Five takeaways from Mark Dantonio's preview of Indiana
On Tuesday, MSU head coach Mark Dantonio held his weekly press conference and addressed some issues he had about the Wisconsin game and gave a preview of this week’s contest against the Indiana Hoosiers.
It will be the Spartans' first road battle of the Big Ten season as they head to Bloomington, Ind. for their third night kickoff in four games. Dantonio and the Spartans have had tremendous success in his tenure as head coach –– a perfect 7-0 against the Hoosiers with the 2012 victory the only one by less than 10 points.
That being said, here are five takeaways from Dantonio’s comments on Tuesday.
1. A touching tribute
The Spartans will take the field on Saturday night with heavy hearts, as alumnus and former Spartan linebacker Mylan Hicks was killed in a shooting this past Sunday. Dantonio said 41 players on the team had played with Hicks, and in a special tribute, MSU players plan to wear black shoes and black socks, as Hicks was known for his love of black Spartan gear.
The team also plans to wear the number six on the back of their helmets to honor their fallen former teammate. Dantonio said it has been an emotional time for everyone involved, and his prayers are with the Hicks family, Spartan nation and the Detroit Renaissance community, Hicks' high school alma mater.
“Mylan is the type of guy that loved football,” Dantonio said. “He loved competing. He went at it 100 miles an hour, and he would be very disappointed in us if we did not do that on a game-by-game basis, throughout practice, and everything we try to accomplish here and go after. So he'll be with us.”
2. Confidence still in O’Connor
Dantonio reaffirmed that senior quarterback Tyler O’Connor is the unquestioned starter of the team and that he has been working hard to bounce back following his disappointing three interception performance against the Badgers.
“He's a responsible, responsible guy, he'll take ownership in what he did,” Dantonio said. “He's not a finger pointer. He's mature in terms of how he handles things. This hasn't been the first time in his football career that something has gone wrong. A lot of things can go wrong at that position. I'm sure he's prepared to handle these things, and he has an opportunity to bounce back and make it happen.”
Dantonio mentioned that he contacted O’Connor via text message late Saturday night to see how he was doing, and O’Connor said he had already watched the Wisconsin game twice to see what he did wrong and how to work on it.
3. Regroup and recover
A major focus of the Spartans preparation this week will simply be to calm down, refocus and work on the things that went wrong against the Badgers.
“When things don't go well for you, you're challenged,” Dantonio said. “There is one of two ways to go: take the high road and try to get better and persevere through it or go the other direction and say, `Hey, we can't do this,' or get desperate, and things of that nature. We've always taken the road that we're going to get better and learn from our mistakes and carry on.”
The Spartans will be without linebacker Jon Reschke for a “significant period” with a severe ankle sprain, Dantonio said, and linebacker Riley Bullough is day-to-day. They are key players that would help a defense regroup and recover from a poor showing against the Badgers, and other players like safety Demetrious Cox and linebacker Chris Frey will have to lead in their absence.
4. Freshman to get more playing time
The Wisconsin game saw four true freshmen –– offensive lineman Thiyo Lukusa, defensive linemen Josh King and Auston Robertson and wide receiver Trishton Jackson lose their redshirts after seeing the field against the Badgers.
Jackson had a dropped pass but looked eager to be on the field. Robertson did not record a statistic, but King wound up with a tackle for loss. Lukusa played the most extensive minutes of the four and appeared pretty solid.
“Well, we got to use them, because I think when you're sitting there saying, `Do we redshirt? Do we not redshirt?' You're sort of the crossing that bridge,” Dantonio said. “Once you cross that bridge, you've got to use them. Now, it's up to them to play and make plays and be prepared for a football game and play at this level.”
With injuries on the defensive side, a few of those freshmen might see more minutes and possibly some new freshmen could see the field against the Hoosiers. Dantonio also said it is yet to be seen whether or not Jackson would be used in the kicking game.
5. Stopping Indiana’s system
Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson put a system in place on offense when he was hired six seasons ago to go up-tempo and spread the football around, and he has not strayed from that strategy.
Now, new transfer quarterback Richard Lagow, who has already thrown for 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns, is the leader of it, and without injured star receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. other guys like receiver Nick Westbrook and running back Devine Redding have kept the system moving successfully.
“Kevin Wilson has a system,” Dantonio said. “It's a very good system. It's a very well-run system. He's had a lot of success with it. So he (Lagow) plays within the system. I think that's what all great football players do, play in the system.”
Needless to say, the 2-1 Hoosiers will be looking to run that system with success when the Spartans come to town.