East Lansing – Mark Dantonio knows a little something about losing on the big stage.
It was just last December when Michigan State reached the semifinals of the College Football Playoff, only to get shut out, 38-0, to eventual national champion Alabama.
So Dantonio can certainly understand what Tom Izzo is going through after the basketball team was upset by 15-seeded Middle Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
However, Dantonio is convinced the health of both programs is sound, and neither the football team nor the basketball team is altering its goals moving forward.
“Coach Izzo really is the face of Michigan State athletics for the last 20 years, he really is,” Dantonio said on Monday with spring practice set to begin Tuesday. “The amount of impact that he's had on people has obviously been very significant. So I think coaches are judged in a couple of ways. They're judged by their players: Do you make them better players, do you make them better people? And I think they're also judged by their peers: What kind of longevity do you have, what kind of success do you have, how do you run your program? At the end of it all, you win and you lose. Losses are tough to stomach sometimes, but I don't think it in any way defines that program.
“It's tough to deal with. But sometimes things happen that make you stronger, I think. Everybody learns, everybody grows.”
Sweat, Evans practicing
The Spartans on Tuesday will have the first of 15 practices, culminating with the Green and White game on April 23.
Dantonio said defensive end Montez Sweat and defensive tackle Craig Evans, who have dealt with internal discipline issues, are participating in spring practice.
There are also several players coming off injuries that will be involved over the next few weeks. Cornerback Vayante Copeland (neck) is full-go and is listed as a starter while offensive tackle Dennis Finley (leg) and linebacker Ed Davis (knee) are slowly getting back up to speed.
“I think especially Ed Davis is working back in,” Dantonio said. “Dennis Finley, as well. Vayante looks pretty good. He's gone through all of our winter conditioning program.”
Defensive back Jalen Watts-Jackson, the hero of the Michigan game, is “participating to some degree,” Dantonio said while recovering from his hip injury.
Williams at fullback
Senior running back Delton Williams is listed as the starter at fullback, and Dantonio said Williams will be back on scholarship this summer. He played last season without a scholarship after being arrested on a weapons charge the previous offseason.