EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Mark Dantonio's first season at Michigan State was a success, helping the Spartans surpass expectations with a bowl bid.
"We took some positive steps forward, looking to re-establish our program," Dantonio said.
Dantonio had bittersweet emotions, however, at his first news conference after the season because of Devin Thomas' choice to enter the NFL draft.
"In one aspect, I feel like a failure as a coach because I didn't keep the team together," he said. "But on the other end of things, I feel like a success because he had a great year so he had that opportunity."
Thomas' family announced the junior's decision to skip his final season on Saturday after he set a Big Ten single-season record in yards on kickoff returns and single-season school marks in receptions and all-purpose yards.
"We wish him the best," Dantonio said.
Thomas is not the only player with eligibility who will not be back.
Dantonio said T.J. Williams, who started two games at cornerback and played receiver, is no longer with the team. He was academically ineligible for the Champs Sports Bowl, but Dantonio would not elaborate on why he would not return.
Michigan State is encouraged, though, about some newcomers it will have on the field during spring practice and next fall.
Defensive end Trevor Anderson transferred from Cincinnati, where he played for Dantonio. After paying his own way in East Lansing last semester, he is on scholarship after the Bearcats released him. The former Detroit Crockett High School star was a two-year starter at Cincinnati, where he combined for 10 sacks during his first two seasons.
Three players who will be a part of the 2008 recruiting class have enrolled and can participate this spring with the Spartans.
Defensive end Tyler Hoover of Novi and receiver/cornerback Johnny Adams of Akron, Ohio, chose to go to Michigan State early instead of finishing their senior years in high school.
After signing with the Spartans last year, offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr. of Chicago was diagnosed with leg cancer, underwent chemotherapy and had surgery. Now, Ray is back in school and on the team.
"He seems to be in very good health and spirits," Dantonio said. "His attitude is unbelievable in terms of how he has overcome his bout with cancer. It looks like he may have an opportunity to get involved in the fall."