EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -First-year Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio wants to model much of his football program on what he experienced while working with Ohio State's Jim Tressel.
Except maybe the gameday wardrobe.
``I'm not a sweater vest guy,'' Dantonio said when asked if he might ever don a green sideline ensemble similar to the scarlet one made famous by the Buckeyes' coach.
Other than that, Dantonio's deep Ohio roots - intertwined with Tressel's over parts of three decades - show through in East Lansing.
Dantonio says he wants to empower his players and assistant coaches to make decisions and contribute to the direction of the Spartans program. He embraces tradition and rivalries. He wants to be at his best when handling adversity and help players excel beyond football, which he says are among Tressel's best qualities.
He also wouldn't mind having success like Tressel has had as a head coach, a resume which includes four national championships at Youngstown State and one at Ohio State.
``He's just a good man,'' Dantonio said of Tressel. ``He's a great football coach. But that being said, he's a better person.''
Tressel said as an assistant and a head coach, it's been clear Dantonio works with his players on all aspects of their life to help them become better people.
``I would tell you that his greatest trait is it's very obvious to his players that he cares about them ... and I think when a person knows that that's the way he feels, they're going to have a chance to perform at their best,'' Tressel said.
The No. 1-ranked Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) host Michigan State (5-2, 1-2) on Saturday. Dantonio is leading the Spartans into Ohio Stadium for the first time, but he's been there as a head coach twice before, losing with Cincinnati in both 2004 and 2006.
Dantonio says he has no conflicts coaching against his longtime friend, who is in his seventh season as Ohio State's head coach.
``No, there's not really a discomfort,'' Dantonio said. ``You get a chance to measure yourself a little bit. It's fun to go back in that environment. When you're from that state and you've been there, you look forward to the challenge a little bit.''
Tressel and Dantonio first worked together on Earle Bruce's Buckeyes staff in the early 1980s. Even though Tressel was an offensive assistant and Dantonio was a graduate assistant focused on defense, the two coaches - who both grew up in football frenzied Ohio - immediately clicked.
When Tressel became head coach at what was then Division I-AA Youngstown State before the 1986 season, Dantonio left an assistant's job with Akron and joined Tressel at the eastern Ohio school. Dantonio stayed there for five years.
Tressel became Ohio State's head coach before the 2001 season and hired Dantonio away from Michigan State, where he had been a defensive assistant. The Buckeyes won the 2002 national championship with Dantonio as defensive coordinator.
Dantonio left Columbus to become head coach at Cincinnati, where he compiled an 18-17 record in three seasons. Then Michigan State came calling to give Dantonio his first crack at a head coaching job in the Big Ten.
Tressel's nephew, Mike Tressel, coaches linebackers and special teams for the Spartans. Several other assistants also have Ohio roots, and Dantonio said recruiting the Buckeye state will be a priority for Michigan State.
Dantonio estimates Ohio produces about 70 Bowl Championship Series conference players each year, most of whom go to Big Ten schools. Michigan State has 17 players from Ohio, including running back Javon Ringer and quarterback Brian Hoyer.
``They're always very talent rich,'' Dantonio said of Ohio high schools. ``Certainly Ohio State is the team to beat in that state, but there are other very, very good players. Hopefully, people from Ohio, who see us play, can identify with us. So come on up.''

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