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Michigan State Football Update: Spartans Officially Begin Preseason Practice

Posted: 7:09 PM, Aug 01, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-01 19:13:22-04
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EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan State football team held its first practice of preseason camp on Thursday at the John and Becky Duffey Practice Fields. Under sunny skies and temperatures in the upper-70s, the Spartans practiced for two-and-a-half hours in helmets, jerseys and shorts.

Following practice, 13th-year MSU head coach Mark Dantonio [msuspartans.com] addressed the media to talk about the first day and the mindset of the team heading into the season.

"Excited to get back into it, our guys are super excited," said Dantonio. "Typical first day I think. A lot of retention but you don't play this game in shorts. It all starts up front; you've got to put pads on to see that.

"What we've been trying to do is really work everybody. Everybody got reps and we'll start making looks at people as we move forward."

Dantonio has been impressed with his team's demeanor in the offseason and is ready to see how they improve now that practice is officially underway.

"I think every year is a new year for every program out there," remarked Dantonio. "Can you remain consistent and really can you sustain? Can you build through the problems that you have whether it's injuries or losing a tight game; can you push through those things? That's really what I think defines you. I've said it all along, even since spring and I'll say it media day – I'm extremely impressed with how our players have been handling things and go about their business and compete."

Michigan State returns 50 letterwinners, and the 20 starters back are tied for the most among any team in the FBS.

"We've got a lot of guys back and like I said, the retention…has been impressive but that's usually the case on the first day with shorts. We sort of got to get through it, everybody starts from square one today and see where they're at."

And while the retention was there with the returning players, Dantonio also turned his attention to the first-year players on Thursday.

"I'm always looking forward to the next step. Watching our guys, especially our young guys, I like going down and watching our freshmen play, which we haven't been able to do; watch them move around and things like that. It's a starting point like I said, but you play this game in pads as I said earlier – you play from the ground up. Guys look good; guys catching the ball, throwing the ball, that kind of stuff. It's a different game when you put pads on."

The Spartans will return to the practice field on Friday in shorts, jerseys and helmets before donning shells on Saturday. After a day off on Sunday, MSU returns in shells for Monday's practice and will practice in full pads on Tuesday.

SPARTANS RANKED 20TH IN AMWAY PRESEASON COACHES POLL: Michigan State is ranked 20th in the Amway Preseason Coaches Poll, released Thursday. The Spartans were also ranked in the Preseason Coaches Poll in 2018 (No. 12), 2016 (No. 11), 2015 (No. 6), 2014 (No. 8), 2012 (No. 13), 2011 (No. 17), 2002 (No. 18), 2000 (No. 22), 1998 (No. 23) and 1991 (No. 22).

PLAYERS ALSO SPEAK: Senior safety David Dowell [msuspartans.com] , senior quarterback Brian Lewerke [msuspartans.com] and senior defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk [msuspartans.com] also met with the media following practice.

Below are selected quotes from the players:

Senior safety David Dowell [msuspartans.com]

On the first day of practice…
Day one, that's what you've been waiting for all summer. It's kind of like letting the lion out of the cage, that's how I feel about it.

On the first day…
I actually was restless (last night). When you get back in the building and go through all of the meetings (on reporting day), you kind of are just waiting to get back out here. It was a little hard for me to sleep at first, but when I went to sleep and woke up, it's football time.

On being a senior…
It means a lot to me being a fifth-year senior. I know what to do; I've done it multiple times before. One thing I really worked on in the spring was stepping into that leadership role and being more vocal, so now I'm more comfortable doing it, and I feel really good going into the season.

On learning from safety Khari Willis [msuspartans.com] , who is now with the Colts…
Khari was one of those guys who was a great leader since I came here; we came here together my freshman year. Just kind of seeing how he handles certain situations, I've definitely been able to take a lot away from him.

On the defense…
We just have to focus on us. We know the things we have to get better at, especially as a defense, creating more turnovers and creating more turnovers for touchdowns, and stuff like that. We just have to focus on us, and the goal always stays the same.

Senior quarterback Brian Lewerke [msuspartans.com]

On excitement of starting fall practice...
I'm trying to make sure everything is as perfect as I can for my last year, because there's not another chance after this one.

On feeling like it's fresh start for him...
Yeah, a little bit. Just to be able to come back and work with the team again, and throw. It feels good.

On going through the injury process and feeling if taking anything for granted...
Yes, definitely; even during the season I was thinking 'aw man, this is tough,' I can't throw the ball like I want, or raise my arm like I want, all that stuff. You take the small stuff for granted, let alone able to play football, just wanting to feel healthy about your body. It feels a lot better now.

