EAST LANSING — There will be a new look, but Mark Dantonio said the goals and ambitions will remain the same for Michigan State football as the program enters spring drills Tuesday.
“The final goal would be back to back, win back-to-back championship as we go toward this next phase,” said Dantonio, whose defending Big Ten championship team loses 11 starters.
“There’s a look that’s going to change, but that’s the challenge of college football, and we try to meet that challenge year in and year out,” Dantonio said at his spring football press conference Monday. “Our key to success here has been our chemistry and work ethic, as much as anything.”
The most notable change for the Spartans is replacing all-time leading passer Connor Cook, a three-year starter at quarterback. That alone will give the offense a new look.
Senior Tyler O’Connor and junior Damion Terry are bracketed as the starters at quarterback entering spring drills, though Dantonio said the competition will likely spill over into the first couple of games of the 2016 season.
The battle for starting tailback duties figures to be just as intriguing.
Co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Dave Warner has said he’ll go with more of a two-man rotation. That leaves Gerald Holmes, LJ Scott and Madre London to sort things out.
R.J. Shelton is the only returning receiver with significant experience. Sophomore Felton Davis III and redshirt freshman Darrell Stewart Jr. are the other receivers listed as starters.
Dantonio said incoming midterm enrollee freshmen receivers Donnie Corley and Cam Chambers will see significant work.
The Spartans will experiment with new concepts on offense, defense and special teams, though Dantonio would not say to what degree and in what areas.
Among the more notable position changes is tailback Delton Williams moved to fullback, where he’s the projected starter, and Drake Martinez at tailback after he spent last season as an outside linebacker.
Dantonio said defensive linemen Craig Evans and Montez Sweat are in good standing with the football team, both having dealt with internal disciplinary issues over the past year.
Motivation doesn’t figure to be a problem, with Michigan State coming off a 38-0 College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Alabama.
Dantonio said he’s “way past that,” But Cook indicated returning players will use that to fuel their offseason work.
“Any time you lose the last game of your season it’s going to light a fire underneath your belly, and it’s going to make you want to work a lot harder in the offseason and have that chip that we’ve always had,” Cook said. “But I see a bright future for the football team.”