Mark Dantonio on Ohio State

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Football
Dantonio Answers Questions about Ohio State

By Brandon Castel

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio tends to get a little surly whenever his team is preparing for a game against Ohio State.

Dantonio coached the Buckeyes as a graduate assistant back in 1983-84 – just before Earle Bruce added Urban Meyer to the coaching staff. He also served as the Buckeyes defensive coordinator from 2001-03, helping Jim Tressel to an undefeated national championship in 2002.

Dantonio won’t make any of his players or assistants available to the media this week, but he did answer questions about facing Ohio State during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

Q. You mentioned the Ohio guys. Last year they had big games down there. How big of a factor do you think that is for them? Hankins, do you expect him to have a little more for this game?

DANTONIO: Reid Fragel and Hankins are both guys from the state of Michigan. I'm sure they'll be ready to play as well. I think it goes back the other way, as well. I think it makes it an even more exciting atmosphere because when you are from that state or you are from this state, then you have your entire families.

There's a lot going on there in terms of a lot of people that you know, things of that nature. You sort of play for respect from those areas. I'm sure it will be exciting on both sides.

Q. You referenced after the game Will Gholston missing some practice, not being able to practice as much. Do you expect him to be practicing fully this week?

DANTONIO: Yes. He was able to go in the second half, so...He'll be full go.

Q. Can you talk about the impact of a guy like Urban Meyer joining the Big Ten, his pedigree, what that does for the league.

DANTONIO: There's a lot of great coaches in this league, a lot of coaches. The one who left two years ago won a national championship. So the Big Ten Conference has always had great coaching. It's just another great coach coming into our conference, doing his thing.

I don't know what impact. It's a great conference. I just see it as another guy you got to compete with recruiting, on the field, tied together schematically, doing a great job, good recruiter. There's a lot of that going on in this league.

To speak to the national impact, until a team comes out of this conference and gets in that national picture, we are what we are.

Q. I believe this is the first time you faced Ohio State when the head coach wasn't a close, personal friend of yours. Do you prefer it this way? Ohio State should be the enemy, right?

DANTONIO: Yeah, absolutely. It does make it easier. I know Urban, everything. Good guy, all that kind of stuff. It makes it easier when you don't have a real personal attachment because it's tough when you play against your good friends.

Q. When you look back at Braxton Miller, who played against you last year, you look at him on film now from this season, where do you see him being a different player and where has he made the most improvement?

DANTONIO: Well, I think a number of things. First of all physically he's more developed. He's a bigger, stronger guy than he was last year. He was a true freshman last year. I think he was playing in his third game last year maybe, as I remember. He was a brand new freshman in a system. Now he has all of last year under his belt, a spring, summer practice, four more games, a new offense under his belt. He's a much more experienced player. He's more in control. He's seen more as a leader.

All those things are helping him grow as a player. You've seen immense growth in a year. He's a very exciting player, dynamic player, and he makes them go. He's a tailback that can throw in the backfield. He can make you miss, do a lot of different things, run with power and then throw it. He'll be a tough guy to defend.

Q. How important is it going to be to contain Braxton Miller Saturday and keep him within the pocket?

DANTONIO: Well, I could say, Next question.

He'll be hard. He's that type of guy. He's a guy that's going to create loose plays. But he also has quarterback designed runs that are for him, certain different things that they do. I don't want to talk about things schematically. But there are designed runs and passes obviously, then there's loose plays.

It's going to be a tough job because he's like a tailback in the backfield that can throw it. He runs with power. He's a spin runner which means he'll spin on contact, he'll juke if you set up on him a little bit. He brings a different dynamic to the football game. A different dynamic that Everett Golson didn't do as much in our Notre Dame game. He's a different type of quarterback. Where Golson may look to throw first, he may look to run first.

We're only into Tuesday. We haven't watched every single thing on him. Try to watch as much as we can but there's a lot of plays to watch.

Q. You were obviously on the staff in Columbus in 2002, a team that had a great defense, struggled at times on offense. Anything you can draw from that experience that maybe correlates with this team as far as doing what you need to do, winning games that will be close?

DANTONIO: The only thing I can draw from that is you got to play well in three phases of the game. You have to play well on special teams, obviously, defense and offense. Can't turn the ball over. Got to make them go the long ways.

We've got players. They've just got to get moving. We had good players at Ohio State back then. Craig Krenzel was a good quarterback, Michael Jenkins is probably still playing in the NFL or just retired. So we had some guys. Nick Mangold is still playing, I think. You just need to grow.

I think our offense is very, very capable. We have the (third) leading rusher in America right now, so we got some guys. We're talented at wide receiver. I think Andrew Maxwell can throw the ball very effectively. I think our offensive line has experience. I think we got a great tight end in Sims. So we have some things. We just have to put it together and play more confidently, I think, allow things to sort of flow.

Q. You talk about defining moments or games. Do you see this as kind of a defining game? It's early in the season, people overreact. If you lose, the wolves are going to be out, if you win, the wagons are going to be full again?

DANTONIO: That's usually the way life is, it really is. If you win, things are great, you can move on. If you lose, people think it's all over, okay?

The key will be how we respond whether winning or losing, that will be the key, not whether we win or lose. The key will be how do we respond to winning or losing.

If we win, can we continue to win? If we lose, can we win? It will all be about how do we handle success or how do we handle failure. I think that's so important in the whole big scope of things.

My main concern as the head football coach here is keep our players like this, keep our players together, don't allow them to splinter in uncertain times, when things get tough. Keep our focus, keep each other together, keep pushing forward to our goals. Regardless of what happens, be there for them. If we can do that, let everything run down my shoulders, we'll be fine.

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