NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State
Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio reacts to a play during the first half of a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The annual preseason media circus for the Big Ten took place these last couple days in Chicago, where coaches and players from all 14 conference programs took time to handicap their respective teams for the upcoming season.

The Michigan State Spartans will undoubtedly be a team to watch. After finishing a dreadful 3-9 a year ago, followed up with an offseason of disorder and unrest, highlighted by the sexual assault investigation that eventually dismissed three players, nobody is more anxious to get back to the grind of things than head coach Mark Dantonio.

The Spartans’ head man entering his 11th season discussed a myriad of things on the upcoming 2017. Among those was drawing a unique comparison, that this year’s bunch could be similar to their 2013 team — a team that ended up as Big Ten and Rose Bowl champions.

Here is what Dantonio specifically said about the topic:

“I compare this very much to our 2013 season in a lot of ways,” Dantonio said. “We didn’t have a tailback coming in, then we have a strong contingent of tailbacks. Our quarterback situation was changing a little bit. Connor Cook was coming, a void was there and we had to fill that void. So a lot of those type of things are happening now.”

Dantonio refers to how the team was able to bounce back from a pedestrian 7-6 season in 2012; the only season in a six-year stretch for MSU in which they didn’t eclipse double-digit wins. They answered that season by finding an emerging quarterback Connor Cook, after toughing out a year and change with Andrew Maxwell.

Last season, it was a revolving door at the quarterback position, mostly led by another perpetual backup in Tyler O’Connor. Redshirt sophomore Brian Lewerke played in a few games last season and showed flashes of hope and potential before being injured and lost for the season. Now, Lewerke appears to be the head man moving forward, per Dantonio.

The MSU head coach also talked a lot about this year’s youth in 2017, kind of coinciding with the comparisons to the 2012-13 stretch of MSU football.

“Last year we played nine true freshmen and we played another redshirt freshman, so we were young,” Dantonio said. “Some of those positions were positions of control, I would say — the Mike linebacker when Riley Bullough went down. Our quarterback situation — Brian Lewerke was a redshirt freshman as well. Those were very, very critical positions that you needed to have guys with more experience.

“But the most important thing is that we go forward with conviction and I sense a sense of responsibility with our young players. Just because you’re young does not mean that you don’t have the opportunities to lead. In fact, sometimes things need to be cleared away for the young players to take root and lead.”

Dantonio and the Spartans kick off the 2017 season on Saturday, September 2 at home against Bowling Green (Noon ET). To view the Q&A Dantonio at Big Ten Media Day, check out the two videos below.

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