Dantonio excerpts: Scott, Lewerke, MSU's 'underdog' status, more

The Detroit News

Excerpts from Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's press conference at Big Ten Media Days on Monday:

Question: LJ (Scott) has gone through a transformation where I'm sure there were moments throughout his career where you weren't sure he was going to get to this point representing your team at Big Ten Media Days. How has he matured to get to this point?

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio speaks at the Big Ten Media Days on Tuesday.

Dantonio: I think when you bring players here, it's an opportunity for them to come. Sometimes it's an opportunity for growth. Sometimes it's an opportunity to take another step in their leadership.

For LJ, I wanted him to see the size, the scope of the Big Ten Conference and understand what playing at Michigan State and playing in this conference means. He's been extremely successful. He made a statement that he was coming back immediately after our bowl game, after our bowl win this past season, our tenth win. And I think that warranted this opportunity.

He's done a nice job academically. He's played for us for four years. There's no question that he's a guy that is an outstanding football player. And I wanted to see him grow as a person.

I think this is an opportunity for growth to be able to listen stand up here and talk to people. It's something that he's going to have to get to used to. And he does it at home obviously and he does it after games. But this is another scope.

LJ Scott is expected to carry Michigan State's backfield in 2018.

So that was my thought process in bringing him here today. Along with him being a great player and a great person as well.

Q: Obviously you've had success during your tenure there with quarterback such as Brian Hoyer, (Kirk) Cousins and (Connor) Cook. With Brian Lewerke, he has a different skill set, but how do you see him going to the next step to the NFL like those guys did?

Dantonio: Well, first of all, I think Brian brings a unique skill set to Michigan State. From my perspective, as a quarterback, you have to be able to create. When things break down, you have to be able to create, through leadership, whether it's quick decisions and throwing mechanics, or whether it's with his feet.

He does a combination of both. Was very successful last year, very productive last year to get 2,800 yards, 20 touchdowns, and maybe ran for 500-plus and five touchdowns.

Very productive football player. What he brings to the table, though, is the ability to stay calm and collected in times of uncertainty, I guess.

That's what's very impressive from Day 1 when he started out there as a true red-shirt freshman quarterback in '16 before he was injured to last season.

Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke earned Big Ten preseason honors Monday.

He just has that ability. He has the ability to get out of problems. Doesn't take himself too seriously, which sometimes that's a positive as well. And I think he has a great future ahead of him.

He's got some work to do before he gets to the NFL like those other guys. Those other guys are proven commodities. But I think that he's a rising star.

Q: We haven't seen a roster yet; do we have any update on Jon Reschke's status and any other personnel updates right now?

Dantonio: Yeah, we'll put out a roster here later on this morning, I think. But in regards to Jon Reschke, he was an individual player that played for us in '16, was injured. Made a statement and was suspended from our football team in the spring or in the winter of 2017 and was done.

Publicly apologized for insensitive remark that he made. Graduated from Michigan State. Was intent — blew out his knee was intent on going to another school. Had to apply for a sixth year. At that point in time, we started asking ourselves as a program, not me, but as players as well, did we want him back in our program or did we not.

I've always tried to do what's right, and I've always tried to look at everything that was — always tried to look at everything in its completeness, what best affects that young man and his future, whether it was Demetrius Cooper last year or whether it was situations at other times.

So I put it to our football team and allowed them to take part, become part of the process, and that's what it's been, it's been a process, and it's an ongoing process.

Whether it comes to fruition or not remains to be seen. But it's been a step-by-step process. And I talked to our football team and our players and said: Hey, if you guys want him back, then you have to bring him back. It has to be a decision made by our African-American players, led by them. It has to be — they have to support that.

But I think college football, and teams in general — when I talk about "teams," talking about soccer teams, football teams, whatever — they have an opportunity to step forward collectively as a group and make statements relative to society, I think, year by year. Sometimes they're impactful. Sometimes they're not.

Linebacker Jon Reschke is back on Michigan State's roster.

But the one thing I want our football players to understand and to learn from is that —  and to grow as people from is that they're going to have to handle big, big issues at times, such as standing for the flag or not, things we've endured at Michigan State in this past year, they're going to be a part of that, and they're going to have to weigh in on things.

And I'm going to have to listen to them and listen to them weigh in on it and make decisions, ultimately. I'll ultimately have to make decisions.

But I have individuals that I'm concerned about. I'm concerned about people's families. I'm concerned about how they live their life. Jon Reschke makes the decision he wants to come back, he's trying to look things in the eye and ask for forgiveness.

