April 28, 2012

Dantonio approves of 'significant hitting'

EAST LANSING - Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio came away from the annual Green and White Game feeling good about the progress his team has made this spring.

"All in all I thought our team played hard," said Dantonio. "It was very competitive out there. I thought our defense comes to play."

Redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Cook played admirably against a strong defense after taking some lumps early. Cook was 20-of-44 for 294 yards passing with one touchdown and one interception.

"You saw some good things from Connor Cook," said Dantonio, "especially in the second half when he settled down a little bit. He grew enormously, playing in this type of environment , having to play every play, the TV situation, just the pressure of it all. I think he was very calm in the huddle and did some good things."

The sixth-year Spartan coach also remains confident about the direction his team is headed and the depth in the program on both the offensive and defensive lines.

The depth on the O-line was showcased by the number of players that got on the field in the spring game.

"We've got scholarship players playing out there and we've got depth," said Dantonio. "We probably played 15 offensive linemen through the course of the game. That was a positive as well. We just have to put our offensive unit all together and make things work on Saturdays."

The Michigan State defensive line was led by an aggressive quartet of defensive ends.

"I think we have four or five very good defensive ends," said Dantonio. "Shilique Calhoun was a factor today if you watched the film and you watched him standing out there today, you watched No. 89 rush off the edge. Obviously William Gholston and Marcus Rush are very good. I thought Joel Heath probably did some good things as well."

Dantonio also saw progress on the interior.

"We played a lot of guys, but I thought we did some good things as well," said Dantonio. "(James) Kittredge is playing, Hoover plays hard, Rashad White, so we've got some guys. Brandon Clemons is playing. It is a position again, where you see 10 or 12 guys in there playing."

Linebacker remains a position of strength.

"You had some times where you thought things were going to break out and all of a sudden things would close up quickly," said Dantonio. "They were running and hitting, and the hitting was very good from where I was standing. Significant hitting, which was a positive. We can run, we can tackle, we can do the things that need to be done on the defensive side that allows you to be successful."

The surprise of the game came when Johnny Adams caught a 45-yard pass during a handful of plays at receiver.

"His big play of the game was simple streak," said Dantonio. "He has got big-play ability. He is a guy that we could maybe flip around a little bit. We will see how that transpires when we get everybody in here and going in one direction ... we are not at full strength at wide receiver. We will continue to address those needs."

Senior tailback Larry Caper left the game after suffering a minor injury in the first quarter. Dantonio does not expect the injury to impact the senior long term.
Junior defensive end William Gholston suffered a minor knee injury on a play in which Nick Hill broke free for a touchdown run. Gholston's injury was not serious.

"Will nicked his knee up a little bit, he bruised it," said Dantonio. "I wasn't sure if his feelings were hurt or if his knee got hurt. I think Nick slipped out underneath him out of the pile when everybody thought the play was over. Nick Hill has big play ability, there is no question about that. He is an electrifying running back."

Dion Sims led both squads with four receptions for 72 yards. Sims wore less protection on his wrist than he has all spring.

"I saw Dion Sims get involved," said Dantonio. "I saw Nick Hill ran hard. We held out Le'Veon after the first series, really. Larry Caper got dinged a little bit. We were down to a couple of tailbacks. Jeremy Langford played some. I think our defense did play very well. We rushed the passer significantly. It was a good spring."

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