February 1, 2012

Dantonio Verbatim: Signing Day transcript

EAST LANSING - Below is a transcript of Mark Dantonio's Signing Day press conference.

Q.  Michigan state is one of a handful of Big Ten schools that's giving four‑year scholarships.  Is that something each school decided to do on his own.  Is there encouragement from the league office or league wide?

Dantonio: "We have the opportunity to determine whether our players can be given four‑year scholarships or not.  That decision rested with me.  I felt, if we recruit a young man and we put our trust in him as an individual, that he deserves the opportunity to come here and play for four years.  We've never cut anybody off a scholarship here for not playing well enough.  That's our mistake if it happens.

"Right now, based on our record, I would say we have very, very few misses as recruiters here.  Our coaches have done an outstanding job doing that.  So we decided to do that.
Other Big Ten schools have and some haven't.  I think that's an individual decision people make.  We've not had much attrition here at all."

Q.  With Demetrious Cox, and his ability to star at quarterback in high school, is putting him in the Wildcat something you have talked about, something you used as a selling point?
"It is something we talked about.  We talked about making him a guy that learned how to play the secondary and then also be a guy that we can teach some things at the wide receiver position or even the tailback position.  I think he has tailback ability. 

"Certainly, if we put him in the wildcat position.  He's done that, he's played quarterback throughout his career at Jeannette.  He's a guy that has the ability to do that.

"When you see him and you watch him on a basketball floor or on a football field, he looks like a guy that's ready for NFL camp.  He's a guy that's extremely explosive.  He has great demeanor about him.  He's got a great sense of confidence about him.  That confidence is also, there's a sort of humbleness as well.  He's got great leadership ability.  He's extremely calm.  I look for him to have immediate impact on this program in a lot of respects.  I think that he'll show up in August ready to go."

Q.  With Edwin Baker leaving, does that mean Nick Tompkins has a chance as a possible guy to play next year?
"I think all of our players have a chance to come in.  Last year was the first time we really only played one freshman.  Prior to that, we would play six or seven freshmen a year.  Last year was a little bit different just based on the players we brought in because they were defensive linemen and offensive linemen.  I think we brought ten of those guys in.  They don't play quite as fast just because of the nature of the position.

"This year we bring in more skilled players, certainly the wideout position I talked about.  It's a position that we can have, and guys will be up ready to play.  And our numbers suggest they'll be able to play that.  Nick Tompkins, same thing with the numbers there, the tailback position is a little bit thinner with Edwin leaving.  We'll move Jeremy Langford back over there as well, who's a very, very good tailback as well.  Nick will get an opportunity.  His ability will warrant that as you see him as he comes forward here."

Q.  Do you feel like you are seeing momentum from what you guys have done on the field?  Are you seeing a change, seeing that translate on the recruiting trail?

"Absolutely.  I feel like we're competing on a high level.  We're competing nationally for guys.  When I go in and talk to a young man‑‑ it's very difficult.  The recruiting aspects are very difficult.  They can only pick one.  You know, as you go through this, it's tough.  It gets tough on a 17 or 18‑year‑old person to put their trust in one program, one coach, those type of things.

"But I think we're competing at a high level.  If you look at our players and you look at are we winning or are we losing?  That's what you have to look at.  Are we going out and recruiting an abundance of players?  We're trying to do that systematically and try to go through a process here and try to address our needs as a program.

"When you look at our defensive line right now and you see guys like Damon Knox and Joel Heath and James Kittredge, who we put on scholarship.  He transferred in here last year with the idea that we put him on scholarship in January.  He was a guy who started at Vanderbilt.

"You look at those guys, and they're all 275 pounds, pushing 280 right now, very good athletes, and so we're secure at that position.  You've got some other guys that obviously ‑‑ Rashad White and Micajah Reynolds and some other guys that can play in there.  So there's depth there right now.

"We have to always address the area of need, and that's what we were able to do this year, and that's the biggest thing that we're doing."

On Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett:

"DeAnthony Arnett is was one of the top guys we were recruiting last year at this time.  Made the decision to go to Tennessee, probably late in the process, probably in December or so.  Has decided to transfer back to Michigan State to be closer to family, for family reasons.  Outstanding football player. 

"He's a young man that I believe will certainly get on the field for us immediately, once hopefully a waiver clears.  If not, we'll wait for him to play. 

"I think he's a young man that's got maturity.  He's been coached on the college level.  He's got three years left to play.  Hopefully, he can play this year, but if not, we will wait for him anxiously, and he'll have an immediate impact on this program when he comes.

