LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Michigan’s Brady Hoke had very different seasons, and their hour-long presentations reflected that Friday at the state High School Football Coaches Association clinic.
With 10 straight victories, including the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl, Dantonio’s talk was titled “Winning Thoughts” and often to the Spartans’ school-record 13-1 mark. He met with reporters before the speech and posed for photos with coaches.
After losing five of six games in November and December, including the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, to finish 7-6, Hoke declined to answer questions, spoke primarily about tackling and safety issues, then left. He began by introducing new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and invited everyone to visit campus.
While changing a losing culture in East Lansing, Dantonio has taken the program to seven straight bowls, has won the last three and had seen this year’s seniors win 42 games in four seasons, the most by any team in the state in nearly a century.
His team had the nation’s No. 1 defense for 14 consecutive weeks.
“We had some amazing times and amazing stories,” Dantonio said. “Our returning tailbacks had a combined 14 carries. We had questions at quarterback and receiver. And we needed to find a kicker. Somehow, some way, it all started to come together.”
Three hours earlier, Hoke reintroduced Nussmeier to the state’s coaches. The former Michigan State assistant and Alabama coordinator said he was happy to be back, this time in Ann Arbor, and mentioned Michigan’s great tradition and his admiration for Hoke as a person.
Hoke then presented a series of tips on how to make a defense better, after sounding a strong warning about the future of football.
“We’re talking about a game we all have a passion for,” he said. “If we don’t protect it, it can go away. And it’s the greatest team sport there is.”
Hoke asked how many coaches in attendance were involved with the USA Football and Heads Up Football movements to make the game safer and teach proper techniques at the earliest levels. The response was underwhelming.
“There are enough negatives out there for a lot of different people that if we don’t protect it, I really have a bad feeling about this great game and its future,” Hoke said. “I wasn’t taught about heads-up tackling. My dad was a great teacher. You’ve got to love him. But I was taught to put my face through someone and drive him backward.”
After showing video of proper techniques with practice footage, Hoke set the stage for an hour-long symposium on concussions and keys to a safer game.
Then, Dantonio shifted the discussion to tackling the problems most coaches face and some can conquer.
“You’re inches away,” he told the crowd, referring to his team and others that persevere. “You don’t know what’s going to make that difference.”