Mark Dantonio kicked off the spring football practices with a news conference today and had a lot of praise for his team.
“We’ve laid a great foundation …. We’re still not to where we need to go,” Dantonio said.
And that is exactly what spring ball is for, helping gets teams where they need to go.
The spring depth chart also was released, and had some surprises and news with it.
— Unfortunately, Bennie Fowler will be out for part out for part of spring ball because of a screw inserted in his foot 11-12 weeks ago. Dantonio expects Juwan Caesar to be at about 80 percent this spring.
Tony Lippitt is listed as No. 1 receiver, as is Keith Mumphery — who drew praise from Dantonio, who said he is ready to “explode onto the scene.” DeAnthony Arnett’s waiver has been filed is an important piece of news, and he is listed third on the depth chart at one of the receiver spots.
— Other notable injuries include linebackers Chris Norman and Lawrence Thomas. Norman had offseason surgery (if I recall correctly, he had a shoulder injury last season, so the surgery likely was on his shoulder). Thomas still is limited by a shoulder injury. Both Norman and Thomas will have no contact in the practices.
On a positive note, Thomas is up to 280 pounds and Dantonio said, “Who knows what he will be.” In other words, he can be used in a lot of ways when he sees the field.
In the place of Norman at the starting STAR linebacker position is Taiwan Jones, the only freshman who did not redshirt last year. Dantonio said “(Jones) will have a tremendous spring. He’s got as much power and explosiveness as any linebacker out there.”
— Andrew Maxwell was compared to Kirk Cousins in terms of work ethic and intangible-wise, which is good praise for anyone. He also said Maxwell has shown patience in his role and that “this is his time.”
“He’s an extremely hard worker, who pays great attention to detail. He has a great feel in the huddle. Physically, he’s got good size and strength. He’s got a great arm. What he needs is game experience,” Dantonio said.
— Perhaps the highest praise was reserved for two redshirt freshmen Shilique Calhoun and Joel Heath, who enter the year as backup defensive ends.
As for Heath, Dantonio said he “looks just like Will Gholston.” Heath is 6-foot-6, 277 pounds.
The reason for the move of Denzel Drone to tight end was explained as a way to allow these young defensive ends to get more reps in practice, but Dantonio also noted “we’ve got a history of making guys here (at tight end),” and he used Josh Rouse as an example. A move back to the defensive line has not been ruled out.
Micajah Reynolds is listed as the No. 2 nose tackle, behind Anthony Rashad White. Dantonio said Reynolds has got to keep his weight under control and be consistent, and that he will play wherever he can be used the best.
— On the offensive line, the starters listed on the depth chart are LT Dan France, LG Blake Treadwell, C Travis Jackson, RG Chris McDonald, RT Fou Fonoti. Dantonio called it the strongest offensive line MSU has had since he has been here.
With Skyler Burkland back healthy, he should figure into the mix somehow — presumably at a tackle position, and he currently is listed as the backup at left tackle. Dantonio said “Skyler’s a very good player, he’s gonna play some place.”
— The only position with two starters listed is free safety, where Kurtis Drummond and R.J. Williamson have the distinguished “OR” between their names. Jairus Jones, though listed as the backup to strong safety Isaiah Lewis, also will be in the mix at a position that is essentially up for grabs.
— Running back has one starter listed, after most of last year the depth chart had three starting running backs. Le’Veon Bell is listed as the No. 1 back, but Dantonio had some strong words regarding the running back.
“I think it’s important that we’re not complacent. So he’ll be challenged as well. That’s my answer,” he said when asked about Bell.
When asked who will get carries at running back, Dantonio followed up his previous thought by saying, “your guess is as good as mine … I really don’t care who plays.”