EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio feels confident and secure after an offseason of evaluating how the Spartans took "a step back" in his 10th year on campus.
Dantonio, speaking at the school's preseason media day Monday afternoon, said he thinks his program has the ingredients to rebound from a 3-9 season and a long string of legal and locker room issues. The university's board of trustees and athletic director Mark Hollis both said in June that they believed the veteran coach would be able to right the ship after a tumultuous 12 months.
"Anywhere in college football you're always going to be a little bit under pressure," he said. "That's the game we play. [We] didn't have a good year last year, so here they all come. I feel like I'm a good football coach. I feel like I have good coaches here. I feel like our players believe in what we do. We're all-in, and that's the first step."
The coach said his expectations for wins and losses remain high even though he had his worst season in East Lansing last year and lost more than a dozen players who would have been contributors in 2017. Four of those players were removed from the team amid sexual assault allegations that cast a long shadow over the offseason in East Lansing and contributed to questions about the environment and culture around the team.
Dantonio said he reviewed his own performance as a head coach during the offseason. His players and assistants say Dantonio has returned his focus to some of the core principles that helped him build the Spartans into a regular Big Ten championship contender for several years before 2016.
"Coach has, all of us have," said Mike Tressel, Michigan's state co-defensive coordinator. "I think every one of the assistant coaches, every one of the veteran players have had a chance to sit back and evaluate what got us here. Look at the Spartan brand and the type of guys that make us successful and try to reset ourselves."
Dantonio didn't go into detail about the changes he's made to try to get back on track, but players said he has been more likely "to crack the whip" during the first week of preseason camp than he has in recent years.
He said he sees similarities this season to his first year as Michigan State's head coach in the emphasis on building accountability on a young team. The Spartans have only 12 seniors on their roster, and only about half of them are expected to be regular starters or contributors.
"I'm not going to be defined here in the end by how many wins and losses we had," Dantonio said. "Inevitably you're going to be defined on how you handled the program in the down times as well as the up times. I'm going to do my best to do what I think is right."