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Thursday, August 21, 2014

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MSU Football Blog

MSU grad, ex-Lions staffer Gase playing key role for Denver coaching staff

By Ben Stram          Last updated: 02/02/14 5:23pm         

While the Detroit Lions have been eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago, MSU graduate and former Lions staff member Adam Gase continues to flourish well into February, helping to lead one of the NFL’s best teams.

Gase, 34, is the NFL’s 4th-youngest offensive coordinator for the record-breaking Denver Broncos. This offense has scored a record 606 points this season, along with many individual and career accomplishments for the players on the team.

His success didn’t come easily, though.

Gase, a Ypsilanti native, wasn’t exactly a standout in football at Marshall High, according to a report from the Detroit Free Press. While at Marshall High, he would meet then-MSU defensive coordinator Dean Pees his senior year and get his business card. This would put him in the Michigan State program for the next four years, coaching under MSU head coach Nick Saban.

Saban would go on to leave the Spartans for LSU in 1999, and Gase would be the only assistant to head down to Baton Rouge with him.

After working a variety of low-level jobs at both MSU and LSU, Mike Martz took him under his wing while he coached at Detroit and San Francisco.

After Martz was fired at San Francisco, Gase would go on to land a job as the wide receivers coach in Denver where he would coach alongside Josh McDaniels, his old friend from MSU.

In the 2011-2012 season, after two years as the wide receivers coach at Denver, Gase would become the quarterbacks coach and right-hand man to a future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning.

Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy left for the San Diego Chargers head coaching vacancy, and Gase took over one of the NFL’s most dominant offenses and never looked back.

His success thus far has led to many discussions for Gase to be a head coaching candidate in the future. He already has declined interviews with the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings in order to focus on the Super Bowl run.

Obviously, it’s hard to gain this much success without paying the dues that come with it.

It seems pretty clear that Gase has done that and more.

Football notes: Schedule change for 2014, Bullough accepts offer to play in East-West game

By Robert Bondy          Last updated: 01/08/14 6:56pm         

While the college football season officially came to a close earlier this week, MSU made some news on Wednesday night including schedule changes to next season, potential coaching staff changes and another appearance for a Spartan great.

MSU football will have one less week to prepare for a premier match-up at Oregon next season, announcing Wednesday that the game will be moved up to Sept. 6 instead of its original Sept. 13 date.

According to Oregon’s website, the change was made to meet a national television broadcast and to guarantee the game will not be a night game, although it might still be viewed in East Lansing later in the day due to the time change.

MSU’s previously scheduled bye week for Sept. 6 will be moved to Sept. 13 now.

MSU also announced via Twitter that the Eastern Michigan and Wyoming home games have been switched. The Spartans are now taking on Eastern Michigan on Sept. 20 and Wyoming on Sept. 27.

MSU is still set to kickoff the 2014 season on Saturday Aug. 30 against Jacksonville State. If the game remains on that date, it will be the first time since 2010 that the game wasn’t on Friday night.

There was more Spartan football news on Wednesday with reports announcing defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi a finalist for the vacant Louisville Cardinals head coaching position. While the Broyles Award winner for top assistant coach in college football has interviewed with Louisville, a recent ESPN report states Western Kentucky head coach Bobby Petrino has been offered the position.

Former linebacker and two-time defensive captain Max Bullough also made news on Wednesday by accepting an offer to play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 18 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The game serves as a college football all-star game for seniors who are looking to play at the next level in the NFL.

Bullough was suspended for the 2014 Rose Bowl in the early morning hours of Dec. 26, missing his final game as a Spartan for violating team rules. The reason is still unknown for why Bullough was suspended for the game.

While the suspension left a bad taste in many Spartans’ mouths, Bullough finished as one of the greatest MSU linebackers of all-time with 299 tackles, eight sacks, four forced fumbles and three interceptions.

MSU finishes 3rd in AP and USA Today polls

By Matt Sheehan          Last updated: 01/07/14 2:09pm         

Six days after winning the 100th Rose Bowl game over Stanford, MSU football ended its season at 13-1 and finished at No. 3 in the AP and USA Today Coaches polls.

In the last six years, head coach Mark Dantonio has seen his Spartans place in the top 25 four times.

MSU had an outside shot of finishing at No. 2 after Auburn lost to Florida State in Monday night’s BCS National Championship Game, but Auburn finished 43 points ahead of the green and white in the AP Poll and a mere 13 points in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

The top ten finish in the AP Poll is the first since 1999, and the No. 3 ranking also is the highest postseason ranking since 1966, when MSU was ranked No. 2 in the AP and United Press International Polls with a 9-0-1 record.