"He's been in camp, two camps here.  Great eye‑hand coordination, great ability to catch the ball and snatch it.  Punt returner, kick returner.  Like a lot of these guys, a great returner in that respect.  That's where we're at, I believe, at this point.

There are reports that another guy (WR Monty Madaris) has not yet signed. There are reports he did sign.  Can you give us an update?
"I'm waiting for those reports too.  That's all I can say about those things because I'm not able to talk about those things.  We went out and recruited four outstanding wide receivers and another four defensive backs and a wide receiver.  A tailback can play at the wide receiver position in a pinch.  We have numbers coming in, and we'll wait and see on that.  All I can do is wait and see what happens."

Dantonio's opening statement, earlier in the press conference:

"First thing I want to do is just sort of address our class, our team needs really. When you go out and you recruit, I don't think it's a science.  You look for things and people that are going to improve your football team.  Our football team last year, we had a tremendous class.  For one reason or another, because some of the guys we had, positions, et cetera, we redshirted everyone except for one freshman.  We played Taiwan Jones obviously.  So we redshirted our entire freshman class with the exception of one guy.

"So when you look at that, our team needs became different a little bit this year as opposed to last year.  Last year we took seven defensive linemen.  This year we're taking one.  Last year we took two defensive backs.  We took two wide receivers.  This year we're taking ten skilled players.

"So when you look at that and the process and the evaluation process, a lot of that has to do with who we are as a program and how we're going forward. 

"We've not signed a big class since we've been here.  I think we have a lack of attrition.  That's a good thing.  We don't have a lot of people coming into our program and leaving.
You look at 85 scholarships, do the math, if you have four and five classes, if you do the math, et cetera, you know you can sort of figure that one out. 

"Our bowl game, our 11‑win season, our Legends Champions, Outback Bowl champs, it all gave us momentum.  I again want to congratulate our football team, our past team, our seniors, et cetera, congratulate them on what they were able to do because I think that sets the tone for recruiting.

"Just like recruiting is basically going to set the tone for you as you move forward, tomorrow will be all about winter conditioning, and the next phase about spring practice.  And recruiting will lose a little bit of its tone.  It will be more on to the 2013 class.  With that, they helped us gain momentum going into this.

"The Senior Bowl, since we've not had a chance to talk publicly, the Senior Bowl, the East‑West game, the NFL players association bowl, we got five players playing in that, and I thought they represented Michigan State very, very well on a national scale, and I want to congratulate those guys.  Kirk Cousins, Trent Robinson, Brian Linthicum, B.J. Cunningham, who had an outstanding week of practice as well, and Keith Nichol.  So I want to congratulate them as well.

"When you start talking about a recruiting class right now, let's first talk about our defense.  We took two linebackers.  Last year we were able to take four.  Our linebackers we took this year, I'll talk a little bit more extensively about them as we go, but when you talk about our linebackers, Riley Bullough, Jamal Lyles, two outstanding players that, I think, show a lot of athletic ability.

"We took four defensive backs, two last year.  One defensive back, one defensive lineman, seven last year.  And one outstanding quarterback.  We took one last year as well.  But I'm going to start going through these guys individually, and after this, we can ask some questions as we go, and afterwards and sort of go from there."

On DB Demetrious Cox of Jeannette, Pa.
"Demetrious Cox is a young man, very highly recruited player, plays multiple positions, played quarterback for them this year, but is a guy that plays safety, can play star for us in our nickel package.  He can be a wide receiver as well.  He can be a tailback.  Benches 365 pounds, about 6'1", 200 pounds already.  Has scored his 1,000th point in basketball. 

"He's a black belt in karate.  Tremendous athlete, tremendous leader, I think, in the classroom and in his school.  Been involved in almost every aspect of high school from drama to everything else.

"He truly is a leader, and I think he's an impact player in all respects who was recruited by Mark Staten this recruiting class, this recruiting year.  His coach is Roy Hall.  A guy I watched play basketball.  I just can't say enough about him.  He was one of the lead guys and one of the guys that committed to us this past week.  Outstanding football player.  I do believe that he will be an immediate contributor.  Number 7, he will play for Michigan State next year."

On Jermaine Edmondson, a DB from Canton, Ohio:

"Rod Johnson was his coach.  Pat Narduzzi is the lead recruiting coach.  I think it's important to recognize that all of our players, current players, all of our coaches, the position coaches, the coordinators, the recruiting area coach, and everyone that he touched has an impact on a young person's deciding to come to a particular school.  Coach Narduzzi was his recruiter, but Harlon Barnett obviously had a big part in this as well, as he did with Demetrious Cox, et cetera.

