December 16, 2011

Back to Work

EAST LANSING - Mark Dantonio met with reporters briefly on Friday afternoon prior to the first of what the Michigan State head coach expects will be around 10 practices prior to his team's Jan 2 game with Georgia in the Outback Bowl.

"We're excited about getting practice today," said Dantonio. "It's our first practice for the Outback Bowl. We'll take our first step today. We'll practice through next Tuesday and then move it to the bowl game on the 26th."

During the previous four seasons the Spartans have used between 12 and 15 of the 15 total practice sessions allotted to teams preparing for bowl games in December. Playing in the Big Ten Championship Game and final exams have cut into the practice opportunities for the Spartans.

Dantonio does not expect fewer bowl practice to adversely affect player development of underclassmen in the Spartan program.

"Really when you look at our football team we are relatively young," Dantonio said. "We really have one senior in senior in our Top 22 on defense with (Kevin) Pickelman being out and (Johnathan) Strayhorn being out. We have some seniors on offense, but we are going to get those guys ready to play and everything. But I do think the focus has to be on for a couple of days, the young players and trying to jumpstart 2012 a little bit, playing those guys a little bit in our bowl game as well as we move forward."

Dantonio indicated that his team has changed the way they are conducting bowl practices.

"We are going to do some different things in terms of our bowl prep, in terms of our schedule a little bit," said Dantonio. "We will shake things up a little bit. We used to practice earlier down there at the bowl game. We are going to back that up and practice more around noon time, which should be closer to game time. And it will also allow them to have more rest in the morning."

Dantonio believes that his team has moved past their loss in the Big Ten Championship to Wisconsin.

"Hopefully that has gone by us all, right now," said Dantonio. "We need to get ready for the next challenge. I think everyone always.

"You have goals, and if you don't quite make that goal, you reassess things. You refocus yourself on your next goal and our next goal is to win our last football game. As a senior group they have been tremendously successful here. They have a great opponent in the University of Georgia. I have great respect for Mark Richt and the job that they have done there."

"Todd Grantham, their defensive coordinator is a very good friend of mine. They are outstanding on defense. Very highly-ranked team defensively. They have a great quarterback, a number of running backs, a big, big football team. They bring a lot to the table in terms of fan support as well so it will be a great challenge for us.

"Our focus will be on winning the football game, representing in a bowl game. We have not won a bowl game yet, so our focus has to be on that, and to make an exciting time for our seniors and to make it a moment that they will remember for a lifetime."

Dantonio said that Andrew Maxwell will play a series at quarterback against Georgia. The second-year back-up is the heir apparent to three-year starter Kirk Cousins.

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