Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday's Teleconference Thoughts from Hoke/Dantonio

The first Big Ten Coaches Teleconference took place on Tuesday.
Here is a collection of thoughts from Michigan coach Brady Hoke and MSU coach Mark Dantonio.

Brady Hoke:
- On representing Big Ten against Alabama: “Anytime you are playing games against other conferences, obviously, your school, your team and the people you represent, that’s an important part. At the same time, the Big Ten Conference, we’ve got great academic institutions, great athletic programs and great schools in this conference. There is no question that is part of when you play a team from another league.”
- On how fall camp was impacted by opening with Alabama: “I think (it was) and I think we would say so as a staff. You go into every opener a little bit unsure of what you have as a football team and I think that is something you find out, good and bad. Playing the defending national champions, a very well coached and good football team that has been put together over five or six years of recruiting, we will have our hands full. At the same time, I think you look forward to playing in these kind of games at a different site and playing great football teams.”
- On the challenges Alabama poses at the line of scrimmage: “I think on both sides of the ball. We feel that their offensive line is, if not the best, one of the best offensive lines as a unit. They have four or five starters back and they are physical at the point of attack. They are coached well. They are big. They are a big group and I don’t think we are quite that big of a defensive line. On the other side of it, we have had some holes to fill when you lose Mark Huyge and you lose David Molk. Ricky Barnum has done a nice job at center in the spring and at fall camp. Left guard, Elliott Mealer has done a tremendous job and (Michael) Schofield at right tackle. We are different. Every team is different every year, but we will be excited about what is going on on Saturday.
- On scheduling marquee opponents in non-conference play: “We like it. We like it as a program and I like it personally. I think when you want to be the best and you want to be champions and all those things, you need to play the best and play those programs that are at a high level. We think as a team that that is just going to make us better as a team when we get into the Big Ten. I am very comfortable opening up with Alabama.”
- On what the team needs to improve on this year: “Well, first and foremost, we need to do a better job of taking care of the football. There were times last year where decision making or fundamentals wasn’t as good as it needed to be. Near the end of the year, we needed to do a better job of getting the ball back for our offense and maybe stealing a possession. We are a different team than a year ago, so our defensive front is going to be a part that we are really interested to see how we are all going to react and play. The kicking game and our return games are something we feel we can do a better job with.”
- On Fitzgerald Toussaint’s status for Saturday’s game: “We have not made any decision on what we are going to do. That decision will come before game time, obviously, but right now he’s been practicing and he’s been getting reps and doing all the things that guys do, so we’ll just see.”
- Is Toussaint a game-time decision: “We’ll see.”
- Who would start if Toussaint doesn’t: “Vince Smith has played a lot of football for us. Thomas Rawls played some ball for us a year ago and Justice Hayes….I mean, all three of those guys are capable and available.”

Mark Dantonio:
- On carrying the Big Ten banner in the opener vs. Boise State: “I think collectively we as a group will stand together at the end of the day. But I think more importantly, it’s how we play and how Michigan State plays right now. Everybody is chasing the dream. It starts this weekend for so many different football teams and there is a lot of optimism out there. You really can’t worry about the end result, which conference is stronger at this point and time. You are just trying to be one of those people that gets it going within your own conference. That’s how we take it. We aren’t going out there and representing the Big Ten Conference as much as we are putting on the green and white and representing Michigan State today. But, collectively as a group, we certainly are extremely proud of the heritages and traditions and the strength of the Big Ten Conference.”
- On if Michigan State has become a national power given the last two seasons: “Well I think we are in the conversation, but every year is a new year. We will have to see how we play and play through this. I think that Boise, themselves, have beaten Oregon, (Virginia) Tech and Georgia in the last three years on opening games, so it’s a great challenge for us. It’s a night game here at Spartan Stadium. It will be an exciting atmosphere, but we are going to have to play. We have to play well.”
- On having a premiere opening game to start the season: “I think it was 2008 when our athletic director came to me and asked me if we wanted to play Boise….whenever it was, I can’t remember. It would be a nationally televised game and on a Friday night and all those things. I knew the reputation of Boise State and I knew coach (Chris) Petersen as a person, somewhat, and I knew they had a great program. I thought it would be good for our program, to test us early, and obviously to jump in with both feet. We decided to do that and what it says to the whole ramification of this game is that Boise is going to play anyone, anywhere, and they are going to come to play. Michigan State is not going to back away from a challenge as well. If they want to play, we’ll play. If it was productive for both teams to play and for both universities, we would do this. I have a tremendous amount of respect for how they play and how hard they play.”
- On sophomore defensive end Marcus Rush: “Marcus is a very exciting player to watch. He has a quick body and does a great job with his hands. He runs extremely well. I see him picking up where he left off. He gets himself going before a game. He has a great motor. He is just one of the guys. He was a Freshman All-American. He is one of the guys that was very productive last year, along with some of these other guys you don’t hear as much about. He’s a very good football player and he’s only going to be a redshirt sophomore. He’s a guy that we’re planning on having a great, outstanding year, but again, we are starting over. There is a lot of optimism, but we are all starting over, so we have to earn our spurs.”

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