Tuesday Conversation: Mark Dantonio

Tuesday Conversation: Mark Dantonio

The complete transcript of Mark Dantonio talking with members of the media on Tuesday. Dantonio touches on several subject including some changes in the depth chart.

COACH DANTONIO: Just to recap Ohio State very quickly here. I thought our players played very hard, played with a lot of energy. We have to be able to turn the page as we move forward to Indiana this next game.

Tough loss when you lose by one point. I think you see, just like I said after the game, a lot of opportunities to find that point throughout the football game. I'm sure you guys all recognize that, so I'm not going to go back through that.

I thought Andrew Maxwell played very well. We have to stay more balanced on offense, have to be able to run the football. Have to say why we didn't succeed overall offensively is because we didn't run the football and stay balanced. Threw the football well enough, had a couple drops, but had zero turnovers, so I thought that was a positive.

Defensively came up with three turnovers. If you look at the game, if we win the football game by one or two, you're talking about the defense with three turnovers. All three of those were versus Braxton Miller. When they're winning by one, you talk about all the plays he made. 17 points, not a lot of points, but we gave up a deep one.

Had a tough first series. Then the biggest disappointment is when you're leaning on your defense at the end of the game, you have to come up at the end of the game and get a stop. We didn't get that stop.

Again, credit what Braxton Miller did. I thought Hyde was good as well. But we have to play better in those situations.

Really where we're at, we need to turn the page and move to Indiana. Go away in the Big Ten for the first time this year and get on with it...I just think that we need to move on and get on with our business. We still have all of our goals in front of us. As I said, there should be no panic in our football team. We played well in the past, we'll continue to play well, we need to continue to grow. I'll take some questions.

Q. Just prior to the season, Coach Roushar and Coach Samuel told us they had to find ways to get the ball in Jeremy Langford's hands. Can you discuss that.

COACH DANTONIO: I thought Jeremy had a good summer practice. We're always talking about players through the summer, guys that are surprises to us.

But as the situation continued at the end of summer camp, I mean, he had to be more consistent catching the ball as a receiver. He's clearly not the top running back on our football team, so we moved him to receiver. I think he is an exciting player with the ball in his hands. Down the field catches, he wasn't getting it done.

Because we took the redshirt off of MacGarrett Kings and Burbridge, we needed to create some opportunities for them. I think they need to get some opportunities. We'll see those opportunities come.

Q. Burbridge listed as the starter. What caused that? Is he starting?

COACH DANTONIO: He'll start as the third wide receiver for us this week. I think he needs an opportunity, as I just spoke. We took the redshirt off those guys. We need to play those guys, in all fairness to them, give them an opportunity.

He catches the ball well. Still learning some things. Has big play potential. We're going to give him that opportunity. Doesn't mean it will stick, but that's going to happen at the beginning of the game, not at the end.

Q. What will Bennie's role be?

COACH DANTONIO: Bennie's role, how will it change? He won't start as the third wide receiver. We'll see how it goes, depending on practice. I believe things always go in cycles. We provided an opportunity for one, take away a little bit from another. In the end, the best players will continue to play and resurface. We'll see how his practice and everything else goes. (When you) have an opportunity to make a play, you have to make them at some point.

Q. The offensive line, I see Jack Allen and Blake Treadwell both at left guard. A chance one of those guys could move over to center? A couple injuries now. How is that affecting the overall play of the offensive line?

COACH DANTONIO: I think two of the guys that were injured were (Fou) Fonoti and Travis (Jackson), two of the guys that were emotional leaders on our offensive line. So they're still there in that capacity. But there's others that need to pick up the slack.

As far as Jack Allen and Tread, they'll both play this week. We'll see where Tread is, where Blake is. He was probably about 80 percent this week. If he can be 100 percent, we'll see where that goes. Ethan Ruhland played for us, knows all the calls, has the most experience. We'll see who is best fitted for that role.

