Draft more evidence MSU is 'selling results'
East Lansing – "We're selling results. We're not selling hope."
It's obvious that will be one of Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio's mantras moving forward.
He used it on National Signing Day in February. He used it during spring practice. And after Michigan State had four players taken in last weekend's NFL draft, there it was again.
But, quite frankly, it's hard to argue with Dantonio. The results on the field have been clear – with 53 wins in the last five years, a couple of Big Ten championships, four straight bowl victories and top-five national rankings the past two seasons, Dantonio has turned Michigan State into a program that is a consistent contender in the Big Ten and increasingly becoming a factor on the national stage.
The four players taken in the NFL draft – Ohio State (five) was the only Big Ten team with more – are simply the latest example of those results.
"We've won bowl games," Dantonio said Monday. "We've won a championship. We've won a Rose Bowl. We finished in the top five this year. Our players are being drafted. We're graduating our players. There's a lot of positive momentum."
Waynes leads way
The momentum was obvious on Thursday when Trae Waynes became the second straight Michigan State cornerback to be take in the first round when the Minnesota Vikings took him 11th overall. That was followed by three more players on Saturday, led by running back Jeremy Langford going to the Chicago Bears in the fourth round.
Wide receiver Tony Lippett was taken in the fifth round by the Miami Dolphins, though they plan to use him as a defensive back, and wide receiver Keith Mumphery was selected in the fifth round by the Houston Texans.
"I don't think you get to where we are at in the Rose Bowls and Cotton Bowls, things of that nature, without having great players," Dantonio said. "So I think the two sort of go hand in hand. But I counted up the number of players that were in camps, that will go into camps in the last two years, and that number now is at 17.
"There's also about 18 guys that have played in the NFL actively since we've come back to Michigan State in 2007. So I think it speaks volumes about the caliber of players that are here and also that individual player and his skill set as well."
Dantonio was in Chicago on Thursday with Waynes and was joined by assistant coaches Harlon Barnett and Brad Salem. He called it a "life moment" and added that getting two straight corners taken in the first round – Darqueze Dennard went No. 24 overall last year to Cincinnati – "validates our program."
Throughout the weekend, NFL coaches and executives that selected Michigan State players praised that program.
"I think that they do a great job at Michigan State on developing their guys and developing in their system," Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman said. "To me, it's an advantage when you get a guy from Michigan State."
Versatility is big at Michigan State, and it played a role in the drafting of Lippett.
The Big Ten's Receiver of the Year was selected by the Dolphins as a cornerback, a spot he played as a redshirt freshman in 2011 but didn't return to until the final three games of his career.
Dantonio, a defensive backs coach earlier in his career, sees plenty of potential for Lippett on defense.
"He's big and he's long, and he's got tremendous ball skills, out of the corner of his eye and that ability to time things up," Dantonio said. "I think those are things that are very difficult to teach at times. So he's got a good understanding of offensive schemes and offensive football, having been a quarterback (in high school) and now been a wide receiver, so he studied defenses. ... We flipped him back over there (defense) the last three games, and he just transitioned like he didn't even miss a beat."
Langford will benefit, as well, from his days on defense as a redshirt freshman and his time on special teams.
"What's so impressive about Jeremy is he played on special teams all the way through his junior year," Dantonio said. "He ran down on kickoffs. He's a tackler. He was physical at the point of attack on certain things, relative to blocking, getting off blocks. And he would run and hit. I think that will serve him well as he's a young player in the NFL."
Mumphery was a bit under the radar and surprised some by going in the fifth round.
"He's a big-play guy, quick-strike guy, great speed," Dantonio said. "He's big. He's physical. Another guy that can play a lot of positions for you relative to special teams."
Dantonio said he was surprised safety Kurtis Drummond and linebacker Taiwan Jones did not get drafted. They have agreed to free-agent deals, Drummond with Houston and Jones with the New York Jets. Defensive end Marcus Rush also agreed to sign with the 49ers and tight end Andrew Gleichert with the Eagles.