The War Room:  Go Inside #5 Michigan State Football

Mark Dantonio was all smiles at the 2018 youth clinic.  (PHOTO:  Duffy Carpenter)
Mark Dantonio was all smiles at the 2018 youth clinic. (PHOTO: Duffy Carpenter)

The War Room: Go Inside #5 Michigan State Football

I get a lot of nuggets and information that alone are not big enough for a story. When I have a few that I can assemble together I will, and when I only have one or two I will post them on our Phalanx Forum board. So welcome to The War Room.

  • Parks Gissinger is a guy that may surprise people next year. The true freshman, depending on how he comes in physically will get a chance to see if he can play. Remember it was Dantonio who said of him, "Very active, uses his hands very well, has very good pass-rushing abilities." I can tell you that the defensive staff is intrigued with his skill set and approach.
  • MSU is on the hunt for long athletic DE’s. They desperately need length. They are sitting well is Adam Berghorst and Michael Fletcher. I think both will be Spartans when all is said and done and both have legitimate big-time shots for the NFL.
  • If the Spartans land both Berghorst and Fletcher there will be schools that do as well at DE as the Spartans, BUT NONE better.
  • Speed is the name of the game this spring and the Spartans have it. They are being very creative this offseason. I think Spartan Nation will be pleasantly surprised with some new wrinkles.
  • I have said as many as four more players could transfer this offseason. I now think possible a fifth. While none are expected to be contributors, one might surprise some people. Stay tuned.
  • Paul Haynes coached the MSU secondary from 03-04 and the last five years he was the head coach at Kent State. He said of the coaching additions and subtractions that, "We sit there and still talk through everything that we're doing defensively, just so everybody's on the same page. You don't assume when you've got new coaches, that you sit and everybody understands what we're doing.” He has been a big-time blessing in the coaches’ room.
  • Paul Haynes also raved about true freshman Xavier Henderson. “When you look at him and Xavier Henderson that are here and still should be in high school, I mean, we’re throwing them in the fire going against guys like Felton (Davis III).”
  • Don Treadwell spent the last four seasons working at Kent State for Haynes. He left as Dantonio's offensive coordinator to become the head coach at Miami of Ohio. He says of being back, “Having been a part of the Spartan family, it's kind of easy to get back in that saddle and go back out on that recruiting road."
  • Chuck Bullough was a star LB here 88-91 and played in the NFL for five years. While Haynes and Treadwell have been super additions, Bullough has been a home run. One player told me, “Those DE’s act like he is the Pied Piper or the defensive end whisperer. That is pretty neat to see.”
  • Chuck Bullough said of his DE’s. “They’re just a bunch of tough guys that play hard.”
  • DE Kenny Willekes said of DE Justice Alexander “He’s been playing physical, he’s been using his hands, so he’s really developing into a player.”
  • Brian Lewkere praised true freshman Theo Day. "He's been dropping dimes, he's been very good, also with the knowledge part."
  • The most impressive thing any player said this spring was LJ Scott. “I just have to show a lot more maturity, responsibilities. It’s a lot to come with being a senior and trying to be a leader and build kind of. We’re growing as a team though, for sure.”
  • 13 true freshmen to play for Michigan State last season. That was a record in the Mark Dantonio era.
  • Connor Heyward played a total of 22 snaps on offense. Then Heyward became the main guy on kickoff returns. He had three returns for 115 yards in the win over Minnesota. He flashed some great things this past spring and turned some eyes with his power.
  • Heyward said of his opportunity versus the Buckeyes. "Playing at Ohio State, being the back guy on kick return, it's a big opportunity, and you can't mess up because you never know what can happen. I."
  • Connor Heyward said a lot about how Dave Warner is considering using him this fall with LJ Scott on the field. "There's different packages where me and LJ are in the game at the same time. They motion me out to the slot or they keep us both in the backfield so we can just make our offense overall better and not let defenses know in the fall what we're really doing."
  • Justice Alexander played in only one game. That was against Bowling Green and he had two tackles. Now is his time to shine.
  • I predicted last year that Khari Willis would be a captain this fall and he will. How big is his influence? Paul Haynes said. “Because if Khari Willis wouldn’t have respected me, then that room wouldn’t have respected me, just because of his leadership. You talk about a guy who sits up front and sits there and takes notes, who asks questions, who does exactly what I tell him to do. It’s helped me out so much in that room.”
  • "Learning the playbook on paper is a lot different than running it out on the field. Anybody that's played quarterback will tell you that. It's just a different experience. Getting out there and actually running the playbook every day is definitely helping me get better." That was Rocky Lombardi the Spartans backup and he had a great spring.
  • With Michigan State returning all four starters in the secondary and they are loaded with a ton of top-tier players that won’t start. The Spartans will have the deepest DB room in the Big Ten.
  • We will have two more War Rooms this week, so stay tuned.

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