Fans get a look at the 2017 Michigan State football team at Spartan Stadium. Dale G. Young / The Detroit News
East Lansing – If preseason camp seemed a bit longer this season, that’s because it was.
Normally a four-week process, college football teams this season were forced to push that process out further as Michigan State went to five weeks. It was all to try to fit in the limit of 29 preseason practices without having two practices in a day, something the NCAA banned last spring.
While Michigan State hadn’t regularly had two-a-days in quite some time, the new format allowed the Spartans to add in a day off each week, something that proved to be a big hit.
“I would say it was a little bit more fun,” senior offensive lineman Brian Allen said of camp, which broke on Thursday. “Having the Sunday off, we've all talked about it. If we had to go five weeks, we'd rather go five weeks with a Sunday off. It's not as long or drawn out. You have something to look forward to on Sundays. You have a break and then Monday is like a fresh start. I think the general consensus of the team was that everyone liked the Sundays off and the extra week.”
Coach Mark Dantonio said throughout camp how much the day off helped, as well as getting more time for meetings and walk-throughs.
“You know I like the day off,” Dantonio said. “I think that the day off gave our players a sense of freshness that next week. When you go every single day, I think that gets very monotonous. It's a little bit long, but I think that there's a lot of learning done and I think that we really played the hand that was dealt and I am happy with the camp.
“We still won't use all of our practices. We'll use almost all of them, but I think we'll have 27 or 28. But I think it was a good camp and the one day really helped us.”
Dantonio gave his players two days off before they return to practice Sunday to begin preparation for the Sept. 2 opener against Bowling Green. That time off has always been something the Spartans have done. And while players that live close by were able to head home for a couple days – senior RB Gerald Holmes watched his alma mater Flint Carman-Ainsworth play Grand Blanc on Thursday night – others were taking advantage of the down time.
Allen, however, had a simpler plan.
“I'm excited to just kind of lie in my bed and do nothing,” he said with a laugh.
It wasn’t much different for fellow captain Chris Frey. The senior linebacker was looking forward to spending time with his fiancé, Montana Henry, and taking his dog, Drama, for walks.
“‘Entourage’ is my favorite show,” Frey said, explaining how he named his Great Dane. “So he’s named after one of my favorite characters.”
s each player takes a couple days to decompress, they’ll be able to take stock of what was accomplished over the past month.
For Allen, it was about locking in as the starting center for the first time.
“I've never really had the center position, it's never been mine,” Allen said. “I never had to focus on center. I've always been thrown in there and I'll get by that week and then I'll be back in my guard spot. It's the first time it's been mine. I think I really grew in it. I've always been more comfortable at guard than center; I always knew the plays better at guard than center. I was playing center for spring ball and now and I feel like I'm at the same mindset that I was at guard, so it's just a confidence thing for now.”
Frey believes the whole team has that confident mindset, the misery of last season now a memory and the focus on proving Michigan State is still a player in the Big Ten.
“We're back. Last year isn't who we are,” Frey said when asked what was the most significant development in camp. “It was a phase that we're past and we're ready to get back to winning games and to be in contention of winning the Big Ten championship.”