April 14, 2010

More experience, more wins?

Mark Dantonio did not say much that he has not already said this spring in response to the questions he was asked during the Big Ten spring football teleconference on Tuesday.

But Michigan State's fourth-year head coach was positive about the way his team has handled spring football through 10 practices and he re-iterated his belief that the Spartans will put themselves in a position to compete for a Big Ten championship this fall.

"I think there are always high expectations," said Dantonio, "but those expectations are place by us on ourselves. I firmly believe that we will play and compete for a Big Ten championship."

Michigan State is coming off the only sub .500 season of the Dantonio era in East Lasing after going 6-7 during a campaign that featured a number of games that went down to the wire. The Spartans 2009 season is reminiscent of the Dantonio's first year on the job. In 2007 each of the Spartans' five regular-season losses were within a touchdown or less of being wins.

Michigan State bounced back in 2008 with a nine-win season and the program's first New Year's Day Bowl appearance in a decade. The Spartans' success in Dantonio's second season as head coach came despite replacing a talented tandem of defensive ends in Ervin Baldwin and Jonal Saint-Dic, one of the Big Ten's top tight ends in Kellen Freeman-Davis, and Devin Thomas, who was the second wide receiver and 34th overall player selected in the 2008 NFL draft.

The catalyst for the success in 2008 was experience at the quarterback position. After putting up good numbers during his first year as a starter in 2007, Brian Hoyer (New England Patriots) returned to the field with the experience necessary to win games the following season.

"We lost four games on plays at the end of the game last year," said Dantonio Tuesday. "I think there is room for improvement. What we have to do is make the plays at the end of the game to move forward."

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