"Jermaine's a young man that transferred from California to Canton, McKinley, which arguably is one of the better schools in Ohio, nationally known.  Plays in one of the top conferences in America, high school conferences.  Seems like every time he touches the ball great things happen.  He camped here, runs very, very well.  He's a taller guy, great ball skills, tackling ability.  Plays wide receiver as well, is a kick returner.

"Incidentally, all of our wide receivers and defensive backs all‑‑ and tailback all have kick returner, punt returner ability, which I think that's important to recognize as you lose a guy like Keshawn Martin and some of our other returners that we've had success with.

"As I said, Jermaine is an outstanding player, first team all‑state.  I don't have my glasses on so I can't read all of this up here.  First team all‑state, performer in the state of Ohio.  Will be playing in the all‑star games as well.  And I believe he'll be an immediate contributor as well on this football team.  Both these players are outstanding in their respect and were highly recruited players. 

"I believe that Cox could have went anywhere in America.  Jermaine probably had it down to ten schools but probably cut it down to Nebraska and us at the end.  Outstanding football player, outstanding track guy as well."

On DB Mark Meyers of Toledo:

"We had him in camp.  Anywhere you talk about in the State of Ohio and you talk about Toledo, Whitmer High School, who went to the semis, semifinals, I believe, against St. Ignatius, they talk about Mark Meyers.  Played safety at Whitmer all over the field, kick returner, punt returner, all over the field.  Was in camp, made plays in camp.  Made a decision to offer him later in the process but only because we wanted to‑‑ didn't know him quite as well as a person as we moved through the process.

"There was no question in terms of his athletic ability and his hitting ability, and the more we watched him on film, the more we saw these things.  Over 200 tackles in two years, and the guy is all over the place.  Plays wide receiver as well, is going to gain weight as he goes.  He's thin, 6‑foot, 180.  Another guy that runs track and does so many different things.  Whitmer is an outstanding program that I believe lost probably one game this year in the semifinals as we went forward.

"Recruited by Mike Tressel, and Coach Palka was his coach down there at Whitmer.  Again, Harlon Barnett had a large part to do with that as did Coach Narduzzi and all of our staff in the process here."

On CB Ezra Robinson of Sarasota, Fla.

"Recruited by Coach Barnett.  We did not have Ezra in camp.  However, when you watch the film and watch him as a junior, he's a guy that showed all the tangibles, that is, the deep ball judgment, the ability to tackle in space, the ability to change direction and run, and in all respects he did an outstanding job, I felt, in all respects as a defensive back.

"He's an outstanding person.  He's a 6'6" high jumper.  He's a 44‑foot triple jumper.  He excels in track as well.  Can't say enough about him as a person."

LB Riley Bullough of Traverse City:

"Riley Bullough is a guy that obviously is a third generation Spartan.  With his grandfather and his father playing here, his uncle playing here, they've all had tremendous success.  Max is playing here now, his brother.  He's a guy that's grown over the course of the last two years, 6'2", 220 pounds.  Broke his collar bone early in the season after the fifth game but had over 1,000 yards of offense at that time.  He's a quick bodied guy, tackles in space, has great ball skills.

"I've watched him play since coming here over a period of five years.  I've watched Riley in camp demonstrate over and over the toughness, the aggressiveness, the competitiveness, the ability to catch the ball, run, move in space, and I think he'll be an outstanding football player here, and I really do think he will be an immediate contributor as well, or at least have an opportunity to do those things.

"He's a very quick learner.  Great change of direction, great ability to snap on things.  Played safety as a junior, quarterback, has grown into the outside backer position.  So now he's big enough, firm enough, and he played with tremendous effort throughout the entire game.  So he will play for us and move to the outside linebacker position, which he's going to be an outstanding player."

LB Jamal Lyles of Southfield Lathrup:

"Jamal Lyles, the young man we saw at the Sound Mind and Body camp down in Detroit.  Four‑star player.  You guys can read up on all these different accolades.  Jamal, again, great ball skills, plays tight end, plays quarterback, wide receiver.  Tight end.  Flex tight end, outside backer, even played a little defensive back as a junior.  Has grown to 6'3", 230 pounds.  Has great ability to run.  I think he projects into a great football player for us.  Was coached by Stephon Thompson.  Brad Salem was the lead recruiter there.  Should do a tremendous job for us.

"Really excited about Jamal coming here.  Had other opportunities as well.  Tremendous upside.  When you look at him, he has the ability to possibly grow into a defensive end and be 250 pounds, if you look at his father.  If you look at him now, he's a guy that's very similar to Taiwan Jones we recruited last year.  Taiwan was the one freshman who got on the field for us last year.

