MSU head coach Mark Dantonio discusses coaching changes, a one-week minicamp for freshmen, and players' community work in elementary schools.
East Lansing — The losses keep piling up for the Michigan State football team.
Spartans coach Mark Dantonio announced Tuesday that junior cornerback Vayante Copeland is no longer with the program, becoming the ninth player to either leave or be dismissed this offseason.
Dantonio wouldn’t get into specifics about what led to Copeland’s departure.
“There's certain things you got to be able to make as you process yourself through from junior to senior (year) and things of that nature,” Dantonio said. “I wish Vayante the best, but he's not going to be able to be here.
“Vayante has done a great job here. He was not thrown off the football team.”
Copeland’s departure is another blow for the Spartans, particularly in the depleted secondary. He started seven games over the past two seasons during his injury-riddled career.
Copeland played in seven games last year, with five starts, and recorded 36 tackles, two pass breakups and an interception before he missed the final five games after a broken foot cut his redshirt sophomore season short.
As a redshirt freshman in 2015, Copeland started the first two games of the season before he suffered a fractured vertebra against Oregon in Week 2 and missed the rest of the season.
Copeland’s exit creates another hole in the defensive backfield that was already in a state of flux. After the Spartans lost safety Montae Nicholson to the NFL and Demetrious Cox and Darian Hicks to graduation, safety Demetric Vance was dismissed from the team last week after being charged with sexual assault, safety Kenney Lyke and receiver/cornerback Kaleel Gaines both transferred last month, and cornerback Tyson Smith’s status is unknown after he revealed he suffered a stroke last season.
“I have my concerns about whether he's able to play again or not but that's an ongoing process,” Dantonio said of Smith. “Certainly he's been a good player for us but I don't know enough to speak to his medical situation. We'll see what happens.”
However, Michigan State’s growing list of departures could add another name. Dantonio said a decision on senior defensive end Demetrius Cooper’s future with the team will be made soon.
Cooper has been dealing with ongoing legal issues after he was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery stemming from a late October incident where he was accused of spitting on an East Lansing code enforcement officer.
Dantonio said he would confer with others regarding Cooper’s status but he will make the ultimate decision.
“That's an ongoing process. I'm going to have to see,” Dantonio said. “I have not made a final decision on that but we have talked at length about that. I just have not made a final decision and he's paying the consequences. He's been out for six months but I have not made that decision yet. That's forthcoming shortly.”
In 38 career games, Cooper has 55 tackles, including 14.5 for loss and 8.5 sacks. He started 11 of 12 games last season and had 23 tackles with six coming for loss along with 2.5 sacks. Cooper is projected to be a starter if he returns.
In addition to Copeland, Vance, Lyke and Gaines, receiver Donnie Corley and defensive ends Josh King and Auston Robertson were dismissed following two separate sexual assault cases, linebacker Jon Reschke left the team in the winter after making an insensitive comment to a former teammate, and offensive lineman Thiyo Lukusa left in February saying he no longer wanted to play football.
Dantonio said he doesn’t expect any more roster changes before camp begins next month.
QB Brian Lewerke, LB Chris Frey and QB Damion Terry say they're on a mission to have a great season and succeed in the classroom.
Dantonio announced that offensive line coach Mark Staten has been promoted to assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator and Sheldon White will serve as the director of player personnel.
Dantonio said Staten, who is entering his 11th season with Michigan State and 14th as an assistant under Dantonio, will maintain his role working with the offensive linemen and Harlon Barnett will remain an associate head coach.
“I think the main thing is I felt like we still wanted Staten to be kept in the recruiting area as well so he sort earned that title,” Dantonio said. “He's done a lot of different things outside of the football realm in the community and talks throughout the state. I just felt like now is the time to make that move.”
White worked in the Detroit Lions’ front office for 19 years before he was hired by Michigan State as a program consultant last July.
“Obviously he's been in the league, he's played in the league and he's also been a scout and front office person so I think he knows things from top to bottom and gives us a great person to bounce things off of especially in terms of player development and player expertise,” Dantonio said. “I think he's just a great person, his attention to detail, his son (freshman receiver Cody White) is already committed to come here so it wasn't a conflict or anything like that but it gives him an opportunity to be a part of Michigan State."
Dantonio said former Spartans defensive end Cassius Peat didn’t meet the necessary requirements to return to Michigan State.
Peat was planning to rejoin the team before he said he was told not to come last week and wasn’t given an explanation.
“It's unfortunate what was written,” Dantonio said. “We've been in contact with Cassius throughout the semester and certain things that you got to be able to get done before you can come back. So it's one of those things, but I don't want to speak bad about anybody.”
Dantonio added there’s no chance Peat would join the program this fall.
… Dantonio said incoming freshman defensive end Lashawn Paulino-Bell won’t report until July 5 and “is still on the mend” as he continues to recover from an April Jet Ski accident in the Bahamas.