They have experience, all three of them do. That's a good situation for us. We can put five starters out there with offensive line starting experience. We expect them to be successful.

Q. Obviously your record is much better when you're able to run the ball. Are you disappointed in general with how you've been able to run the ball this year? Do you feel there's still a lot of growth to be made there? What can you do with the offensive line the way it is? Where do you think you are with the running game?

COACH DANTONIO: I think, first of all, we've run the ball effectively in our three wins. Le'Veon going into that football game last week was number three or something like that in the country. So we've run the ball effectively.

Against the two defenses we lost to, Notre Dame and Ohio State, we didn't run it effectively. We need to be balanced. We threw the ball better this game. I thought Maxwell was very solid, as I said.

But to have a complete game, you've got to stay balanced, not turn it over. Is it frustrating? Is that the question? Yeah. It's always frustrating when you don't meet your goals or win a football game. It eats at you and is frustrating. You recognize the problem and go to work on the problem.

I don't know if I'm giving a great answer to that. We've got to get our running backs into the secondary. We got the ball in Le'Veon's hands probably with catches and runs 26 times, I believe, maybe 27 (against Ohio State). We have to provide opportunities for him, try to make it work. But we'll see how we do this weekend. Continue to push.

Q. How has the loss of Edwin Baker hurt you at running back?

COACH DANTONIO: I mean, Edwin Baker was a great running back for us. He made the Chargers as a practice squad player. He's a good player. We miss Jerel Worthy, too. Two juniors that went out. Understanding they went out, you deal with it and move on. That's history.

Q. On Travis (Jackson), anything you know now that you didn't know Saturday? Sounds serious. Career threatening at all?

COACH DANTONIO: Three month rehab. It's broken fibula. He's got to have surgery to put a couple screws in as well. So it's a three month rehab. He'll be back for the spring. He's a tough guy.

Q. You lost so many players, Kirk Cousins, B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, Keith Nichol, Brian Linthicum, didn't you expect some sort of offensive drop off or not?

COACH DANTONIO: I think as a football staff I would say we felt like we lost a lot of experience. We lost guys who had been in the heat of the battle, who made plays in the heat of the battle.

With that being said, we felt, and I still feel this way, that we have talented players back that can fill that void. But they lacked experience. The only way you can get that experience is to play through. You have to play through the tough times when there's a play on the line, the big crowd, crunch time in a game. You have to drive at the end of the game with five minutes to go.

Started well (in a key fourth-quarter drive against Ohio State). We hit Lippett, got a first down. But we have to finish that drive, get into field goal situation, kick the field goal, win the game 19 17. Either that or we have to stop them down there and get the ball back and then drive it, kick a field goal, score a touchdown, whatever.

That's the name of the game. You have to win at the end. Been there in the past. We'll be there again. We'll win in the end at times, too. We've won a lot of close games too. We'll keep pushing it.

Q. Do you want more out of Larry Caper?

COACH DANTONIO: I think Larry should get more touches. It's situational how it all plays out. If he gets in the secondary, he has to be good getting through people. He's a little bit more of a straight line runner. Le'Veon created situations with spins, jumps, running through people. It's not that Larry is playing poorly, it's more the effect that Le'Veon has been a guy that is a little bit more of an impact guy. We've gone with the guy with the impact.

Q. On Andrew Maxwell being listed at holder along with Mike Sadler.

COACH DANTONIO: We just put it like that really because there was a little bit of inconsistency in practice one week. Sadler has done an excellent job.

Q. With all of the injuries to the offensive line, do you need Chris McDonald to step up as a vocal leader?

COACH DANTONIO: Chris is a quiet leader. I think it does increase his role. He needs to step forward in that capacity, especially when you go on the road and those guys aren't traveling with us. That's part of being a senior. He's done a great job with that.

