'We're game ready,' MSU's Dantonio says

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Last week, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said his team was game ready three weeks into spring practice.

After the first scrimmage Friday, one in which the defense got the best of the offense, Dantonio hasn't changed his stance.

"We're game ready," he said Tuesday. "I think we can go out and play a game tomorrow. I think we have enough players to be able to do that. We worked hard on special teams and things of that nature.

"Are we going to play well enough to win a championship? Not right now. But we are game ready and we can play."

Judging by the numbers produced Friday, there doesn't appear to be any dropoff in production.

Safety Montae Nicholson, who will be a sophomore this fall, returned two interceptions for touchdowns, while Darian Hicks added another for a defense that still is fairly deep despite needing to replace a pair of starters in the secondary and at middle linebacker.

"We've got a lot of players who have performed on game day before," Dantonio said. "All those things are positive things and that's why I made that statement."

It isn't all on defense, either.

Michigan State must replace plenty of skill-position players, including running back Jeremy Langford and receivers Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery. But Connor Cook is back for his final season at quarterback and the offensive line is in good shape.

Cook threw two interceptions to Nicholson.

"I think they were great plays," Dantonio said. "They were great plays by Nicholson. … We've got a very experienced quarterback and we've got two others guys who are very experienced in the system. I think that helps a lot."

Michigan State will continue spring practice this week, and the Green and White game is 2 p.m. April 25.

'Pretty good springs'

Wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, who will be a senior, did not take part in the scrimmage with an undisclosed injury.

Burbridge is listed as a starter on the spring depth chart and will be in the mix to be one of Cook's primary targets, along with Macgarrett Kings and R.J. Shelton.

"I think Kings could be (a top target)," Dantonio said. "Shelton could be. Been impressed with Monty Madaris, AJ Troup and then DeAnthony Arnett is making a move as well. ... And we've got some young players coming, but those are the guys that seem to be pushing out there and having pretty good springs."

Punter prospects good

It's been a few years since Michigan State had to think about which player would be punting, but the graduation of Mike Sadler has them in that position for the first time in four years. Sadler kicked from 2011-14, which followed four straight seasons with Aaron Bates.

The Spartans believe their next four-year punter is redshirt freshman Jake Hartbarger, the top-ranked punter in the nation in 2013, according to

"I think the spring game is gonna be big for him, to be able to punt with a lot of people in the stands, those types of things," Dantonio said.

"But he's got a great leg ... he just needs to be consistent. And I think that's a little bit being a freshman, having it all on him right now. ...

"We've had a great track record here of great punters ... and he'll follow in (their) footsteps."

Checking him out

Gerald Owens, a 6-foot-2, 263-pound running back who redshirted last season, was playing defensive line Tuesday. He has been drawing raves from teammates for his physical running style, but he could end up on defense.

"(He is a) big-bodied, explosive guy," Dantonio said. "We wanna see what he can do."

Green and White game

Kickoff: 2 p.m. April 25, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing


Admission/parking: Free

Free youth clinic: Kids 8-12 meet from 10-11:30 a.m. on field behind the Duffy Daugherty Football Building.