MSU head football coach Mark Dantonio spoke for about five minutes before concluding his opening statements and allowing questions from the media during his 15-minute press conference Thursday at Big Ten media days in Chicago.
Entering his sixth year manning the sidelines, Dantonio made the majority of his speech reflective upon last season’s accomplishments, the current standing of the program and praising individual players. He also mentioned on what he considers “unfinished business” regarding reaching the Rose Bowl, which he still considers to be the primary goal of the Spartan program.
Before the media could get a word in, Dantonio talked at length about his defense which returns nine starters from a year ago and is again expected to be amongst the nation’s elite. He acknowledged the hype and buzz surrounding junior defensive end William Gholston by saying he’ll be a force in 2012.
“We’re poised and ready on that side of the ball,” he said.
As far as challenges next season, Dantonio questioned where his leadership would come from, while mentioning linebackers Max Bullough, a junior, and senior Chris Norman could step into bigger leadership roles. In addition, he addressed the lack of experience at wide receiver as the Spartans lost their top three pass-catchers a year ago in B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol, but said the situation only allows for younger guys to get experience in their early games. As far as sophomore DeAnthony Arnett, a transfer wideout from Tennesee, Dantonio said he’s somebody who could one day fill the shoes of Martin and potentially become a star in the Green and White.
Earlier in the week, the media predicted Michigan to win the Legends Division and eventually the Big Ten Championship Game over Wisconsin. Dantonio chuckled slightly when asked his thoughts on the media’s prediction and countered by saying U-M has been a likely favorite for the past several years.
“In our locker room, they won’t be favored,” he said.
And finally, regarding the hot topic of the day — Penn State — Dantonio said he would not inquire about Nittany Lion players currently on the roster, but if he was contacted by a player, coach or parent that it is his obligation to follow through. He mentioned that while he aims to handle the situation in State College, Pa., as respectfully as possible, his job is to make MSU a better football team.
Once his 15 minutes at the podium were up, Dantonio thanked the media and walked off with one message, “Go Green.”
One interesting note from Thursday’s press conferences came from U-M head coach Brady Hoke, who was asked about how his position if his team were to win the division and be left out of the BCS — similar to MSU’s situation in 2011 after being neglected a BCS bid despite beating U-M head-to-head and winning the division.
“I wouldn’t feel very good about it,” Hoke said.