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.
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.