The dog days of camp are starting to show their head and Mark Dantonio knows these are the practices players need to push through prior to the start of the season.
"Going into practice 15 today, I think the goal is to really push through these tough times,” said Dantonio. “When you first come to camp everyone is very excited, there is a lot of adrenaline. You move through those first five days and then you get into pads where there is more adrenaline. Now is the time, right now, where you have to be able push through. Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, those are the tough ones. We have two today. We will scrimmage tomorrow. It will be a very active scrimmage tomorrow. We will probably go 120 plays or so, maybe 130. Everybody will get an opportunity to play. After that, we will start getting ready for Youngstown State a little bit more and start concentrating on finishing camp healthy. Thus far has been good. We have remained healthy. The players have a good attitude and they continue to progress."
While Dantonio didn’t want to discuss injuries the news he did give seemed positive as to the health of the Spartans midway through camp. One player asked about was Jairus Jones and his availability for Saturday’s scrimmage.
"No (he won't play),” said Dantonio. “We haven't really talked about too many injuries, other than that. We have not lost anyone for the season. Jairus continues to progress very well and should probably be running by the end of August here a little bit. But you're looking at the end of September until he probably has an opportunity."
Saturday is the second scrimmage of camp and while many would think depth chart spots could be filled with solid performance, Dantonio stressed every day jobs are on the line.
"I think jobs are won daily out here, really,” said Dantonio. “The depth chart sorts of fluctuates as we go. We have the opportunity to go over to the stadium a little bit tomorrow which they haven't been in because of the new grass. So we'll go over there a little bit. The closer you get to game day, you want to see how players continue to play and progress and pick up things. Obviously there are more things in now, so there will be more situations. So you have a little bit more. I think we always try to take the standard of what have you done for me lately? Just in terms of on the field every single day, we evaluate."
Saturday will find the Spartans on their new grass surface installed after the U2 concert this summer.
How is the surface looking?
"Beautiful,” said Dantonio. “Tight. Very low, very fast surface. Looks great. We'll play on it tomorrow and see."
What will the staff be looking for out of Saturday’s scrimmage?
"I always look for execution and what we want to put a premium on,” said Dantonio. “A lack of unforced errors, offsides, and those types of things. You're looking for execution and attention to detail. You're looking for great effort, and you're looking for a particular unit to win a situation a lot of times. You look at all those different things. Individually, you have to break it down after that and look at each player and see how they're operating individually in that unit. It becomes a little difficult just because the offense doesn't succeed or the defense, you have to look within that and see the reasons."
With the loss of punter Aaron Bates, some have wondered how the Spartans have looked on special teams. Will Saturday’s scrimmage find the staff focusing on them more than normal?
"We are working on special teams,” said Dantonio. “We have gone some live periods within that, in all capacities. We will get a little bit more tomorrow. We are beginning to fine tune the special team areas in terms of doing certain things, whether it is kicking it off after a safety, those types of things. We have worked them. We have two good specialists. Snappers seem to be doing a good job and the holders seem to be doing a good job as well. You have to execute that as well. Big part of the game."
As always the question on how some of the true freshmen was brought up and the Spartans head coach picked out a few who have shown well.
"I think they have all had sort of their moments,” said Dantonio. “You have seen R.J. Williamson play very well and then it catches up to him a little bit at safety. I have been impressed with Connor Cook but obviously there are a couple guys in front of him. But he has a live arm. He has done a nice job as well. Offensive line is tough. (Fou) Fonoti has played pretty well and is battling for the number one position with (Skyler) Burkland (at right tackle). He is a very good athlete for his size, with great speed. Wide receivers, we have experienced guys there...Taiwan Jones is playing well and Ed Davis is playing well at linebacker. Those two guys look like they will have an opportunity to play here this season."