That tie came in what was regarded as “The Game of the Century” when the Spartans tied No. 1 Notre Dame 10-10.

Report: Dantonio to get new deal as MSU coach

By Stephen Brooks          Last updated: 01/02/14 5:00am         

PASADENA, Calif.MSU head coach Mark Dantonio reportedly has a deal in place to make him one of the Big Ten’s highest paid coaches.

ESPN reporter Joe Schad tweeted the following from his personal account prior to kickoff of Wednesday’s Rose Bowl: “Mark Dantonio’s new deal w Mich. St. will place he and his staff among the three-highest paid coaches in the Big Ten. Texas did reach out.”

Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press confirmed Schad’s report with athletics director Mark Hollis via text message, who said the details were not ready to be released publicly yet.

Currently, Dantonio makes $1.96 million per season, which ranks ninth in the Big Ten. To join the ranks of Urban Meyer ($4.6 million), Brady Hoke ($4.154 million) and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz ($3.985 million) who are the three highest paid in the bed.

Dantonio’s success in revitalizing the MSU program has prompted the change, and perhaps serves as a motivator to stay in East Lansing if, say, Texas came calling as Schad alleged.

“That’s very flattering, but it would be hard to leave these guys,” Dantonio told reporters after his team won the 100th Rose Bowl. “They make the plays. (It) would be hard to leave all those people out there. So while it’s very, very flattering, my intentions are to be at Michigan State. That’s all I’ll say about those things. I’ll look forward to seeing my guys come back on Monday morning for classes. “

Five storylines to watch in the Rose Bowl

By Stephen Brooks          Last updated: 12/31/13 1:10am         

In the final year of the BCS format in Division I football, MSU will get its long-awaited shot in arguably the premier post-season destination outside of the national championship.

When the No. 4 Spartans take on No. 5 Stanford, champion of the Pac-12, in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, it will be the realization of a longstanding goal for head coach Mark Dantonio’s program. MSU narrowly missed BCS bowl bids in 2010 and 2011, but rebounded from a disappointing 7-6 campaign a year ago behind a resurgent offense led by first-year starting quarterback Connor Cook and a vicious defense that ranks No. 1 in the country.

As the Spartans’ dream becomes reality in Pasadena, Calif., in what is expected to be a majority MSU crowd, here are five storylines to watch:

1. Missing Max?
Since the Spartans touched down in California on Christmas night, the biggest story surrounding their team has been the shocking announcement of senior linebacker Max Bullough’s suspension.

I wrote in a column Saturday how Bullough’s absence on the field won’t be as detrimental as the distraction the situation created and the potential void in leadership presented.

I’ve been wrong before and I could be wrong again. Stanford wants to out-tough opponents offensively, much like MSU, with a power running attack behind a bulky offensive line.

How much Bullough’s ability to adapt the defense and process things on the field is missed should be evident early.

The Spartans have other leaders, and it’s incredibly hard to believe they won’t be fired up to play in this game, so I’m not sure they’ll need him too much in that regard.

But if Stanford finds a way to exploit Bullough’s absence in the running game, it’s possible MSU’s defense could be taken advantage of in a way not previously seen in 2013.

Senior Kyler Elsworth is expected to start in Bullough’s place, while sophomore Darien Harris also may see time in the middle.

2. We’re here, now what?
From the moment Dantonio was hired in 2007, the openly stated goal for his program was to return to the Rose Bowl – a venue the Spartans haven’t played in since 1988.

The previously mentioned near-misses in 2010 and 2011 left bitter tastes in the mouths of MSU players and coaches alike. Now that the Spartans finally made their return, they now have to worry about actually winning the Rose Bowl.

Since hitting the West Coast, they’ve been showered in bowl gifts and new gear, participated in a prime rib eating contest and enjoyed a comedy show as a team in addition to enjoying the sunny California weather.

For so long, MSU strived to get to this game. Now that it’s there, will the Spartans be content with participating or be prepared to win?

3. Trench warfare
It’s often said that whichever team dominates the line of scrimmage wins the game, and that adage couldn’t be more fitting for this matchup.

As previously mentioned, the Cardinal will line up with multiple tight ends and offensive linemen and look to knock the Spartans off the ball with a bruising rushing attack.

Stanford is an old-school, power offense with few frills and gimmicks averaging more than 210 yards per game on the ground.

MSU also relies on the running game to get its wheels turning and open things up for Cook in the passing game, but Stanford, No. 3 nationally in rush defense, will be the toughest challenge yet.

