Spartans’ full-pad day a benchmark

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Michigan State is into its second week of spring practice, and Tuesday the Spartans put full pads on for the first time.

It’s always an important day to gauge where the team stands more than five months before the season opener, and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio made sure there was at least some hitting during the 2-1/2-hour practice.

“We went live three short periods,” Dantonio said. “It’s the only way to get better.

“There were some good things, especially toward the end of practice. There was a little rust on us initially, but we’ll get better. A lot of guys got an opportunity to play, so it was a good day.”

It was an especially good day for players bouncing back from injuries.

Two players Dantonio is counting on — left tackle Dennis Finley and cornerback Vayante Copeland — took part in practice with little to no limitations.

Copeland, who fractured a vertebra in his neck in Week 2 last season, took part in the entire practice and got his first tackle on wide receiver R.J. Shelton.

“I didn’t come down and kill anybody,” Copeland said, laughing. “It was just good getting back out there. It felt pretty good.”

Copeland, who earned the starting job as a redshirt freshman, doesn’t have any hesitation getting back on the field despite the fact he suffered a similar injury in high school.

“I just have to play out there,” Copeland said. “If I’m going to get hurt I’m going to get hurt. I just have to push through. It feels good being out there, so I’m playing.”

It’s not exactly the same feeling for Finley.

He got his first start last season as a sophomore when Jack Conklin was out with a knee injury. But in the same game, Finley suffered a broken leg and was out for the season.

Finley said he’s taking part in most of spring practice, but expects to be 100 percent by this summer. He also admits to getting over a mental block as he works his way back.

“The biggest thing is fear,” Finley said. “Fear that you’re coming back from a big injury, fear that you don’t do too much to worsen anything. The biggest thing is trusting that it healed fine and that when I do come back it will be 100 percent and ready to go.”

Quarterbacks battle

Dantonio is still a long way from making any conclusions in the quarterback battle that includes fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor, junior Damion Terry, redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke and freshman Messiah deWeaver.

Dantonio, though, has been impressed by deWeaver.

“Messiah deWeaver looked like a guy that has got a great future ahead of him,” Dantonio said. “It was the first day of pads and people start coming at all angles, but he handled it.”

Dantonio added the quarterbacks were not live Tuesday, something he has done in the past during spring practice.

“Not today,” Dantonio. “Almost, out of frustration. But they did nice job today.”

Extra points

Sophomore receiver Felton Davis has a hand injury and will be limited. Dantonio is unsure if the injury will keep Davis out all spring.

“It’s unfortunate but he did receive coaching all year so he’s a little ahead of the game,” Dantonio said. “He played last year and was in the mix so was coached at a high level for months.”

... Defensive back Jalen Watts-Jackson, who fractured his hip scoring the winning touchdown against Michigan, was back Tuesday.

“I know he’s a tough guy and wants to be out here and worked extremely hard,” Dantonio said. “He looked good. He ran with the threes today, but that may change tomorrow. He looked good.”