Indianapolis — Seven Michigan State players are taking part in the NFL Combine this week, matching the most in school history.
It’s no surprise considering the success the Spartans have had under coach Mark Dantonio, especially since 2010 with three Big Ten championships, a four-game bowl winning streak and a spot in last season’s College Football Playoff.
But that’s just part of the reason so many Spartans are moving on to the next level. It appears the biggest reason is the fact Dantonio and his staff have gained plenty of respect in regards to having players ready for the NFL.
“A lot of guys admire Coach D and what he’s done and how he goes about his business,” center Jack Allen said.
Allen is joined at the Combine by quarterback Connor Cook, wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, left tackle Jack Conklin, defensive ends Shilique Calhoun and Lawrence Thomas, and defensive tackle Joel Heath.
Burbridge, the Big Ten receiver of the year in 2015, said he’s seen the respect NFL coaches have for Dantonio and his assistants, and much of it is because of the understanding he and his teammates have of the NFL game when they leave school.
“A lot of coaches I met with told us that Coach D and the staff get guys league-ready,” Burbridge said. “I was answering questions they didn’t expect me to know the answers.”
It also helps Michigan State runs more of a pro-style offense.
Cook said it’s one of the biggest reasons he feels ready to impress scouts.
“I think it’s the system I’ve been in for the last 41/2 years,” Cook said. “It’s been the same offense I’ve been able to run that entire time. I’ve done a lot of stuff from under center. Done the five-step drops, done the seven-step drops; naked, play-action pass rollouts. We have pro-style concepts, reading the whole field.
“And just being able to operate in the pocket, being able to get the ball from under center and just our concepts, I would say is what makes me most ready.”
Next in line
Michigan State has lost its share of receivers the past two seasons.
In 2015, Tony Lippett went in the fifth round to Miami as a cornerback and Keith Mumphery was taken in the fifth round by Houston. This year, Macgarrett Kings Jr. is gone along with Burbridge.
So, who will step in? Burbridge believes the Spartans are in good hands with senior R.J. Shelton and sophomore Felton Davis III.
“They’ll be fine,” Burbridge said. “Felton knew a lot as a freshman and was almost at our level with the football IQ. He’ll be fine. And with R.J. taking over, we all know what he can do.”
Dantonio also has four true freshmen coming in — Donnie Corley, Cameron Chambers, Justin Layne and Trishton Jackson.
Allen has been busy since arriving in Indianapolis, meeting with several teams — including the Lions — while preparing to hit the field. He has been working out in Santa Ana, Calif., and admitted life away from school has been an adjustment.
“It’s definitely been different,” Allen said. “Right now for most of us we’re used to getting back in swing of things at school and winter conditioning. I miss being at Michigan State but at same time, this is a new and exciting process for me like it is for lot guys. It’s been different, but I’ve enjoyed it.”