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How’d we get here already? Week 2 and MSU’s players protected from lurking and QB-inquiring media

To be fair, if I were Mark Dantonio, to some degree, I’d do the same thing.

Of the bevy of Michigan State offensive players requested for interviews this week, Michigan State only made two available Tuesday — center Travis Jackson and captain and offensive line mate Blake Treadwell. This is the sort of shutdown that usually waits for a big game. Not South Florida in early September.

So, there goes the LSJ’s Saturday GameDay section story on Jeremy Langford, and Macgarrett Kings opportunity to talk about his first start at wideout, and a story plans on offensive tackle-turned-tight end Michael Dennis, and probably a number other planned pieces throughout several news outlets.

With these three players and a few others, this shielding doesn’t make much sense — other than keeping Kings away from proclaiming big things (not saying he would), which is exactly what MSU doesn’t need right now.

RELATED: Here’s my column on adding Kings to the lineup from today’s Lansing State Journal (and a video with me, Joe Rexrode and Drew Sharp talking about the day’s happenings).

Here’s why I think it happened — before a nonconference game against South Florida, no less — and why I sort of agree with it, from Mark Dantonio’s perspective:

The majority of the questions facing Dantonio in his press conference earlier Tuesday had to do with the quarterback situation — and rightly so. He and his quarterbacks have made this THE story. Dantonio took too long to make his Week 1 decision and then his quarterbacks explained why it took so long with their mediocre play.

Having QB Andrew Maxwell or benched senior wideout Bennie Fowler answer again for their faults is pointless. These two have been beaten up plenty. I would have kept them out of midweek interviews for the sake of sheer mercy.

But even most of the others would have faced mischievously intended questions, from a few of my media brethren. Jackson and Treadwell did. These are the moments Dantonio wanted to avoid.

It goes like this: In the middle of questions about blocking and tackling and figuring out how to move the football, someone asks, “Who were you snapping to most today?” Or “Who took most of the reps at QB?”

Fair questions. But a backdoor way of asking, “Who’s starting at quarterback?” The answer may not even appropriately explain the situation. But it puts the player in an awkward spot.

Jackson and Treadwell are savvy enough to sidestep these inquiries. Others, perhaps not. And then, on certain websites, there are new QB stories and headlines, meant to make you a page view.

Again, these are fair questions, but, from Dantonio’s view, questions he answered at Tuesday morning’s press conference, with relative clarity. He doesn’t want his players pestered about this. I don’t blame him for that.

Here’s what Dantonio said of the QB situation:

“We don’t want it to be a media circus every week, first of all. But I understand that is the nature of society. But I think the most important thing is we’re going to practice this week, and I’m not going to put the cart before the horse. We’re going to practice. We’re going to find out some things in practice and we’re going to make decisions as we move forward.

“Those decisions are tough decisions, because you have a position of leadership, but that’s why we give people opportunities.”

“I know this is a little bit of a media event because everybody wants to talk about that aspect, because they always want to talk about the head coach. They only want to talk about the quarterback because they’re positions of leadership. So that goes with the role.  But at the same time, my job is to protect our players, and I think that’s very important. I’ve been trying to do the very best I can to protect our players, and sometimes that has to be done in-house.  Probably more often than not, has to be done in-house.”

Not much else to know, other than possibly who took more reps on a Tuesday by getting a teammate to let it slip out.

I prefer the Tom Izzo way of player-media relations — players are always available, so nothing festers and, they learn that in major sports, being able to talk the game and answer for your actions is part of the deal.

Football, however, is a slightly different animal. More players. Fewer games. Higher stakes. More media.

I don’t agree with it, but I understand it. And if I’m a big-time college football coach, I’m tempted to limit who’s talking this week.

Beyond explaining that a QB decision would be made later and based on practice, the most important line from Dantonio, I thought, was about freshman QB Damion Terry.