If either team gains a decisive advantage up front, it’s odds of winning should increase tremendously.

4. Langford’s streak
Outside of Cook, junior running back Jeremy Langford’s emergence at running back has been the surprise story on offense for the 2013 Spartans. Langford cemented himself as the starter early and grew into a potent weapon as the season wore on.

Currently, he’s riding a streak of eight 100-yard rushing games, many of which included breakaway touchdowns to ice games late in the fourth quarter.

Ohio State tried to stack the box to stymie Langford in the Big Ten Championship Game, and Stanford is likely to do the same.

If Langford can keep the 100-yard streak alive, and possibly even deliver another late-game dagger, it’ll be one of the keys for the Spartans to leave Pasadena with smiles on their faces.

5. Going out on top
After beating the Buckeyes for the Big Ten championship, MSU had been ranked No. 1 in the country in total defense for 13 consecutive weeks.

The Spartans give up an average of 248.2 yards per game, giving them a slight nod ahead of the No. 2 defense, Louisville, at 251.5 yards per game.

Can MSU hold on to its top ranking? Somebody much smarter than me would have to figure out exactly how many yards MSU can surrender for that to be true.

If the Spartans get torched, that probably means they lose the game and the No. 1 spot. One of defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi’s favorite lines is “stats are for losers,” but there’s no denying that finishing the year as the top-ranked defense would be a feather in MSU’s cap, especially with a Rose Bowl victory.

This has been a benchmark year for the Spartan defense, which began its ascent as an elite unit in 2010. The finale, pitted against one of the best offenses it’s seen thus far, should be exciting to watch.

Calhoun has sights set on future success at MSU, not in NFL

By Stephen Brooks          Last updated: 12/30/13 9:41pm         

MSU’s vaunted defense has NFL talent at every level, which has played no small part in establishing it as the No. 1-ranked unit in the nation for most of the season.

One player who isn’t concerning himself with playing for paychecks yet, however, is sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound breakout star of the Spartan defense this season is a third-year player after redshirting as a freshman, thus making him eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Calhoun told reporters in Calfornia last week that he’ll be back in East Lansing for at least one more season, mainly because of his desire to graduate from MSU.

“I love this university,” Calhoun said. “I love playing with these guys. I love (defensive coordinator Pat) Narduzzi. I love (head coach Mark) Dantonio.

“I would never regret my decision to come here and get my degree. People can never take a degree away from you. They can take football away from you, you’re not going to be in it for long, you can get injured, anything, but I feel like they can never take your degree. So coming back to get that, I would never regret that, ever.”

Sliding into a starting role vacated by Will Gholston, who turned pro after his junior season, Calhoun kicked off a highly productive season with three defensive touchdowns in the first two games. He has 36 tackles on the year, including a team-leading 14 for loss and 7.5 sacks, to go along with four fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and an interception.

Calhoun’s standout season put him on the radar of NFL scouts and draft analysts, validating his potential future as a professional. He was named the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year to go along with first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-American honors.

His presence in green and white next season will be critical as the Spartan defense looks to maintain its production despite losing seniors and longtime contributors Darqueze Dennard, Max Bullough, Denicos Allen, Tyler Hoover and Micajah Reynolds.

“We have a (saying about the NFL,) ‘Not for long league,’” Calhoun said. “You don’t know how long you’re going to be there. An injury, they cut you from the team. I want to get my degree so I can be established and go forth after that.”

Top Pa. safety to join Spartans

By Stephen Brooks          Last updated: 12/20/13 8:48pm         

For the third consecutive year, MSU has plucked one of Pennsylvania’s top football recruits to join the green and white.

The Spartan program received its 18th commitment for the class of 2014 on Thursday when four-star safety Montae Nicholson pledged to play at MSU at a ceremony at his school, Gateway High, in Monroeville, Pa. Nicholson also will reportedly get a chance to play wide receiver.

Rivals.com ranks the 6-foot-2, 202-pound Nicholson as the No. 1 player in Pennsylvania and No. 13 safety prospect in the country.

MSU’s 2012 recruiting class was highlighted by the commitment of four-star safety Demetrious Cox of Jeannette, Pa., while quarterback Damion Terry was a prized recruit from Erie, Pa,. in the class of 2013.

Nicholson chose the Spartans over offers from Florida State, Oregon, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech among others. His lead recruiter was MSU offensive line coach Mark Staten.

To check out highlights from Nicholson’s junior year, click here.