Our football team has forgiven him, I think. If they haven't, that's something we'll deal with on an ongoing basis. It's been a step-by-step process. Brought him back, let him be around a bit in summer camp and watch, not summer camp, but our conditioning areas, then we let him partake in that conditioning. We watched to see how he interacted with players that listened to our football team since January, our leadership group, our entire team. Every month I've revisited the situation and asked them how do they feel; do they still feel the same; they'll need to speak up and talk about this issue.

And I'm allowing, hopefully allowing, healing to take place among our players and this situation. So I'll always do the best I can in that endeavor, and we'll take a step-by-step approach. But these things occurred over a year and a half ago. And he's not on scholarship, nor will he be on scholarship.

And I think that's a big thing. He paid an ultimate price by being out of football for a year. And he's lost his scholarship. He's suffered a knee injury. We'll see how he comes out of it. And this will be a story to watch maybe as we move forward.

But I think it's a learning opportunity for our football team and it's an opportunity for growth as people and as a society. So that's what we're going to do, and we're going to see what happens.

Q: Is he on the roster?

Dantonio:Right now he's on the roster, but it's a step-by-step process, the first step was for him to be able to complete what we call our bottom line program which has been completed. Next step will be does he come to camp or not. But at this point in time, all indications from my players is that they want him in camp.

And I'll try and honor our football team and see what we can do. But that's the process. Step-by-step process.

Q: Year over year you talk about learning. What did you learn most from last season?

Dantonio: We were able to get up off the mat; that's what I was most proud of. That we were able to deal with the problems that were at hand, all the different situations that we had to experience after last season coming off a tough season, coming off a season where we had situations last spring we had to deal with. All the things that Michigan State has encompassed, the change.

And yet we were able to refocus ourselves. And, again, winning is just a product of what you do and how you do it. Winning doesn't just happen. It involves so much more than just catching a pass.

MSU football coach Mark Dantonio talks with media before a spring practice in East Lansing.

But our ability to work as a group and to overcome, and we've had very little experience last year, to overcome our challenges and be in the hunt for a championship in November told me a lot about our people as individuals.

Told me that we had winners off the field, not just on the field. And incredibly proud of our players, the decisions they've made on and off the field, the opportunities they've taken to be part of the healing process at Michigan State, to our survivors, things of that nature, and how they've gone about their business.

Ultimately it's about choices, and our guys are making good choices every single day right now. We're asking them to make critical -- that critical moment of choice, make the right decision. And our guys are doing that, and I couldn't be proud of who they are as people and how they've responded.

And the 10 wins last year is just an indication of that response.

Q: You talked about the 10 wins, the number of starters that you have coming back, but it doesn't seem like there's a lot of talk outside maybe the program about Michigan State this year. Do you feel that you're flying still under the radar a little bit?

Dantonio: I don't know. I think that somebody said we were No. 5 ranked in the country. Another one said 10, another said 12, another said 15. It just so happens we're in a great conference. Very strong conference. On the east side there's a lot of strength in that area as well.

We're in a very competitive conference that will be decided by inches in a lot of ways. So that's the nature of it. But I think that we get more than our share of publicity, good and bad.

Q: You've touched on a little bit of the upheaval and controversy that's happened at Michigan State over the last year plus. One of the things you and coaches have talked about over the years is the consistency across the leadership at the university. That's changed, of course, with Bill Beekman taking over as athletic director. How do you see the framework of Michigan State's athletic leadership helping you and the rest of the athletic program to grow from everything that's happened over the course of the last couple of years?

Dantonio: First of all, I think Bill Beekman has been on a five-month interview process, which is challenging in itself. I think now he has the opportunity to become a — have one focus, as I said last week. He's got a unifying presence within our athletic department and I think within our university. He's very well versed relative to our deans, our administration, our athletic department, our coaches.

He's made an outstanding effort to get to know everybody personally, spend a lot of time with everyone. I've seen him make decisions as an interim athletic director and have been very impressed with those decisions to try and keep the ball moving.

We need one person right now at that position that is full time, one focus, full time, to be able to move the rock, be able to move our program, which is a big program. As is all the programs here. He'll move these people forward.

And I think he's the guy. He's a Michigan State alum. He understands Michigan State thoroughly. And it would be as if a guy came in and knew everybody here and their families, everybody here and their families as opposed to somebody walking in and not knowing the people.

So it gives him a tremendous advantage where to look for resources and where to look for help to be able to push this thing forward and help us unify to move forward. I've been impressed.