When asked for clarity on a report that MSU’s other quarterbacks agreed Terry to be the best option after his breakout late-August scrimmage, Dantonio made it clear players were only talking about the scrimmage — not including everything leading up to it — and then put into words why Terry hasn’t played and why he probably won’t until all three of the other options prove they can’t do the job.

“That was just in the scrimmage,” Dantonio said. “At that point in time, as I’ve said on many occasions, we’ve tried to push the envelope to see if he could be a (No.) 1, and to see if he could be a 2. At that point in time, he did not, and he could not.  So because of that, we had to make other decisions.”

I expect to see all three of the other QBs — Maxwell, Connor Cook and Tyler O’Connor — play this week. At the very least, I expect O’Connor gets a look.

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14 Responses to How’d we get here already? Week 2 and MSU’s players protected from lurking and QB-inquiring media

  1. avatar Spartan 81 says:

    Thanks Graham, the good thing for you is you can kind of work some 5 hour days and not burn yourself out , save your energy for game days.

    • avatar Ghost of Biggie says:

      Of course with this offense you only have to work half time on game day. Not much of consequence to report about it. I hope Graham is right about Kings being a possible spark plug. A distorted image of Keshawn Martin in a funhouse mirror would be a pleasant surprise.

  2. avatar Hammer says:

    Has anyone considered this….Western’s offense scored more points on MSU’s top ranked defense than MSU’s offense scored on Western’s defense. Time for some big changes on MSU offense?

  3. avatar Rob says:

    I am tired of whining sportswriters. So you can’t write another tedious story about a subject that has been beaten to death. What difference will it make in the outcome of the game if we know today or Saturday at 11:59 a.m. who is the QB?!!! Find something else to write about. PLEASE!!!!!

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Rob,

      I don’t disagree. Our plan was, other than news on QBs, to tackle other angles. That said, MSU has made this about the QBs. And it is the hot topic with fans, even if not with you.

  4. avatar Alden says:

    Thanks Graham. Appreciate the perspective.

    We have two games before ND. Both games that our Defense will win for us even if the offense was as bad as this past week.

    Shouldn’t we cut our losses with Maxwell (as much as I like him as a person) and Cook, to give way to O’Connor or even Terry? Start one with the expectation of playing for an entire game, so there’s no looking over-the-shoulder wondering if they’re getting pulled for throwing incomplete on 3rd down after run plays on downs 1 and 2. This gives them 2 games of experience before ND. Then you really see what you have in either option, neither of which haven’t been vetted yet.

    The experience would add value, work out some of the kinks, and perhaps expose the best QB option for the season,… and beyond.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Hey, Alden.

      I think you give Maxwell another go here, but play all three. You’ve got to find some separation somewhere. Until someone out-performs Maxwell, he should be part of this. I’d play Maxwell and Cook in the first half and start the third quarter with O’Connor.

      • avatar GreenGuy says:

        Well…in this case I have to agree with Graham. “If” WRs hold on to passes put on the numbers…this conversation doesn’t even get off the ground. MSU should give Kings, Arnett, Sims, and maybe Shelton a shot to run correct routes and hold on to balls…thrown by Maxwell. Sorry, I’m not convinced this OL can be effective enough for either a power running or read-option running game once the schedule clears YSU.

        Does anyone remember O’Connor from the Spring GW game? Really…has he improved that much from a turnover machine? He looked not even remotely ready to see the field in a real game.

  5. avatar JustaBum says:

    Fair play to you Graham !!! You have shown us the kinder gentle human side of Graham Couch… your blog should have a different persona then your articles.

    All your comments about the consequences arising from Dantonio’s mandates are realistic and accurate. Coach Dantonio is probably far greater frustrated than us MSU fans with the offensive play and it#s just not focused on the QB who is dependent on the O-line for protection and blocking to allow MSU to have a balanced attack.

    Perhaps you can write about the pressure on the offense to perform, or commend Coach Dantonio for not hanging out to dry his position coaches. Jeeze the patience the man displays, especially with the guy in charge of the WR’s after all the alligator arm catching attempts, poor route running and inability to get open that makes the QB look so mediocre!

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