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April 07, 2011

Ray reaction (and MSU spring football tidbits galore)

Mark Dantonio: “More than anything, it’s a starting point to be back on the field. I think also it gives hope to everybody who’s in any kind of tough situation in their life. If you just keep pushing, push through adversity, you’ve got a chance. But it was great seeing him out there. We want to try to work him in very, very gradually to see how he does really in individual drills. Allow him to get confidence in himself and really allow ourselves to get confidence in him, that he will not be at risk.”

    Ray did individual drills in a helmet and shoulder pads, working some at center, and Dantonio said MSU may eventually involve him in some "half line" drills, but probably no full scrimmaging this spring.

    More from Dantonio: “You know, when you want something bad enough, there’s a greater chance of you getting it done. I think it’s an example to a lot of people that are going through a lot of tough times in their life, that if they can just persevere, good things can happen for them.  Because this guy, he’s had four, five, six operations. He was on crutches for two years. You know, there was a lot of doubt whether he was gonna be able to walk again, let alone play football.”

    Arthur Ray (who released some comments through MSU) on finding out from Dantonio that the NCAA had cleared him: “I was in class, and I just cried tears of joy. I called my mom. It’s the best feeling in the world right now.”

    Ray on taking the field: “It was the greatest feeling in the world. It felt so good because it just represents so much now. I just feel like I have to represent everybody that’s still dealing with bad things, like chemo. I still remember some of my guys that are still in the hospital.”

    Ray on the reception he got from the team: “I had a great one, phenomenal. Coach (Dantonio) announced it, and everybody clapped. It’s good to have the support.”   

    Ray on managing expectations: “I’m using spring ball to get my feet back underneath me. I went out there today and did a few drills, a little bit of hitting. It felt great. I’m not that far off, I just have to keep working.”

    Dan Roushar on Ray's return: “We’re all thrilled for Arthur, especially when you think about the surgeries, the chemotherapy treatments and the countless hours of rehabilitation. For Arthur to return to the practice field today, I’m sure it felt like his Super Bowl moment. His return to the field was emotional for many of us. When coach Dantonio delivered the news that Arthur had been cleared to return to practice, the entire team erupted into applause. He has inspired many of his teammates during this remarkable journey.”

    Kirk Cousins on seeing Ray out there: “At first when I saw the No. 73 and the helmet and the knee braces on him, I didn’t know who it was at first. I had to look closer and it was Arthur. So it was strange, but it was awesome to see him out there. It’s a testament to who he is, his family. And what he’s battled through has been more than what you’d ask any 18-year-old to deal with.”

    Also gleaned from today's post-practice interviews...

    * Freshman defensive back Arjen Colquhoun, MSU's lone early enrollee, has injured his elbow and likely will miss the rest of spring ball. B.J. Cunningham (foot) should be participating soon, and Chris Norman (elbow) and Will Gholston (shoulder) still are being held out of some things.

    * Ethan Ruhland remains slightly ahead of Blake Treadwell and Travis Jackson at center, which is expected considering Ruhland's experience advantage. Still a long way to go in that one. Isaiah Lewis is ahead of Jairus Jones at strong safety, after Jones started the spring at No. 1. Jones is a "very powerful, explosive guy," Dantonio said.

    * Tony Lippett is one of the buzz creators of the spring, and with good reason -- coaches think he can play both ways for MSU. (He told me tonight he'd pick receiver if forced to choose, by the way, and look for more on him soon). But new receivers coach Terrence Samuel had some praise tonight for the other redshirt freshman working at receiver -- 6-0, 205-pound Georgia product Keith Mumphery.

    “Don’t want to give him a big head, but Keith Mumphery to my estimation is doing really well, " Samuel said. "As far as a young guy really coming along and making plays, catching the ball well, Keith is doing a good job. (He has) a strong body, I mean you touch him, you better be ready to touch some steel, because he’s built pretty hard, he’s rocked up pretty good. So he can demand the attention of defensive backs.”

    Dantonio said Lippett and Mumphery have looked "very special," and he also said Keith Nichol looks much more comfortable this spring. A year ago, remember, Nichol was just starting to learn the position. Nichol said he's "a lot more loose, a lot more on balance, a lot faster, more explosive."

    And we haven't discussed Cunningham, Keshawn Martin or my pick for 2011 offensive breakout player, Bennie Fowler. Bottom line: It's a ridiculously stacked position, once again.

    * MSU will have its first scrimmage of the spring on Friday, with green jerseys on the line between the offense and the defense. Definitely a chance to get Andrew Maxwell some work. Asked about Maxwell, Dantonio said: “Andrew Maxwell has been outstanding. This is his third year in the program and you can tell. He’s got a great arm, great awareness, full control of the offense and I really feel like he would start at a lot of places as a quarterback. So I feel very, very good about that.”

    Dantonio also said Nichol will get a few reps at No. 3 quarterback in the last two weeks of spring “just to work him a little bit there just because of the depth issue there.”

    * A few other Dantonio mentions -- he said the offensive line "is coming," the defense had an overall good day on Thursday, and that Mike Sadler is looking "very, very explosive as a punter."

    Sorry, that's all I've got for you.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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