January 1, 2012

Dantonio indicates he may advise Worthy to go pro

TAMPA - Saturday's final practice of the 2011-12 season was an emotional one for Mark Dantonio, due to it being the final workout for his seniors and potentially an outgoing junior.

Dantonio indicated that he may advise junior All-America Jerel Worthy to forego his final year at Michigan State and enter the NFL Draft.

Worthy is projected by various analysts as a first-round pick in next spring's NFL Draft, if he chooses to enter.

Dantonio wants more than just the word of draft analysts. He's going straight to NFL executives.

"If a guy is a number one draft pick and he can go to the NFL in that capacity then I think he should probably go," Dantonio said. "There are not many professions where you can earn $10 million in a year, guaranteed. So you have to give them the opportunity to do that.

"What we're researching is where exactly is he (as a draft prospect)," Dantonio said during Sunday's press conference at the Wyndham Westshore hotel. "I am talking with various people, GMs, etcetera, to try to make it as transparent as we can."

"I cannot be selfish, nor can our football program or our fans. If he has an opportunity to do that, then consider it a blessing and move forward.

"One thing you don't want to do is hold someone back. You want to give somebody an opportunity to move their life forward because that's ultimately what this is all about.

"You have to be real with people and you have to try to help them, and that's all that I ever try to do - is try to help move our young people forward as players.

"So if he has an opportunity to do that, I think he's got to go. That's my personal opinion. He has been at school here for four years, he is very close to graduation. So he could probably graduate with a couple of on-line courses after May.

"Those will be difficult decisions because I know he likes this football team."

Worthy wasn't among the true seniors and fifth-year seniors whom Dantonio honored at the end of Saturday's practice.

"I had our team go over by the fence after practice and I talked to the seniors one last time and I talked about the seniors one last time and then I had them go through everybody, shaking their hand, giving them a hug one last time, knowing that a lot of the guys in the senior class, they're not even going to be around when school starts because they're done, they're gone," Dantonio said. "The next time you will see them is maybe on pro day in March. So a lot of our guys will be gone.

"It's just so dramatic. That to me is a little more final. This is it. That was their last practice."

Saturday marked the 440th practice of Cousins' career at Michigan State. He will leave MSU as the program's all-time leader in passing TDs (65) and completions (695). He also ranks No. 1 in school history, and No. 3 in Big Ten history, in completion percentage at 64.6.

His favorite target, senior B.J. Cunningham, is Michigan State's all-time leading receiver with 211. And senior left guard Joel Foreman has had more winning starts than any player in MSU history with 34.

"They've had a tremendous career here, the winningest group of seniors in the program's history," Dantonio said. "It was their last practice yesterday and it was an emotional practice, at the end of practice just sort of saying goodbye and things of that nature.

"You can get a little emotional with that if you have been around a person day-in and day-out for five years, and you sort of see them grow from an 18-year-old to a 23-year-old. You are with them when there is maybe the most growth, from a teen-ager to a man. It's an emotional experience. I think every football coach goes through that."

Dantonio Still Plans to Use Maxwell

On Sunday, Dantonio re-affirmed plans to utilize sophomore QB Andrew Maxwell at some point early in the Outback Bowl.

"We're going to try and play Andrew Maxwell," Dantonio said. "We did do that in the Capital One Bowl in 2008 with Kirk Cousins and I think that it paid dividends for him. It not only gives him an opportunity to play in a big game in a big time environment, but it also sends a message to the rest of our football team in terms of leadership and those type of things.

"It sort of helps jump start, I think, 2012. So we will do that, in all probability, but I'm not going to hold to that based on how the game is and how things are going and what yard line and those type of things. But I would imagine that we try to do that at some point in time during the game."

Sunday Filled With Preparation

Although most of MSU's on-field preparation for Monday's Outback Bowl was complete by Sunday afternoon, Dantonio said Sunday was filled with coaches meetings and strategy sessions for possible adjustments that might be needed as the game progresses.

"We coach all the way up until the kickoff and we'll coach through the game too," Dantonio said. "Today (Sunday) is a big day of meetings for us. We'll meet for 30 minutes on special teams, an hour offensively and defensively.

"We're going to keep working all the way up to game time because on game day things are going to change.

"One thing about bowl preparation, you've had five weeks to sort of analyze who you are, what you're doing and critique who you are. You have an opportunity to change some things, so I'm sure Georgia has changed some things as well. We've got to be prepared to move in that direction and adjust."

The Spartans went through a walk-through on Sunday and also had a team picture at Raymond James Stadium.


Notes and Quotes

  • Dantonio on the maturity of his team and program, playing in its fifth bowl game in five years.

    "I think our players have gained maturity in the last five years. But again, it's an end result game and I understand that.

    "We've been to January 1 bowl before, we have played in big-time environments, the conference championship game was a big opportunity to be on a big stage. I do think our football team has matured in that area, and we have to be result oriented."

  • Dantonio emphasizing energy.

    "We'll be ready to go," he said. "I think the energy is very, very good for us. We continue to just emphasize that we've got to bring our energy to this football game. When you look at Georgia you see a team that plays extremely hard as well. You've got to be able to maintain that throughout the game and ride it through the ups and downs of the football game and work through it."

  • Monday's game will be the only Jan. 2 game on one of the four major networks. ABC will televise the game at 1 p.m.

    "The exposure that we are going to get is going to be national and that can only help a program, as long as we continue to play well," Dantonio said. "(Mike) Terrico and (John) Gruden, they'll do an outstanding job and ABC does a tremendous job and I'm sure that that will be a very watched game. We've seen (them on) Monday Night Football a lot."

  • On fun things Dantonio has seen from his team during bowl week.


    "We've done some fun things. We've done some things I guess that are a little bit out there. I thought beach day was great for our guys. I saw one of our guys laying there with a piece of bread on his back staying motionless on the beach trying to get the sea gulls to take it off him with about 300 people sitting around him for about 20 minutes, so that was interesting.

    "I saw guys that had never seen the ocean before get an opportunity to get on a jet ski and take off out there into the ocean. I saw one of our big offensive linemen put on a black speedo and walked around on the beach for a while, so it's been an interesting week. Obviously we've done some things at practice a little unusual, so we'll leave it at that."




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