"We recruited two linebackers this year, four last year.  Fred Davis, L.T. Thomas, Taiwan, and Darien Harris.  We were able to redshirt three of those guys, so five freshmen linebackers working in August next year."

DT David Fennell:

"The one defensive lineman that we recruited, David Fennell, a little bit of a unique recruiting story.  His father played for the Alouettes, and Jim Popp basically is the GM for the Alouettes, former head coach, goes to Oregon.  They decide to get him down into the U.S. to play his last year of high school football.  Just a tight circle really in terms of the people that we know.  Ted Gill coached for the coach that eventually went to Oregon.  It's a crazy circle.

"But David Fennell, out of nowhere, became an all‑conference player, all‑state player, and the MVP in the conference his senior year.  Great technician.

"His father played ten seasons and is in the Hall of Fame in the CFL.  Great hands, great footwork, great punch, plays extremely hard, has ability to change direction and run things down.  Played at 280 pounds at that point in time, weighs about 270 right now.  I think he will be a tremendous football player for us and be a three technique defensive tackle for us as we move forward."

OG Zach Higgins of Alliance, Ohio:

"Coached by Ed Miley.  Pat Narduzzi was his primary recruiter, and Coach Staten and Coach Roushar had a lot to do with that.  Outstanding athlete.  Was in camp with us, shows toughness.  I think he finished fifth in wrestling his junior year, was out with a knee in one of his last games his senior year.  So he's rehabbing that.

"Big body athletic guy.  He'll play offensive guard for us this year.  Again, with Jack Allen last year and Donovan Clark is another young player coming into this program that will pay dividends in the future.

"As always, the offensive line is difficult to grasp and learn as a young player, but you never know.  Zach is a tremendous worker, extremely strong."

OG Benny McGowan of Centerville, Ohio:

"Ron Ullery was his coach, Harlon Barnett, primary recruiter.  Our offensive coaches did a great job with that.  He was one of the guys invited to the Nike SPARQ camp, one of the top offensive linemen in the state of Ohio, as well as Higgins was as well.  Benny is a shotputter, he's sixth in the state in the big school division last year, also a discus thrower.
When you watch his film, he pancakes people.  He has tremendous drive, foot drive and leg drive.  I think he's an outstanding player.  Much of same things fit with Benny as does Zach due to just the position that he plays.  Both these guys are strong enough to play at this point now.  They're both 300‑pound guys.  They both bench press probably in excess of 350 pounds.  We're looking forward to both these guys coming and being a part of a great future on our offensive line.

"Primarily run blockers, as they were in high school.  Not many passes were thrown at either one of those schools, but those guys have a great ability to run with the flat back and punch."

OT Kodi Kieler of Gibraltar Carlson High:

"Very athletic, played on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, really caught my eye on defense due to his ability to run, change direction, big bodied guy, another 300‑pounder, 6'5" plus.  Another young man who throws the shot, et cetera.

"Had an opportunity to watch him play, not me personally, but our coaches did.  We were very impressed with him.  He's a young man that I think much fits in‑‑ like the other guys.  Tough, athletic, great future ahead of him in every respect.  We'll play him at offensive tackle.  Has the ability to move his feet and react.  So he'll do a great job for us."

TE Evan Jones of West Lafayette, Ohio:

"John Slusser is his coach.  Mike Tressel, primary recruiter.  Young man that plays on the defensive side of the ball as well, will get big.  Already weighs 250 pounds plus.  Can play at the point of attack very, very well.  Catches the ball very well.  Because of our needs at tight end, has an opportunity to be an immediate contributor, I feel, if he can learn the dynamics of the position.

"Outstanding football player, was one of the guys that we recruited last spring and offered in the spring.  Many of these guys were‑‑ in fact, almost every one of them we offered in the spring, which is a good sign in your class, I believe.  Evan will be a tremendous football player here and has a great future in front of him.  You'll be impressed with his film."

TE Josiah Price of Greentown, Ind.:

"Mismatch tight end type guy.  He's a guy that weighs about 225 right now because of basketball, spent a week in Honduras doing a mission trip.  Outstanding leader in his class.  Has caught almost 200 footballs in his career there, 190 catches in his four‑year career there, for over 1,100 ‑‑ 1,000 yards plus.  More of an H‑guy, move guy, guy that will catch the ball very, very well down the field.  A guy we had in camp, much like Evan, again fits a position in need so there's opportunity to play.

"Dave Warner was his recruiter, plays for Josh Edwards at Eastern High School in Greentown, Indiana.  But an all‑state player as well."