He's done a great job throughout the summer, as well, sort of collecting everybody. Some guys are a little bit more in tune with being an emotional leader, being a little bit more, Let's go, c'mon. Chris is a quiet leader. He needs to move in that direction a little bit. As a group, our staff will lead as well.

Q. Have you ever traveled an injured player for that leadership quality?

COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, we have in the past. Usually toward the end of the season. But we have in the past on occasion.

Q. Talk about Indiana's program. Can you speak to where they were talent wise at the time Terry Hoeppner passed, the struggles they've gone through.

COACH DANTONIO: In 2007, that was my first year here, I think. I thought Coach Hoeppner was doing an outstanding job. Really had done some great things at Miami of Ohio. That first year they came here, they came here, as I remember, undefeated (Indiana was 5-1 heading into the 2007 MSU game). It was a nighttime Big Ten game of the week. One of the first times we played under the lights here, so it was an exciting game.

I had the greatest respect for him, what he accomplished there, and his memory. So I think he had it going in the right direction certainly.

I think the program right now at Indiana, it's in transition phase. I think they're better than they were last year. They've lost some players due to injury, as well. They had a lot of young guys playing last year. Some of those young guys remained playing, some are not playing. So they improved their football team.

They're 2 2 right now. Even though they got down versus Northwestern, they were competitive, came back, cut the lead to 8. At the end, it all fell apart a little bit at the very end. They were very competitive and I think they're going to play very competitive.

Q. You've spoken about having your guys not drink the Kool Aid. Now that the team is unranked for the first time in a good while, how do you use that, or do you not even bring that up?

COACH DANTONIO: I guess in this time of coaching, as an assistant, head coach, defensive coordinator, I learned one thing: you're never quite as good as you think you are or people think you are, and you're never quite as bad as people think you are either. You're somewhere always floating in there one way or the other.

Emotion carries you one way or the other. Your attitude is going to carry you as well. It's how we approach things that's going to matter.

If we approach things with our head down and everything, things are probably going to stay the same. If we get up, if we rise up a little bit, we get a little bit irritated where we're at, we want to make a statement, then that will happen.

I would expect our football team will make a statement when we come to play. That's how we've done things here. I don't think we're in panic mode. I read an article before I came over here to see what I was getting into. We're not in panic mode.

Q. Talking about the field goal situation, Dan (Conroy) missed one kick each week. Two years ago he missed one kick all season. Anything different with his leg swing in terms of consistency?

COACH DANTONIO: No, I don't think there is. Obviously one point, there's three of them. The thing that has impacted me or impressed me is the fact he does miss a kick in a big game, he comes back and kicks three. They're three longer ones.

At least, from my point of view, he can rise to the occasion, fight through adversity. I think that's half the battle, more than half the battle in terms of how you're approaching things.

Q. You have trailed at halftime in four of the five games. Is that a concern to you? What do you attribute the slow starts to?

COACH DANTONIO: I'm not sure on that. I think we've lost two of those games. I'm really not sure on that. The first game against Boise we trailed as well, and Eastern as well. I guess we need to start faster. We're certainly working at it.

Q. With Mumphery's touchdown coming on a short throw, do you think that might be something that help receivers feel confident?

COACH DANTONIO: We'll work on those things and make sure our guys have the opportunity to run after a catch. It's a big aspect of what we're doing. Once they get the ball, what do they do with it? I thought he did a great job two times in the game on Saturday.

Yeah, it helps giving Maxwell some confidence. Got to be able to go up top on them as well. You got to be able to make all the throws in the game.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about Lawrence Thomas' development in the offense. How do you think he graded out from the game?

COACH DANTONIO: L.T. continues to grow as a football player. He's big, he's physical. He can be physical. He needs to hit with more power and use his physicality, his body frame. But I think he's grown. He's never played that position in the past.

So I think it is something that he can grow to. He was a defensive player until probably three weeks ago. So he's coming. He's learning plays as we go. He learns a couple more every week.

