Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Five Good Questions with Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal

Today's "Five Good Questions" is with Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal....Joe covers Michigan State sports for the newspaper....I want to thank him for his time....

Q1. The Spartans have a new head coach in Mark Dantonio who was formerly an assistant with Ohio State. What can you tell us about him? Do you think he can start beating Michigan like his mentor Jim Tressel?
Dantonio was a good fit at Michigan State for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that he's been here before -- as secondary coach under Nick Saban from 1995-99 and Bobby Williams in 2000 -- and has a grasp of the political terrain. That gives someone a big leg up at a place like MSU. He also became a hot prospect as the defensive coordinator for Tressel's 2002 national title team; he has proved himself as a head coach, leading three solid years at Cincinnati, a tough place to win; he's an Ohio native with strong Ohio ties, which should allow MSU to recruit there like it hasn't since Saban left; he's defensive-oriented (unlike predecessor John L. Smith); and his personality is serious and businesslike (very unlike John L.).

Can he start beating Michigan like Tressel did? There's no question, Dantonio is embracing the rivalry. He has clocks in the football building counting down toward the Nov. 3 game. But when Tressel came in 2001 and essentially guaranteed a win over U-M right away, he did so with a roster full of inherited talent. It will take Dantonio a while before his teams can compete consistently with the Wolverines.

Q2. The Drew Stanton era is over and it looks like Brian Hoyer will take over at quarterback. What type of quarterback is Hoyer and will there be much of a dropoff at this position?
Inevitably, there will be some drop-off from Drew Stanton. He was a tremendous quarterback, athlete, leader. Hoyer does not have the ability to move outside the pocket and make plays like Stanton did, and he still has a ways to go in terms of intangibles. But he also throws a better ball. That has been clear for a couple years now. And he isn't the chance taker Stanton was -- a trait that hurt Stanton and MSU more than once. Hoyer seemed genuinely excited about the change in offense this spring, because although he'll throw less in the run-based pro set attack vs. John L.'s spread, he may actually throw downfield more. And Hoyer has nice touch and accuracy on his deep ball. Considering the large turnover in Big Ten quarterbacks from last season, Hoyer has a chance to be one of the league's top five signal callers in 2007.

Q3. Running back Javon Ringer was injured late last season. What is his health status and will he be playing full time as the featured back?
Ringer is 100 percent, an amazing thing considering he has severely injured the same knee twice. He will definitely be the featured back, with a legit chance to reach 1,000 yards -- although back-ups Jehuu Caulcrick and A.J. Jimmerson are good, will get carries and make this position MSU's best and deepest by a wide margin. But Ringer is MSU's best football player and it looks like he could have a big year in the new offense.

Q4. Dantonio is known as a defensive wiz. Does he have much talent to work with this year? What changes do you expect to see on defense?
If new defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has anything to say about it, the ridiculous communication errors, missed signals and blown coverages that marked the MSU defense of the past few seasons will disappear. If the Spartans can get there -- to the point where they know their assignments on every play -- the defense should improve overall. There is some talent here, led by free safety Otis Wiley, who heads up a secondary that could be the best at MSU in a few years. SirDarean Adams and Kaleb Thornhill are seniors who lead a linebacking corps with some young talent. But the defensive line could be a major, major problem. Very little proven depth and experience. This is why the defensive numbers might not improve dramatically in 2007.

Q5. Overall, what do you expect from this year's team? What will their final record be?
Considering the schedule -- with Illinois and Minnesota off and Wisconsin and Iowa back on -- a 6-6 record would be a tremendous achievement. That won't be easy, but it's possible if MSU wins its first three at home, takes care of Indiana and Northwestern at home and finds another win somewhere. I can't imagine the Spartans being any better than 7-5 this season -- although no one predicted them to be anywhere 8-4 in John L.'s first regular season. The first year of a new coaching regime often does result in a bump.

Once again I would like to thank Joe for his is appreciated..

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