March 26, 2012

Dantonio: 'We've got to earn our jerseys'

EAST LANSING - Coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons Mark Dantonio's team enters spring football with as more overall talent and better quality depth than ever before.

But for Michigan State to remain at the top of the Big Ten conference, the Spartans will need to use the spring practice to fill holes in the roster following the graduation of a 17-man senior class as well as the departure of juniors Jerel Worthy and Edwin Baker, both of whom entered the NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining.

"All of us need to earn our jerseys," said Dantonio, "whether you are a coach here, whether you are some part of our staff, I don't care what element that is whether you are a manager, trainer whatever it is, tailback or quarterback. You need to go out there and earn whatever you get. You need to earn the jersey you are wearing and make a big deal about that."

Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell has the biggest shoes to fill. For the past two years the former Midland standout has backed up Kirk Cousins. Maxwell will now step into a starting role.

"I think Andrew is very much like Kirk in a lot of ways," said Dantonio. "Their personalities, very faith driven, intelligent players, hard workers. Very good teammates and good leaders as well. With that being said, you have to be your own person too. You can't try to simulate somebody. You have to be your own person. But we're very fortunate to have him be as patient, really, as he's been throughout this process. He came here as a highly recruited young man, and from day one when he came in here he impressed. So it wasn't the type of thing where we had to sort of sit there and say well, hopefully he gets good enough. He's come here with an idea that he can be the guy, and this is his time. It's going to be very exciting to watch him."

Like quarterback, wide receiver is a position that has quality talent, but little experience.

"We've got guys here, I think, that could be game ready as well," said Dantonio. "We've got to get (Juwan) Caesar back healthy. He should be on a limited basis out there. He's not he's probably 80% right now with his foot, so it would be exciting to watch how he transitions through the spring. Bennie Fowler we've got to get back. He's a guy that played for us a lot in 2010, very good player. Arnett's situation is a little bit of an unknown. Tony Lippett should be a very good player. I think Keith Mumphery is a guy that's ready to explode on to the scene. We've got John Jakubik who is a walk on that's shown different things. A.J. Sims, a guy we red shirted last year, very exciting player that can get north, south quick. So we've got guys. But we don't have the experience and catches in games that these other guys who have left us have ... It will be important for our guys to work on their own after spring ball, throughout the summer and in August and the first couple games in fall camp will be important for them to get game experience as well. But I think they're very, very capable of giving us explosiveness out there in big plays."

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