But I do think he's an outstanding football player and I think he has a tremendous upside here in our program, whether it be on the defensive or offensive side of the ball.

Q. I know you're making the comments about wanting the team to rise up. Who are the players in the locker room that are carrying that forward, not showing any panic at this point, finish this thing the way you want them to?

COACH DANTONIO: I think Max Bullough is a guy you can point to that will be ultra positive. I think our defense is playing pretty well. You look at our defense, you can look at it and say not many people have scored a lot of points on us.

I think Max Bullough, Chris Norman has confidence in that respect. You look around, you have some other guys like Darqueze Dennard. He's a guy that steps up and says what he needs to say.

Inside, our defensive players are younger players. Rashad (White) is a senior. You have some guys in there like Marcus Rush maybe and Will Gholston will speak up as well. I think we're fine there.

Offensively, on that side of the ball, Andrew Maxwell carries the torch there a little bit. Like you said, Chris McDonald needs to rise to the occasion. We have young players. Le'Veon from a confidence standpoint is very confident.

When you lose a football game, when you lose by one, get beat by 20, the light's a little dim. We need to find a way to work through. That's the way it is. That's the way it is everywhere. But we'll be okay and we'll rise to it.

Q. Looking at the depth chart and then some of your comments, obviously players making plays move up or down. Do you expect to give Muma or Sadler any attempt at place kicking at all?

COACH DANTONIO: No. Because we see it in practice. I don't want to do that with Sadler. We see it in practice. We have on occasion looked at that. Dan Conroy misses one, he makes three, three difficult ones. The week before he did as well in the wind. Did that at Central as well.

I just feel like he's solid. He's going to make the one field goal, you're sitting there saying he's 4 for-4 and he's the hero of the game. The difference between winning and losing is like that, and he missed it by a yard.

It's unfortunate because right before the half it would have taken it 7 6 at the half. Just the way the ball rolled that day.

I can't change those things. I do think he's an excellent kicker, and I think he's been good for us over the course of three years. Until somebody really up roots him, or until he goes 0 3, I think he's our kicker, and I'll stand by that.

Q. You were smiling when you told us about reading about the panic article. Do you resist the urge to get irritated about that or does six years here tell you that's the way it is here?

COACH DANTONIO: I think that's the way it is in every college program. It's media hype, Big Ten, wherever they're at. When you have a football program that has as much following as we do, the people care as much as they do, that's going to happen. They're going to get jubilant when you're 2 0, ranked No. 9 or 10. If you lost two, you're 3 2, even if you lost by one point, they're going to say the sky is falling.

Neither of the two are true. We'll just push through it. We've done that before here. Sometimes tough times require tough people. That's as a group.

Q. Lot of speculation when the hit Gholston took, he was knocked out briefly Saturday. To your knowledge, was he ever knocked out? What is the protocol if a player is knocked out in returning to the game?

COACH DANTONIO: The protocol first of all is he needs to be cleared. Players have been knocked woozy before. Once they're cleared, they pass their impact test, which is a base test that every one of our players takes prior to coming to camp, certain levels of knowledge, they have to be able to repass that. Once they pass that, they're cleared. I would assume that our trainers and our neurologist did that on the sideline, passed him and cleared him. Whether he was knocked out or whether he wasn't, I'm not sure because I wasn't out there. But I heard he was sort of stunned or something, maybe even had the wind knocked out of him even. I really wasn't sure on that. I just knew he got up, came off. I was on my way out there, then he got up.

Q. Last three games Johnny (Adams) has given up touchdown passes. You talked about the big one. Is that a result of offenses going at him specifically in terms of a matchup? Is that maybe a result of having the corners on an island and not getting the pressure? What exactly is it right now? How do you think he's grading out?

COACH DANTONIO: First of all, we play our corners tight press coverage a lot. We do that, have from the very beginning. It isolates them at times. Most people, a lot of people go into the boundary with their throws. That's what happened on this particular play. More throws are thrown to the boundary than to the field.

