EAST LANSING - Michigan State players and coaches are using the phrase "humble and hungry" as a mantra during their preparation for the 2011 season.
Coming off an 11-win season that culminated in the program's first Big Ten championship in 20 years, the Spartans enter training camp with the goal of getting back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988.
With several key players returning on both sides of the football the No. 17 ranked Spartans have reason for optimism. Even so, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio wants his team to stay focused on the process of becoming a great football team rather than the spoils of a successful season.
"I think this program is moving forward, maybe more rapidly than people would have thought," explained the fifth-year Michigan State head coach. "We have won a co-championship, we have gone to four bowl games. With that being said, we wish we would have done more in each of those years. We are a work in progress."
Michigan State's success in 2010 was substantial. But Dantonio has not forgotten about his team's two lopsided losses against Iowa during Big Ten play and against Alabama in the Capital One Bowl. He is using those losses to motivate his team and his coaching staff.
"Even though we won 11 games (last year), there were two games we fell short," said Dantonio. "When we're there, I think everybody will know we are there. We have come a ways, but you have to look forward."
Despite the setbacks at Iowa and against Alabama in the Capital One Bowl, the 2010 season has raised the bar for the Michigan State program. Players and coaches have higher expectations moving forward.
Increased confidence does not give Michigan State license to stray from the blueprint that helped the Spartans overachieve in 2010.
"I hope that our program has confidence. I would rather refer to it as confidence. There is probably a very fine line (between the two). Hopefully we have a quiet confidence about us and we don't show our ass, basically. You know what I'm saying? (I) just got to say it like I say it to our players. There's a difference. Hopefully we carry ourselves correctly and we handle ourselves correctly and we'll get ready to play."
Those players have helped set the tone for the program's talented underclassmen that are being asked to fill key roles.
Underclassmen will likely step into the three vacant offensive line positions.
"I know there is a lot of talk about that because that's our inexperienced area," said Dantonio. "But I really don't worry about that because we have August, we have the out-of-conference games to get ready for the Big Ten season. We have ability, we have numbers, we have athletic ability there. We have enough guys that know our system that we will be able to advance pretty quickly to sort it out."
Dantonio was asked about Jerel Worthy's tattoo depicting a Spartan Warrior standing victoriously with one foot on a University of Michigan football helmet. "This is about Michigan State, so keep it on that, but I guess it's personal," Dantonio said. "He put it on his arm for life, so I guess it's personal."
Westland John Glenn athlete Jeremy Langford has moved from running back to corner. "It's in shorts, but it looks like (Jeremy) Langford can play over there," he said.
Dantonio also had good things to say about several first and second year players.
"I was very impressed with R.J. Williamson yesterday," said Dantonio, "just in terms of how he moved and caught the ball and how he picked up things. Mylan Hicks is almost 200 pounds now. But they will define themselves as they start to tackle the Larry Capers and the Nick Hills."
Click below for an MP3 of Dantonio's complete Media Day press conference.