Dantonio: Spartans are ready to start season

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — The opener is still more than two weeks away, but Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio believes his team will be ready to take the field by the end of this week.

“They’re game ready, I think, at the end of this week,” Dantonio told the Big Ten Network, which was at Michigan State on Tuesday. “The next thing is to get them ready and get them healthy and get them to the game.”

Getting his team to opening night against Western Michigan on Sept. 4 as healthy as can be is one of the main goals the next couple weeks. And aside from the loss of fifth-year senior linebacker Ed Davis, the Spartans have been relatively healthy.

Big Ten Network analyst Tom Dienhart wrote that junior right tackle Kodi Kieler was held out of practice Tuesday and fifth-year senior defensive lineman Lawrence Thomas was wearing yellow, but both appeared fine at the “Meet the Spartans” that night.

“Right now we’re focusing on camp, and making it through camp,” defensive end Shilique Calhoun said. “That’s our first goal, make it through camp healthy.”

What might be just as important as avoiding injuries will be keeping from getting complacent after two straight seasons that ended with a top-five national ranking.

It’s something Dantonio guards against on a daily basis.

“You line them up and put pressure on them in practice and that’s what we try to do,” Dantonio said. “If you’re complacent, you can’t hold on to your position. We’ve not had a problem with that because we push it in practice.”

And it hasn’t been a problem during Dantonio’s tenure because of the way he has motivated the Spartans.

In the past, few believed Michigan State to be true contenders. Now, after winning at least 11 games four of the past five seasons and a top-10 preseason ranking, there are more believers.

That, however, hasn’t changed the approach of the Spartans. After an offseason full of attention focused on defending national champion Ohio State and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan State finds itself being almost overlooked.

And it’s how the Spartans like it.

“I still come out with a chip on the shoulder and try to be the best quarterback out here,” quarterback Connor Cook said. “Winning the Cotton Bowl was fine and dandy, but the ultimate goal here at Michigan State is to win the conference.”

If that happens, it could lead to a spot in the College Football Playoff.

“We’re reaching our goals, but we want to keep driving for other goals as we move forward,” Dantonio said. “We have consistency, we have confidence, and everybody works toward that on a daily basis.

“Complacency has not been a question here because we have great senior leadership. Our seniors learn from the guys that come before them. They see and understand how difficult it is to remain on top.”