Dantonio says little about departed defensive linemen

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio didn't have much to say about the sophomore defensive linemen who left the team for personal reasons.

East Lansing — Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio wasn’t interested Tuesday in talking about Montez Sweat and Craig Evans.

The sophomore defensive linemen left the team for personal reasons. And each had their share of disciplinary problems — Evans was suspended for spring workouts last year and Sweat was suspended for all but two games in 2015.

“Did you guys read the articles?” Dantonio asked. “That’s all we need to say.”

While the exact reason both are no longer with the program is unclear, what isn’t is the fact there will be a few more questions along the defensive line.

Evans had a solid season as a redshirt freshman in 2015 and was expected to see significant playing time on the interior this fall. Sweat was listed No. 2 at defensive end behind junior Demetrius Cooper and had shown flashes he could be a difference-maker.

But, Dantonio believes his team is in position to handle the losses, especially with the likes of Cooper and fifth-year senior Evan Jones. The middle is manned by junior Malik McDowell and senior Damon Knox, in his sixth year.

Dantonio also sees plenty of upside in redshirt freshman tackle Raequan Williams and welcomes a large class of highly rated defensive linemen, including Naquan Jones, Josh King, Mike Panasiuk and Auston Robertson.

“In college you always have the ‘next-man-up’ mentality,” Dantonio said. “People graduate and move forward and you’ll have attrition and those types of things. Our guys are prepared for that.”

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Stoops says hello

Michigan State has had a visitor the past two days — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

He and Dantonio have been friends dating to their days as graduate assistants — Dantonio at Ohio State and Stoops at Iowa.

“It’s been a friendship for over 30 years, probably,” Stoops said. “I’ve got great respect for the way Mark coaches and all his coaches, just great respect for the program and the way they’ve won.

“It’s fun to share ideas. I wanted to see their practice and compare notes to how you’re practicing and (see) some things you can do better. It’s been a very productive couple days for me.”

Stoops said he and Dantonio were aware they could have faced each other in the national championship game last season. Michigan State played Alabama in one semifinal while Oklahoma took on Clemson in the other.

Both, however, lost.

“We said if that were to happen, it’s good for the two of us that somebody’s got to win it,” Stoops said. “So rather than meeting up in the semifinals and somebody would be out, if we’re both in (the title game) somebody has to win it.”

Mixing and matching

Spring practice is the time to make changes, and the Spartans are continuing to shuffle some players around to find the right spot.

Sophomore Grayson Miller, who started at safety against Michigan last season, also is working as the STAR linebacker (outside, weak side).

“We have depth at safety,” Dantonio said. “We can go back and forth with him a little bit. We can go with speed at the STAR position. He can adapt.”

Redshirt freshman Kenny Willekes also has moved, from linebacker to defensive end, and junior Drake Martinez is seeing time at cornerback after starting the spring at tailback.

“Drake can really run so we looked at him a little bit at corner, a little bit at STAR, a little bit at tailback,” Dantonio said. “We’ll find a position for him because he’s a good athlete, so we’re working him at corner right now.”

.. Stoops, on the recent ban on satellite camps: “I think it’s unfortunate for the young student-athletes in high school that maybe, a lot of them don’t have the means to go somebody’s camp, that part of it. So I’d like to see it revisited with some restrictions, of course, rather than everyone going wild, with something that’s reasonable for everybody that you can help the young men that can’t get somewhere.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau