Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio says he was a little skeptical last year when his team was picked to finish third in the Big Ten despite a new starting quarterback and no experience at running back.
This year, with his team opening preseason camp Monday, Dantonio has a different feeling, even though outside expectations aren’t as high.
Some of it has to do with intangibles.
Ken Mannie, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, has been around the players all summer and recently told Dantonio, “There’s something about this football team. They’re special.”
Dantonio went a step further and called it possibly the best team chemistry he’s seen in his coaching career, comparable to Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team.
“Big statement,” Dantonio said. “That’s what I feel.”
Dantonio said the team needs to continue to build on that chemistry. A couple key injuries could change it rapidly, he said.
“But I see a bunch of givers, very unselfish attitudes,” the coach said.
The top competition for a starting job during camp will be at right tackle. Fifth-year senior J’Michael Deane and junior Jared McGaha are considered the top candidates.
However, two redshirt freshmen coming off injuries — Henry Conway (neck) and David Barrent (back) — also could compete for the job.
“We’re short a little bit on experience on the right side,” Dantonio said, “but I think we can get it done.”
The Spartans, coming off a 6-7 season, open Sept. 4 against Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium.