After five days of media events and pre-Rose Bowl festivities, Stanford and Michigan State are heading into the home stretch of their bowl week event schedule before Wednesday’s game.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio opened his press conference Monday morning by responding to a question regarding the middle linebacker position, as star middle linebacker Max Bullough was suspended last week for a violation of team rules. Dantonio said that backups Darien Harris and Kyler Elsworth will split snaps on Wednesday, but Elsworth will likely start at middle linebacker for the Spartans.
Though neither Elsworth nor Harris have had much in-game experience at middle linebacker, Dantonio said that Elsworth and Harris will have the same responsibilities as Bullough had.
Dantonio also had an interesting comment when he was asked about Stanford’s special teams play, and more specifically, about whether the Spartans will kick to All-American kick returner Ty Montgomery.
“That’s a game-plan type thing,” Dantonio said, “but we’re not going to shy away from contact.”
Based off of Dantonio’s quote, it would appear that Michigan State is preparing its special teams unit for kicking to Montgomery, even though Spartan kickoff specialist Kevin Muma’s strong leg would probably be capable of producing touchbacks in the favorable weather expected for the game.
Dantonio ended his press conference by replying to a question about the Big Ten’s much maligned performance so far in this bowl season. Dantonio said that the Spartans will play for Michigan State, and will not put the mantle of their conference on their shoulders, along with the pressure that goes with such expectations. In turn, Dantonio thinks that Michigan State alone, rather than the entire Big Ten Conference, will have to stand by its performance in the Rose Bowl.
In the second half of the media session, Stanford head coach David Shaw announced that Stanford’s honorary captains will be Helen and Peter Bing and former women’s soccer star Julie Foudy ‘93. Shaw praised the Bings wider support of the University, including their support of the fine arts and the Bing Elementary School where Shaw’s children attend. In addition, the Bings are well known among Stanford students for their work with their namesake overseas study program.
Shaw also lauded Foudy, who was a four-time NSCAA All-American and the 1991 Soccer America Player of the Year while at Stanford.
“[Foudy is a] great motivation speaker and a tough athlete that I would love our guys to be around,” Shaw said.
Shaw was also asked to assess junior Kevin Hogan’s development at quarterback this season and where he envisions Hogan’s ceiling to be.
“I think [Hogan] has had peaks and valleys this year,” Shaw said. “I don’t think he’s been bad all year. He’s never had a bad game. I think he’s been great some weeks, I think he’s been good some weeks, but you never judge a game on one or two bad plays, which every quarterback is going to have during the course of a game.”
Shaw highlighted senior running back Tyler Gaffney’s play and the maturity of the receiving corps, led by junior Ty Montgomery, as factors that helped Hogan grow as the Cardinal’s quarterback.
Shaw also revealed some details regarding the beginnings of the jumbo package in the Card’s offensive playbook. Shaw remarked that the impetus for the formation came from watching the Baltimore Ravens on film. Greg Roman, Stanford’s offensive coordinator at the time, had been an offensive line assistant in Baltimore in 2006 and 2007, so Roman was very familiar with the jumbo formations run by the Ravens.
In addition, the coaching staff believed that, at that moment, Levine Toilolo ‘13 was still raw as a receiving tight end. Therefore, the coaching staff reasoned, the jumbo package could provide an opportunity for Toilolo and the Card’s other physical tight ends a prime opportunity to contribute.
The 100th Rose Bowl Game kicks off at 2 p.m. on Jan. 1.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ Stanford.edu.