EAST LANSING, Mich. – First-year Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio welcomed 103 players, including 25 first-year players and 78 veterans, to campus for physicals, compliance and academic meetings Sunday, Aug. 5 as the Spartans prepare to open preseason football camp. The first preseason practice is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 6 at 3:30 p.m. EDT.
Sunday afternoon, the players and their parents attended a “Welcome Barbecue” in the indoor practice facility.
“This is a big day for a lot of the incoming freshmen and their parents, so we felt it was important to make it a special day by hosting a barbecue,” Coach Dantonio said. “For many of the freshmen, this is the first time they’ve left home and they’re going to remember this day for the rest of their lives. And for the parents, we want them to know that their sons will be provided all of the support that they need to make that transition from high school to college.”
Following a 6 a.m. wake-up call Monday, the players will report to the Duffy Daugherty Football Building for a series of running tests.
“The first thing the players have to do tomorrow is pass the running (Bottom Line) test,” Dantonio said. “The guys have been training for the run all summer. It’s a demanding exercise, so we’re anxious to see where the players are at from a conditioning standpoint.”
Over the next five days, the Spartans will practice in shorts for two days and shells for two days before wearing full pads for the first time on Friday, Aug. 10.
“During the first week, we’re going to cram a lot of material into practice,” Dantonio said. “We expect the returning players to have a lot of retention from spring ball, but for some of the newcomers, the next five days will be a blur. It’s that time of year but with meetings sandwiched around the one practice each day, the first-year players should be able to digest most of the material.
“I’ve been around this game for 29 years and the opening of preseason camp is always an exciting time. In fact, I spoke with my college coach earlier today and we shared some memories. It’s time to get busy and assess where we are as a football team. We had a great time teaching during the spring, but now, the excitement moves to a different level because the season opener is less than four weeks away. The entire coaching staff is excited about rolling up the sleeves and getting to work.”
As much as Coach Dantonio and his assistants will be evaluating personnel over the next five days, the coaching staff will be looking for team leaders to emerge.
“We’ll be looking for a lot of leadership from the junior and senior classes,” Dantonio said. “They’ve been through many ups and downs over the last several years, so they know how to fight through adversity. It’s critical that some guys step up and establish themselves as leaders. Things aren’t always going to go smoothly – on and off the field – so the leaders have to show the newcomers how to handle those difficult situations.”
After serving as Drew Stanton’s back up for the last two seasons, junior Brian Hoyer is excited about assuming the starting role at quarterback.
“Preseason camp is going to be big for me as I try to step up and establish myself as a team leader,” Hoyer said. “Obviously, it was important for me to get the spring under my belt, but now, I have to continue to grow in this offense. During the spring, I concentrated on being a leader in the offensive huddle and now, I need to assume an even greater leadership role. I also need to take time to help introduce the offense to the two incoming freshmen quarterbacks, Kirk Cousins and Nick Foles.
“It’s been a long summer, so we’re all anxious to get back onto the field. We have a fresh start with the new coaching staff, so we’re all hungry to go out there and prove ourselves. The guys really worked hard during the offseason and tried to establish a ‘never die’ attitude.”
Michigan State’s 2007 season and home opener, Sept. 1 against UAB, will be televised by ESPN2, with kickoff set for 12 p.m. EDT.