Secret to MSU’s recent success? Dantonio has a familiar theory

Shilique Calhoun is one of many seniors who has played a large role on the Michigan State team this season.
Jerome Miron/Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio is often looked at as an old-school coach, and he had an old-school perspective when asked about the key to his team’s resilience this season. 

"I have just said really our seniors have done another outstanding job as a group in terms of leadership," Dantonio said Tuesday during MSU’s Cotton Bowl media day. "And I think when your seniors are happy. And they’re excited about their opportunities and they’re successful, that just sort of permeates through the whole football team and creates energy." 

The Spartans could start as many as 13 seniors against Alabama, including quarterback Connor Cook, two of his top receivers (Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings Jr.) and All-American center Jack Allen. 

On the other side of the ball, Michigan State has seniors at every level, including three up front in ends Shilique Calhoun and Lawrence Thomas and nose guard Joel Heath. 

"They believe in each other. They trust each other as people, and there’s a camaraderie there," Dantonio said. 

"That’s what we have been fortunate to have, not just this year but these last years. You can look back and remember the seniors who played in those years and every one of those classes had that. I think that’s a credit to how they treated the young players as they were coming up." 

For the third year in a row, MSU’s senior class has a chance to do something special. 

Two years ago, the Spartans won their first major bowl game since 1987. 

Last year, they made it major bowl victories in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. 

Now they are back at the Cotton Bowl looking not only for a third-straight major bowl victory but also their first College Football Playoff victory. 

If they do that, even more history will await. 

MORE NEWS: Want stories delivered to you? Sign up for our College Football newsletters.