Share “Spartans managing increased expectations”

Spartans managing increased expectations

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 4, 2014 at 7:39 pm •  Published: August 4, 2014

Cook is back, but that defense lost linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen as well as defensive backs Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis. The Spartans will be tested almost immediately. After opening against Jacksonville State, Michigan State travels west to face Oregon and its fast-paced, dynamic offense.

Of course, even that game is about a month away, so defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi didn't want to talk about Oregon much.

"We actually ran a few Jacksonville State plays today. We've studied probably a week on Oregon during the summer," he said. "We're ready for them, but that's over with. We've got all our preparation. We're not thinking about them right now. We're thinking about ourselves, getting better fundamentally, knowing what we're doing, and then focus on Jacksonville State."

Still, the Oregon game underscores the fact that there are always new challenges on the horizon — more chances for the Spartans to prove they belong among the nation's elite.

"Win or lose, we'll have a better understanding of how we need to improve after that game," defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun said. "As a kid, I feel like everyone looks at Oregon, and you see the jerseys, and everyone loves all this. I really can't wait to play there, because I want to see how it is. I've never been."

The Big Ten schedule starts about a month after that game, and three of Michigan State's toughest-looking matchups — against Nebraska, Michigan and Ohio State — will be at home.

"There's higher expectations. You have to manage those expectations," Dantonio said. "You have to keep things real for your players, but also continue to try and climb a ladder or two."