Because there are still almost 3 full weeks until the season, let's go to the big picture, 1000-foot view of the program's current state, and what it means for the guys calling the shots in the seasons to come.
In short, the state of the program is good- like, really good. On Dantonio's watch, the program has compiled a 44-22 record, good for the best winning percentage since Biggie Munn. The miscellaneous other achievements are well-known to readers of this site, but in brief: back-to-back 11 win seasons, the school's first bowl win since 2001, a 4-1 record over Michigan, and dramatic victories with plays that will go down in Spartan legend over Notre Dame (Little Giants) and then-unbeaten Wisconsin (Rocket). On top of that, the staff has shown a propensity for getting the most out of its players on and off the field, sending multiple once-unheralded recruits to the NFL and making tremendous progress in the off-field legal and disciplinary issues that had hung over the program in previous years. (more coachspeak after the jump)
What's more, regardless of what skeptics might say, this team isn't going anywhere. Notwithstanding the potential revival of Ohio State and Michigan under spotlight-snatching new coaches, MSU has the players on roster and the increased recruiting chops to run even with fully armed and operational Death Star programs like those two.
A huge part of that success has been the relative continuity on the coaching staff. Even with a stud QB and 3 excellent offensive linemen departing, the offseason talk at Wisconsin this year is concerned greatly with the departures of 6 coaches, including the architect of last year's stunning offense, Paul Chryst, and the developer of the Thick Red Line, o-line coach Bob Bostad. Part of that is because it's odd when so many assistants bail from what appears from the outside to be a pretty sweet gig on the conference's dominant program at the moment, but mostly it's because having the same coaches in place is vital to the development of players from the raw athletic specimens they generally arrive at college as into the polished-ish products winning teams need to be successful. Just ask a Wolverine fan what inconsistent or incompetent coaching can do to, say, the performance of your entire defense- and how quickly that can turn around with proper coaching, even with essentially the same roster.
We saw in the early stages of last season what the installation of a new scheme can do to a unit. The offensive performance at Notre Dame was, frankly, awful, even allowing for the rash of injuries on the line. Likewise, after an uninspired effort at Nebraska, many fans criticized "the game plan," blaming new OC Dan Roushar for the team's poor showing. Even the win at Ohio State was not exactly a work of art offensively. It can be said that, coming after emotional victories over Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin in the preceding 3 weeks had just left the team drained. But still, even casually informed fans have a sense that something is wrong when an entire unit performs so badly. And over the course of the season, the offense improved. In part, that's probably because the reshuffled offensive line played better, but increased familiarity with the scheme presumably helped as well.
With these examples of the benefits of continuity in mind, let's examine our program. Since Mark Dantonio's arrival in East Lansing in 2007, just two of his former assistants have left the staff, both having been hired away as head football coaches at other schools. The departures are former running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Dan Enos, now honcho of the Central Michigan Chippewas (who, unfortunately for him, are about a month away from a beat-down at the hands of Enos' old team) and former offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, now in charge at his alma mater, Miami (OH).
Of the current staff, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is the next probable departure. Even Coach Dantonio seems to take it for granted that, probably sooner than later, the Nard-dawg will be taking his talents elsewhere. He was pursued for, and considered, the head coaching job at Akron and the DC position at Texas A&M for $EC-type dollars, but ultimately refused both. Still, it seems inevitable, with the stellar performance of last year's defense and its projected excellence this year, that Narduzzi's days with us are numbered.
We'll miss Narduzzi if (when) he leaves, but we wouldn't be a fan base if we didn't wildly speculate. The question I pose, then, is who is our likely successor to this critical position? The options are relatively simple: we can promote a current assistant, or hire from outside. I would have added pictures, but I'm not sure about placing stuff from external sources.
Defensive Line Coach Ted Gill: Gill has been on Dantonio's staff since 2003, when he joined Dantonio at Cincinnati, and like most of the rest of the staff, followed Dantonio to East Lansing. His resume is lengthy and impressive, including stints in the CFL, XFL, and a 3-year tenure with the Carolina Panthers in the NFL, as well as numerous college stops including 5 seasons under Hayden Fry at Iowa. During his time in EL, Gill has mentored standout players such as Jonal Saint-Dic, Ervin Baldwin, Trevor Anderson, and our more recent fan favorites Jerel Worthy and William Gholston.
Linebackers/Special Teams Coach Mike Tressel: Before you ask, yes, he's related to former OSU head coach Jim Tressel; Mike is the Vest's nephew. He was a graduate assistant on the elder Tressel's 2002 national championship team, which was presumably where he met Dantonio, who was then DC for the Buckeyes. He then joined Dantonio at Cincinnati and also made the transition over to MSU. Tressel has guided Eric Gordon, Greg Jones, and our current stable of All-Big Ten backers, Chris Norman, Max Bullough, and Denicos Allen. The special teams have also performed very well under his watch. Brett Swenson is MSU's all-time leader in most placekicking categories, and Dan Conroy could be in the running for postseason awards this year. Tressel is also responsible for coaching the units that pulled off Little Giants and Mousetrap, as well as the blocked kick in the Outback Bowl.
Defensive Backs Coach Harlon Barnett: Barnett is a former MSU defensive back and member of George Perles's 1988 Rose Bowl-winning team; he then played seven seasons in the NFL. He made a brief stop as a grad assistant at LSU before joining Dantonio's staff in 2004. At MSU, he has coached Kendall Davis-Clark, Travis Key, Otis Wiley, Chris L. Rucker, Trenton Robinson, and current standouts Johnny Adams, Darqueze Dennard, and Isaiah Lewis.
There is, of course, the possibility of hiring another DC from outside the program. For reasons I wish I could explain better, I think this is unlikely. The character of the program simply seems to fit better with promoting from within, and the resumes of these three men leave us no shortage of capable candidates already on staff.