On his arm being 100 percent now, and refining technique...
Yes, it's fine now. When your arm is hurting, you may throw different, mess up your form a little bit, just trying to get the ball out a different way. So that maybe affected it a little bit, but even then, there's always times when you can fix something about your mechanics, whether you go to a quarterbacks coach or just figure it out yourself, there's always little things you can fix.

On his trip to San Diego earlier in July for the Commander Camp leadership program...
It was a ton of fun. We got there Sunday and left Friday night. We got to hang out with some U.S. Marines and some SEALs, and Navy midshipmen. It was a tough of fun, but they definitely worked our butts off, both the SEALs and the Marines. We did a bunch of obstacle course-type things, but it was a ton of fun.

On what he learned and his biggest takeaways from that trip...
There's a very few amount of SEALs and a very few amount Marines, and so it takes a select few that can do that. Every single person there is a leader, obviously there's leadership positions there, but every single person there could do their bosses job and every boss could do their sub-ordinates job, and they can all be demanding of each other. That was something that kind of really impressed me.

On how he got involved in participating in Commander Camp...
It's with George Whitfield. Coach D just said, 'you and Rocky are going to this camp next week, so get ready for that.' So we packed and hopped on a plane four days later. It was fun.

On unique experience of being able to do that...
We got to land on an aircraft carrier that was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I'm sure not a lot of people get to do that. We got to sit in a cockpit of a big aircraft carrier, so it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that's for sure.

On any nerves with the plane landing on an aircraft carrier...
A little bit, especially since he missed the first time too (laughing), his hook missed the line, so we kind of hit the runway and had to go back around, and catch it again.

On being the MVP of the camp, and being with that competition with quarterbacks from around the country and the big deal of winning that honor...
There was a combination of a bunch of stuff that went into that. There were obstacle courses that you had to get the best time, there was a shooting range, and had to get the best score, I think I was pretty good all around. There were some guys that were really good at one thing or other guys that were really good at another thing, but I think I was kind of solid in everything and that's what helped me win that. I was just trying to be a better leader and be a vocal guy in the group competitions, I think that all just helped me.

On having a guy like Rocky Lombardi [msuspartans.com] behind him, how it motivates him to be better...
Yes, he's a great quarterback. He's shown he can play here, and he has all the skills to be able to play. It's always good to have some competition and some guys that can push you. He's definitely that guy, that's for sure.

On being ready for everything with his senior season...
I am, I'm ready to show that I can still do everything, my arm is feeling very good, no problems what-so-ever with that.

On camp being such a grind, but being able to look forward to day one and if it was a restless night last night...
Yes, last night going into camp, my last one, I was just thinking, 'man, this is the start of the next four months that I will never get back the rest of my life, my last year of college football.' So I was very excited to wake up this morning.

On camp being different going into his senior season and final camp...
Well, I have to give my senior speech in a couple days, didn't think I'd ever have to do that. Just being with all the guys, and being able to have guys that are mostly younger than you and you can lead and show them the ropes. I can help Payton (Thorne), show him the ropes, just small stuff about football camp, about football, about life, all that sort of stuff.

On sensing a different energy from the whole team today...
A hundred percent. With the offense, I could sense a ton more energy just from what we had during spring ball, defense brought a lot of energy, and I'm sure it will pick up even more when we get pads on.

On more about the leadership camp in San Diego...
We weren't able to throw the ball at all, but we got a chance to visit with Marines about leadership and do some obstacle course things.

On how many players participated in San Diego...
There were 15 quarterbacks from all over the country.

On just how it helped with life big picture-wise...
Any time you can learn something new and experience something new, then I think that's definitely a positive experience. I think that for sure was one of them.

Senior defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk [msuspartans.com]

On the need to get back on the field…
Going through OTAs and going through summer, we've been watching film all together as a unit. Everyone already has that urgency of 'I need to go out there and hit somebody' already. We've been talking and talking about it. Yesterday was a whole day of anxiety and just ready to get out here on the field. We're happy to get back on the field and hopefully with pads on soon.

On what he's noticed in his brother Jacub's improvement…
He's (Jacub) better than me, that's what I've noticed. (laughing) All kidding aside, he's just put in the work in the offseason. His first year he came in not knowing what to expect but you learn from the greats – the Brian Allen's [msuspartans.com] , the guys that were here before, putting in that extra work. He did it this offseason, he put in the extra work, took his time and actually wanted it. That's what he did, that was the biggest thing that stood out to me.

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