Report: Rapper Rich Homie Quan set to join MSU in Pasadena

By Stephen Brooks          Last updated: 12/19/13 3:30pm         

The rich homie is set to meet the Spartans in California some type of way, according to a report from MLive.com.
The report says Atlanta rapper Rich Homie Quan, the artist behind the Spartans’ unofficial 2013 theme song “Type of Way,” has plans to join the team in Los Angeles and potentially through the program’s Rose Bowl trip.

Quan reportedly watched MSU in the Big Ten Championship Game when head coach Mark Dantonio dropped his name and endorsed the song during a post-game TV interview.

Throughout the season, videos have surfaced on social media and Big Ten Network’s “The Journey” program of MSU players and coaches dancing to “Type of Way” in the locker room after victories.

“I want to be out there in a green jersey and feel a part of Michigan State,” the rapper told MLive. “I want to be at the game, I want to be out there with them. I feel a part of Michigan State now, and you don’t even know what it means to me.”

Quan said he’s hoping to secure a No. 31 jersey of fellow Georgian Darqueze Dennard, one of the catalysts of making his smash hit MSU’s anthem. He also named sophomore quarterback Connor Cook as one of his favorite players in the interview.

“They go out there with swagger, to bust people in the mouth,” Quan said of the Spartans.

“I know win or lose, people are gonna feel some type of way after playing them.”

Spartans get perks through Rose Bowl gifts

By Stephen Brooks          Last updated: 12/16/13 6:22pm         

As if a Big Ten championship, a trip to sunny Pasadena, Calif. and the opportunity to play in the 100th Rose Bowl game wasn’t enough, the 2013 Spartans will be bringing home some new gear courtesy of “The Granddaddy of Them All.”

This year’s Rose Bowl gifts include a Fossil watch, New Era 39Thirty hat, Ogio backpack and a gift suite where MSU and Stanford players can choose from a variety of electronics, jewelry, furniture and other items.

Per NCAA rules, bowls are allowed to dole out up to $550 worth of gifts for 125 members, although most programs typically purchase more for program staffers, according to Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal.

Typically, postseason gift packages include items such as personalized watches, rings and clothing that feature the bowl’s logo. Other common gifts are electronics not limited to TVs, game consoles and headphones or gift cards and paid shopping sprees to certain retailers.

Looking at some of the marquee gift packages across the country, Wisconsin and South Carolina, squaring off in the Capital One Bowl, will receive a $450 Best Buy gift card and shopping spree, Timely Watch Co. watch and a Russell Athletic workout shirt.

The Military Bowl is giving Maryland and Marshall players a Playstation 4 game system, a winter hat and Ogio backpack. Oregon and Texas will play in the Valero Alamo Bowl and receive an iPad mini, Apple gift card, Fossil watch, panoramic photo and a Schutt mini helmet. The Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl is hooking the East Carolina and Ohio teams up with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, Oakley Breadbox glasses, an Oakley Status backpack and a Schutt mini helmet.

For Auburn and Florida State, playing for it all in the BCS National Championship, they will receive a Fossil watch, New Era 59Fifty hat, Oakley Flak Pack XL backpack and a gift suite.

To check out a full list of 2013-14 bowl gifts, click here.

Dennard becomes MSU's first Thorpe Award winner

By Stephen Brooks          Last updated: 12/13/13 10:00pm         

Darqueze Dennard is MSU’s first recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive back each season.

The announcement that the senior cornerback beat out fellow finalists Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert for the award came Thursday on ESPN’s college football awards broadcast.

Winning the Thorpe Award is the crown jewel on a long list of accolades for Dennard, which includes being named the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, first-team All-Big Ten for the second consecutive season and winning the Jack Tatum Award (another honor for the nation’s best defensive back). The former two-star recruit from Dry Branch, Ga., was selected as a first-team All-American by USA Today, Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

As one of the most vital cogs in MSU’s No. 1-ranked defense, Dennard racked up 59 tackles, two forced fumbles, 10 pass breakups and a career-high four interceptions.

“The defense, we had a great year this year,” Dennard said at the awards show, with head coach Mark Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi on hand.

“I couldn’t have won this award without my teammates and the coaching staff, and I think we all just did a great job.”

Young guns

First-year starters Jack Conklin, Shilique Calhoun and Trae Waynes have received recognition as well since MSU won the Big Ten championship.

Conklin, a redshirt freshman tackle, was named to the Sporting News’ Freshman All-American team. Waynes, the cornerback opposite Dennard,was named to Scout.com’s College Football News All-Sophomore second-team while Calhoun, MSU’s dynamic defensive end, made the first team. Calhoun also was honored as a Walter Camp second-team All-American.