Coming off of a 13-1 and Rose Bowl victory Michigan State isn’t going to surprise anyone this season.
Mark Dantonio’s squad is going to have a target on it’s back in 2014, and at Big Ten Media Day Monday he shared how he plans on handling the expectations.
“What we’ve tried to talk about is how we handle success, that’s going to be one of the biggest things we deal with this year,” Dantonio said.
The last time Michigan State was coming off of a 10-plus win season the result was less than stellar. The Spartans staggered to a 7-6 finish in 2012 after winning 11 games the previous year. Granted MSU lost Kirk Cousins and the top three wide receivers following the 2011 season, but regardless the Spartans could have handled the expectations much better.
This time around Michigan State won’t have to worry about replacing a quarterback or wide receivers, as the Spartans return almost all of their skill players. Where Michigan State will have to find replacements is on the defensive side of the ball.
Shilique Calhoun will be relied upon more than ever this season, but he doesn’t see any pressure being put on him to replace the departed seniors.
“The pressure hasn’t really been focused on me, collectively as a group we’ve tried to step up so there is no let down,” Calhoun said.
It will be nearly impossible to avoid at least a slight let down from last years defense since it was one of the best units in all of college football. The defense will be integrating a lot of young players into the lineup, specifically at linebacker, so the first few weeks of the season could be a bit bumpy. However, if there’s one thing that Pat Narduzzi’s defense has proven over the last few years it’s that the scheme will work as long as you have talented players who buy into it.
As far as Michigan State’s role as one of the top dogs in the conference is concerned, Mark Dantonio has mixed feelings.
“We’re a little bit more of the hunted,” Dantonio said, “That’s a good place to be, but it’s also a very precarious place to be as well.”
While acknowledging that other teams may now be circling Michigan State on their schedule, he didn’t want to anoint his team as the hands-down favorite in the conference either.
“I termed ourselves one of the hunted…not the hunted,” Dantonio said, “We’re not looking for any entitlement, anybody to put us up there. We’ll get what we earn.”
Handling success is one of the toughest things to do in the dangerous jungle that is college football. It’s almost time to figure out how Michigan State will handle it’s new role as the “hunted”.
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