QB Tyler O'Connor of Lima, Ohio:

"Outstanding athlete.  Elite 11 athlete.  Went to the Elite 11 camp in California.  Had over 40 touchdowns, was involved in over 40 touchdowns as a junior and a guy that, I think, has great body mechanics, big, has ability to run, throws the ball on a rope.  He's going to be a big bodied quarterback, very fast learner, 3.8 grade point average.
Okay.  (Dantonio's cell phone rings. He answers it). Hold on.  Just other things going on, guys.

"So he's a young man that, I think, possesses all the ability to be an instant contributor as we move forward.  Will walk in the door as the number three quarterback.  Very, very excited about Tyler and everything he brings.  Outstanding basketball player as well, leader in the school, and was an all‑state player as well and took his team into, I believe, the state semifinals last year and this year.  You have the stats on him.  Great body mechanics and was in camp, did an outstanding job for us."

RB Nick Tompkins of Snellville, Ga.:

"He has the ability to play any place on the field, wide receiver, defensive back.  Extremely explosive.  Watch the film on him.  Every snap he takes, he goes the distance.  Great change of direction.  Very explosive.  Father played at Wisconsin.  Came down to us and about 20 other, 30 other schools, committed in the summer.

"Another young man that we offered in the spring did not camp here, but we watched him play.  Very excited about Nick, outstanding student.  Again, has that ability to go and create and really fall into any category.  He will play tailback for us, but we can do so many things with him as a kick returner, punt returner.  Very exciting guy to watch on film, very productive guy as a tailback and returner and et cetera.  Very excited.  Played at the highest level of football in Georgia, which if you watch the film, there's some other great players playing on those films.  Very excited about Nick Tompkins and what he brings to this football team, both on the field and off."

WR Aaron Burbridge of Farmington Hills Harrison:

"For the third straight year, Michigan State gets the top player, perceived top player by the media in the state of Michigan.  6'1", 190 pounds or more.  I've seen him play tailback, corner, wide receiver.  We expect him to be an immediate contributor on this football team, has great, great body control, catching ability, has size, has everything that you want as a wide receiver, breakaway threat, and comes from Harrison High School, where John Herrington is the coach, Brad Salem worked for‑‑ worked with Mill Coleman and is a product of Mill Coleman's as well as Herrington.  Played for state championships and won them.

"Outstanding player, outstanding person, and great play ability.  I can't say enough about Aaron Burbridge as a player.  If you watch him‑‑ and many of you probably already have‑‑ he's a guy that can go the distance any time he touches the football and should be a tremendous contributor.  Look for big things from him as we go.  Brad Salem, recruiter.  Terry Samuel, obviously, our wide receiver coach, had a lot to do with this as well."

WR Kyle Kerrick of Coatesville, Pa.:

"He is a young man on campus now (enrolled early at MSU).  6'3", 195 pounds, sitting in the back back there.  Say hi, Kyle.  Outstanding player.  Committed to us early in the process.  Took the opportunity to come in in January here.  Big body wide receiver, shows tremendous acceleration, ability to catch the football.  Again, because of his opportunity to come now and play in spring, should be an immediate contributor with our numbers.

"Last year we took two (wide receivers).  This year we're taking four, five, six, however many you want to look at really because there's so many players we're able to move back and forth in this capacity.

"Kyle's an outstanding person, and hopefully you'll get a chance to interview him afterwards, and you can talk with him at length about this.  With our wide receivers last year, we lost three and actually were able to‑‑ we lost three starting wide receivers really and two others in C.D. Rucker and Brad Sonntag.  So it is a position of need for us, and there's an opportunity to play immediately."

WR Macgarrett Kings of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.:

"Macgarrett reminds me a lot of Keshawn Martin in a lot of respects.  He's a guy that's a great punt returner, kick returner, has size 13 shoes.  About the size of Keshawn, electrifying runner and catch and receiver.  He's a guy that played tailback his junior year.  He's got the ability to run with the football.  Got the ability to throw the ball.  Gets in the wildcat offense as well but can do so many different things.  Again, another young man that I expect will be an immediate contributor.

"Had over 30‑some scholarship offers, committed earlier in the process, but outstanding person.

"In all due respect here, this sort of closes recruiting and sort of starts the next thing.  We've got the Super Bowl this week with Greg Jones playing in it from our 2010 football team, with Devin Thomas playing in it from our 2007 team, and with Brian Hoyer playing in in it from our 2008 team.  So we're very well represented.  So I want to congratulate them publicly as we move forward here.  I think it's important to recognize that our players had a lot to do with this recruiting class.  I would publicly like to thank our players and what they had to do with recruiting this class."

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