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Coach Mark Dantonio talks about the death of former Spartan Mylan Hicks and how the team will honor him in the game at Indiana by wearing black socks and shoes and the No. 6 on their helmets.

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East Lansing – Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio stepped to the podium on Tuesday decked out in all black, from his zip-up Spartans pullover down to his shoes.

For Dantonio, it was a tribute to former defensive back Mylan Hicks, the 23-year-old who was killed over the weekend during a shooting outside of a nightclub in Calgary, Alberta.

“We'll do some special things in upcoming weeks,” Dantonio said. “But you know, Mylan, of all the Spartan gear, he liked to wear black. He liked the black Spartan gear. That's why I wore it today, in memory of him.”

Hicks played at Michigan State from 2010-14 and graduated with a degree in psychology after a standout prep career at Detroit Renaissance. He was an undrafted free agent who ended up in training camp last year with the San Francisco 49ers before signing with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in May.

He was a member of the practice squad when the incident took place in the early morning Sunday.

When Michigan State takes the field Saturday night at Indiana, Dantonio said they’ll have Hicks’ No. 6 on their helmets while wearing black socks and black shoes. Dantonio also counted 41 players on the traveling roster who were teammates of Hicks.

“He'll be in a lot of people's minds as we move forward,” Dantonio said. “Mylan is the type of guy that loved football. He loved competing. He went at it 100 miles an hour, and he would be very disappointed in us if we did not do that on a game-by-game basis, throughout practice, and everything we try to accomplish here and go after. So he'll be with us. Just a tragic event.”

Hicks was a four-star cornerback when he committed to the 2010 Michigan State class, one that ended up being the core of Michigan State’s rise to prominence not only in the Big Ten, but on the national scene.

Hicks helped spark that class, committing on the same day as defensive end William Gholston. Linebacker Max Bullough was already in, with the likes of Darqueze Dennard, Le’Veon Bell, Jeremy Langford, Kurtis Drummond, Keith Mumphery, Isaiah Lewis, Tony Lippett and Mike Sadler.

“We were on a rise, but he had to believe in a dream, that we were going to get there,” Dantonio recalled. “When he did come he experienced really two Big Ten championships and New Year's Day bowl games and BCS bowl games. I think he had a great career here.”

He’s the second member of that class to lose his life in the last couple of months. Sadler was killed in a car accident in Wisconsin in July.

Plenty of players on the current roster counted Hicks and Sadler as teammates, making for a difficult few weeks.

“It was a tough day Sunday,” Dantonio said. “Really didn't want to go in there and talk about a football game for sure. Left that up in the air for people whether they did or didn't want to be there. Also had a chapel specifically for him, a chapel with our team to honor him and let our players just sort of be with that memory of that evening.

“There is no question it's been a challenge. Also, I think there is no question that we get on with it, because that's who he was. That's who Mike Sadler was. When you know those people and how committed they were to a football program, you don't want to do anything to steer away from what you're trying to accomplish.”

Ready to make plays?

Michigan State used its share of true freshmen in last week’s loss against Wisconsin after using just two in the previous two games.

Until last week, only wide receiver Donnie Corley and defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk had seen action. But they’ve not been joined by wide receiver Trishton Jackson, offensive lineman Thiyo Lukusa and defensive ends Josh King and Auston Robertson.

“We got to use them, because I think when you're sitting there saying, ‘Do we redshirt? Do we not redshirt?’ you're sort of the crossing that bridge,” Dantonio said. “Once you cross the bridge, you got to use them. Now, it's up to them to make plays. They put themselves in a position of use based on their ability.

“We also have to look and say, ‘OK, based on our defensive end situation or our wide receiver situation, we need to get guys ready for the future as well.’ So if they're able to play as true freshman and have the talent and ability to do that, they're only going to get better.”

‘Still our guy’

An issue that hasn’t gained much attention through the first three games is the fact in each game, senior kicker Kevin Cronin has had a kickoff go out of bounds.

With the ball getting placed at the 35-yard line, it’s not something the Spartans hope continues. However, Dantonio has said there are no plans to change which player handles kickoffs.

“Well, it ticks the head coach off,” Dantonio said of the wayward kicks. “Is there anything you can do about it? I know Kevin Cronin is not trying to do that. He's got to relax and hit it with confidence. Rest of the time he's been really great. Good kickoffs, placement. So it’s something that's frustrating, but got to deal with it and move past it. He's still our kickoff guy.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter @mattcharboneau

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