Spartans coach Mark Dantonio talks about last year's letdown and what has to happen in order to have a championship season.
Chicago — While Mark Dantonio’s name might show up on a list of college football coaches who might be in the hot seat, the Michigan State coach has no plans of giving up his gig anytime soon.
Entering his 11th season leading the Spartans, Dantonio is facing one of his tougher tasks — getting Michigan State to bounce back from a 3-9 season a year ago while overcoming a host of off-field issues that have plagued them the last few months.
But walking away like his good friend Bob Stoops did a few weeks back when he stepped down as coach at Oklahoma isn’t in the cards for Dantonio.
“I really haven’t (thought about it),” Dantonio, 61, said when asked if he knows how long he’ll keep coaching. “When you hit 45 you talk about those things but I haven’t put a timetable on it. I feel good physically, mentally. I love our players and like seeing people reach their potential. I like seeing people reach their performance level, not just as players but as a person.”
Dantonio said he has spoken with Stoops who said, “the time was right.”
That time hasn’t come yet for Dantonio, who will be working to restore not only success on the field but also the image of the Michigan State program.
To him, it’s what he was hired to do when he took over before the 2007 season.
“Eleven years ago I was hired here to reform a culture and our mission was to win championships and graduate players and do things right,” Dantonio said. “We'll re-establish ourselves in all three of those areas.
“There will be challenges along the way. I don't think there's any question about that. But we established ourselves as a championship program inch by inch. There was nothing ever given to us and that's how we've handled it. That's how we've taken it. We have to go back to that mindset, understand that things don't come easy.”
Michigan State will be playing its share of young players this season and cornerback is one of those spots. There’s a good chance that the starters in the season opener will include a sophomore who started last season as a receiver and a true freshman.
Justin Layne made the flip from offense to defense last season and started five games at corner while Josiah Scott enrolled early and had a solid spring. It was solid enough that Dantonio sees him ready to make an immediate contribution.
“I think Josiah Scott has sort of set himself into a starting position,” Dantonio said. “He had a tremendous spring. He’s and early incoming freshman and reminds me a lot of Darqueze (Dennard) in terms of how he handles things. Very on point. He’ll be an excellent player for us.”
Layne played some receiver in the spring but will be stick with defense at this point.
“We’ll focus on defense right now,” Dantonio said, “but he has Trae Waynes ability.”
Spartans coach Mark Dantonio talks about getting his freshmen prepared during a one-week minicamp and integrated with the rest of players over the summer.
There has been one significant position switch since the end of last season — linebacker Brandon Randle has moved to defensive end.
It’s a position of need for the Spartans and Dantonio believes Randle, who redshirted last season, can make an impact for a team that had just 11 sacks last season.
“He’s a 4.4 guy, a 4.5 guy that weighs 230, 235 and can be a factor,” Dantonio said. “He can be a guy. He’s gotta continue to come. There are a lot of guys like that.”
Class in session
Dantonio said all 24 members of the 2017 recruiting class should be ready by the time the team reports this weekend and begins practice on Monday.
The only player that still needs to be cleared is defensive back Shakur Brown, who signed late and is completing a class but is expected to do so before practice starts.
“He was a punt returner, a very exciting wide receiver and a corner,” Dantonio said. “He has a high ceiling.”
Recruit makes choice
Chase Kline of Chardon, Ohio, will announce his college commitment today. The 6-foot-3 linebacker set to enter his senior season said just days ago Michigan State was at the top of his list. He’s also considering Minnesota, Boston College and Cincinnati.
Kline is rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com and a three-star at 247sports and Scout.com. He is the 25th-ranked outside linebacker in the nation, according to 247sports.