who spoke to reporters at Media Days also echoed their head coach’s desire to re-establish the program and get back to a winning culture.
“As our training staff was getting us ready for this season, one of the things they kept saying to us was, ‘No more 3-9’,” senior linebacker Chris Frey said. “And at one point we had to say, ‘If we’re gonna put this behind us, we’ve got to stop talking about it.’ So that’s what we did. We put the past in the past and we’re ready to move forward and show what we’re about this season.”
“Coming off a year like last year, we’re just trying to remodel the 2013 team and 2014 teams and getting back to that attitude to go into games with that Spartan mentality that, for whatever reason, wasn’t there last year,” senior offensive lineman Brian Allen said.
Senior running back Gerald Holmes spoke about the team’s attitude of always fighting and never giving up, comparing this team to the actual Spartans in Greek history. That, Holmes said, gives him confidence that the Spartans can be back in the mix in the Big Ten this season.
Dantonio agreed that the only way for the program to prove itself was to put their feet on the ground and push forward.
“I was hired to fix problems, so at some point in time you’ve got to fix them,” Dantonio said. “It’s easy to wear the Rose Bowl hat, everybody loves you at that point in time. But at some point in time you’ve got to dig down and get your hands dirty again and that’s what we’ll do.”