What I said before, it's a game of inches. If he stays with the play and doesn't look back for the ball at the end, he stays with the play, reaches with his left hand, plays the ball out of phase, he doesn't have the receiver hip to hip, he'll make at play, at least make the tackle, but make the play on the ball because he's that far from it.

He lost a little bit of composure I think on that particular play, looked back to see what was coming. Got to be careful when you look back. Somebody's gaining on you a little bit. That's a word they use. Hit him right in stride. It was a perfect throw. Hit him right in stride. 10 4 spinner. On the release, missed him on the release. He got a little hands on, but a relatively clean release compared to what he had been doing.

Again, a game of inches. Went that way. We were ahead. Got to be able to make the play.

But I think Johnny is an excellent corner. He's remained an excellent corner for us. I think he'll continue to play to a high level.

In this day and age, it's our feeling that you have to play your corners in that capacity to be able to stop all the different things people are doing from a run pass standpoint with all the basically single wing, creating different type of runs with their quarterback play. So it's been effective for us. We remain I guess probably one of the top teams in the nation in terms of scoring defense, running defense, whatever. I haven't looked at the statistics as of late because sometimes you throw those out after a game like this, but we've been successful defensively. Like I said, sometimes you win by an inch, sometimes you lose by an inch. We lost that one by an inch, we lost the game by an inch.

Q. Have you or your staff been in touch with the Big Ten regarding the play involving Jack Allen with the hands in the face? Reviewing the film, what did you make of that play?

COACH DANTONIO: I have not been in contact with the Big Ten. I've heard nothing from the Big Ten.

What was your review of the play? I'll leave it at that. I'm not going to comment on that. My review of the play saw two players get up after the play and walk back to the huddle. Probably a little something going on with both of them. If you look at the play cleanly, that's what you see. But I've not been in contact, so...

Neither seemed to be very bothered by it after the play.

Q. What do you want from Aaron Burbridge this weekend? How much of offense does he know? Is it all there for him?

COACH DANTONIO: What I want to see from Aaron Burbridge is I want to see him play. That's really what I want to see him do. We took the redshirt off him, as I said earlier. I want to see him have the ability to make plays and get that opportunity. I think he's an exciting player. I think Macgarrett Kings is an exciting player. We took the redshirt off of them. By doing that we made a statement they're good enough to do that. We have to put them in because we have six tough games coming down the stretch here seven, I got to count better.

I want to provide that opportunity for him. Doesn't mean that the opportunity is going to go away for everybody else. That opportunity has to be afforded for him. By starting him, we provide him that opportunity. As far as the offense that he knows or does not know, since he's come back, he's been with our offense working daily. I think he knows pretty much our offense.

Q. It seems like the defensive line has generated more pressure the last couple weeks. How would you evaluate the way they've been playing?

COACH DANTONIO: I thought our defensive line played pretty well last week, this past week, with two exceptions. One, we let the horse out of the barn too many times, and their horse, No. 5, made it happen for them. When he dropped back to pass, things happened. We had him and he got out. That's creating plays.

That's a tough one to figure out sometimes because he's a very good football player. Braxton is a good football player, and he proved that. From that standpoint I thought they played well.

We stopped the run. But, again, in crunch time we needed to stop it, and we were unable to stop it at the very end of the game.

But our line is a very good unit. We continue, again, to be statistically up there. We got guys that can make plays. We're creating pressure. People get the ball off quick. If they get the ball off quick, things happen on the field.

One of the top defenses in the nation in terms of third down conversions against us. That sort of plays in hand to hand.

So, again, you are talking about inches. You're talking about a guy eluding you. We got opportunities. We have to look at every single opportunity and say, Why did we succeed, why did we fail. I think we have a good scheme, good players there, playing extremely hard, athletic, we have to come and play this next game and make a difference.

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