CHICAGO - First of all, it's my third time here, so we're
coming off two bowl games the last two years. As
we move forward, we're very, very excited about
the 2009 season.
You know, going back and looking at last
year a little bit, coming off a 9 and 4 season, the
things that we stress to our players constantly on a
consistent basis, the positives, I guess, is that as
we went through the season, we were a top 25
team pretty much throughout the season once we
had gotten into the Big Ten Conference, ended up
We were 9 and 2 going into our last game,
had an opportunity to play for a championship the
last game even though it was a co-championship.
We made strides and showed some consistency in
being able to move in that direction.
Made it to a New Year's Day bowl game,
which I thought was very critical. I remember
sitting here last year, and a lot of you asked what
would be Michigan State's goals? I remember
mentioning that, and people gave me a little bit of a
look. But you know, we made it there.
The thing that I think we have to continue
to do is consistently recruit. We have returning
starters back. We have an outstanding freshman
class, and I think the thing to remember in terms of
where we're at as a program right now is we have
32 upperclassmen right now in our roster, only 13
juniors, 19 scholarship seniors, and 53
underclassmen. So we are a relatively young
football team. I think that that bodes well for the
The success that we've had, I think, is a
direct result of three things. One, we've got
stability. When I talk about stability, I talk about not
just the coaching staff. We've not lost coaches;
we've maintained our staff. In some cases, I've
been a head coach for six years, and I would say
two thirds to three quarters of our staff has been
with us as a group for six entire years. We have
not lost one coach on our defensive staff.
What that gives us is an opportunity to
critique rather than really reinvent things and have
to have our players re-learn because we have a
different coordinator. We've maintained both
coordinators, so our terminology and the things
that we do has been consistent.
I think the other thing, when I look at
stability, we've had very low attrition in terms of the
players that we've had. We have not lost many
players. We've been able to keep those players in
the program, and because of that, they continue to
grow and mature not just as football players, but
also as students and also as people, which are our
The second thing I would point to are our
resources, the Bob Skandelaris Center opened last
July 24th, and we've had so many things happen in
terms of just the facility part of who we are as a
program right now. We have outstanding
leadership. Mark Hollis, our athletic director, is a
lifelong Spartan; as is our president, Lou Anna
Simon; as is one of our board of trustees
members, George Perles; as is our president of the
trustees, Joel Ferguson.
All of those people show
us consistency in terms of where we're going.
I said when I first got the job I thought it
was very, very important that we all go in one
direction as a program. We've been able to do
that, and our fan support obviously is very, very
good, as well.
We've all gone in the same
direction, which is key for our success.
The third thing I think that we point to in
terms of why we've been able to be successful is
our tradition. We've had great players come
through. This is the tenth anniversary actually of
the 10-2 team that finished seventh in the nation.
Beat Florida in the Citrus Bowl in 1999, and I think
it's important to recognize that a lot of our players
have come back to be a part of that program.
The people that have come back to be
honorary captains, the people that -- the former
players that really have reached out to our players,
our current players, make a definite impact on
them in terms of what they have to uphold and the
things they have to do.
So those three things I think are critical to
our success. Our concerns naturally would be, I
guess, our quarterback situation I think is very
strong, but it's inexperienced. Kirk Cousins had
some limited experience last year. We played him
in the bowl game by design to put pressure on him
in those situations. He's played against some
other teams throughout the year, but his
experience is limited.
Keith Nichol is another young player.
are sophomores. While that is a concern, the thing
that I point to constantly when talking to our staff
and really to those two quarterbacks in general is
they're only sophomores, so they have really a lot
of room to grow as players. They're outstanding
athletes. They're outstanding players already.
Both of them performed very, very well in the
spring, particularly in the spring game, and it'll be
interesting to watch as they continue on.
We also have another quarterback,
Andrew Maxwell, who is on campus now and is
showing some great things, as well.
But we lost star power in losing Javon Ringer. I think that's obvious, great player, great
person, great leader for us. So we'll have to fill
Senior leadership will be key. It always
is. I think one of the reasons that we've been able
to go to these two Bowl games the last two years is
because our seniors had their best years ever.
think when they do that, you have a chance of
accomplishing something very, very special.
So our seniors this year will have to
You know, they picked us third this year, I
guess, sports writers. I think it's very, very
important to recognize that we've been in this
situation before at times where the Spartans have
sort of raised up a little bit on very high
expectations and fell a little bit flat.
very, very few games just going away.
Our program is such that we've been
involved in a lot of close games, a lot of close
games. So we'll play game to game, one at a time,
that old cliché. I do think we have an opportunity
to win every game that we play. We always have.
And that will remain true.
Goals for us, then I'll take some questions,
basically is to play up, win our last game. We've
gone to the bowl games. We need to win our last
game, which would hopefully be a bowl game this
year. We need to play well and win our last game
against Penn State. We need to play up when we
play these marquee games where more than just
winning and losing is riding on that.
A little bit
more of the national attention may be riding on it,
whether it be the Penn State game the last game
or the Ohio State game.
We need to continue to mature as a
program, and again, as I mentioned before, it's not
just about football. It's got to be about how we
handle ourselves as students and how we handle
ourselves as people, and hopefully our players
understand that and will continue to move in that
And finally, our goal, as every year goes
on, is to be Big Ten champs. I think if you come to
Chicago, you sit in front of your teams and you
don't have that goal and really believe it, then
you're selling your players short.
So our goals will
be a Big Ten Championship, a BCS game, and
we'll move from there. We'll hope to continue with
our consistency. Good things are happening, and
I'm very, very excited about this year.