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B1G 2013 // MSU's Smartest Guys in the Room

(Note: This is a feature for Off Tackle Empire looking at the MSU coaching staff)

Christian Petersen

Stability is a weird thing. It's not something MSU fans are used to with its football program. The seasons typically peaked and valleyed, and this was usually because of coaching staffs.

After George Perles' time was done, Nick Saban built things up over four years before leaving for LSU. Then came Bobby Williams, who was fired before his third season was over. Following that, John L. Smith made it into his fourth season, but was fired before it ended. It's been a long, long time since an MSU coach retired from MSU on his own terms.

In came Mark Dantonio. The coaching staff has stayed mostly the same, and so have winning seasons. Over Dantonio's first five seasons, the only coaching changes were running backs coach Dan Enos leaving for the head coaching job at Central Michigan and offensive coordinator Don Treadwell leaving for the head coaching job at Miami (Ohio). That's good continuity, and coaches are only leaving for promotions. As frustrating as things were last season, all signs were that MSU wouldn't head into 2013 with the same staff for the third straight season.

But surprisingly, defensive line coach Ted Gill's contract wasn't renewed, so in came Ron Burton from Air Force as an unknown. Then offensive coordinator Dan Roushar left for the running backs job with the New Orleans Saints. Some Spartan fans cheered, until it was announced Jim Bollman would fill his spot on the staff (although in a different position). So there are some new faces, but the plan and goal remains the same.

The Head Coach - Mark Dantonio

Dantonio still feels like a relatively new guy in the Big Ten, but only Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzgerald have seniority over him. This is a rare position for an MSU coach, as mentioned above. Dantonio has brought the rare stability to this program, and built a solid foundation to keep things from falling off.

MSU has a coach that won't be leaving for another school, and there's a good chance he'll be able to pick his successor. Despite the heart attack in 2010, Dantonio is very healthy. It's unclear how much longer he'll be the head coach here, but I still give him quite a few years. For decades, MSU was considered a sleeping giant that always underachieved. He's changed the mindset and the culture both inward and outward. He put emphasis on the Michigan game (something John L. wouldn't do) and has backed it up. All in all, he was the perfect hire for this program back in December 2006.

Offense - What's changing?

The offensive coordinators - Dave Warner, Jim Bollman

With Roushar gone, quarterbacks coach Dave Warner was promoted to running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator. He will be taking over the much-maligned position of playcaller. Warner has been with Dantonio for a long time and knows everything about this offense. After having one of the worst offenses in the nation last season, Warner has promised changes. We saw new formations and plays in the spring game, and hopefully it's a sign of things to come. Of course, that also depends on the players.

It's still a little unclear what Bollman's role is as co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. I imagine he's more about play design and strategy. Ohio State fans don't seem to like him, he's worked with Dantonio at several spots before, and since he's not calling plays, the hope is he won't draw the same reaction here.

The Other Guys - Brad Salem, Terrance Samuel, Mark Staten

Salem moves from running backs coach to quarterbacks coach. He also runs the recruiting. Salem did a good job in his two years with the backs, but he has a strong background running an offense and working with quarterbacks. With two years under his belt, he should transition just fine, with he also inherits a bit of a quarterback battle between a senior incumbent and a young challenger more fans are clamoring for.

Samuel coaches the receivers, and while 2011 was a fantastic year, having two starters drafted, he inherited a talented and veteran bunch. With a young group with basically no experience last year, dropped passes were a major problem. Everyone returns in the receiving corps, so the hope is for a big step forward, and part of that falls on Samuel.

Staten coaches what has typically been the worst position for MSU under Dantonio, but he's also had to deal with injuries to numerous starters every year an the top recruits who come in. We piggyback off AIRBHG and say that there is an MSU offensive linemen-hating god who strikes down anyone stepping up. But four starters return from 2012, and there are now several backups with starting experience. If they can generally stay healthy, this is expected to be the best line in the Dantonio era. Staten also is one of MSU's top recruiters.

Defense - More of the same

The Coordinator - Pat Narduzzi

MSU has been able to hold onto Narduzzi and pay him enough that he'll only be leaving for a BCS head coaching job. He added the title of associate head coach, and there is a hope he'll be Dantonio's successor, but it's hard to imagine he won't be offered some pretty good jobs by then. We'll see. It's been quite a turnaround since 2009, when fans were calling for Narduzzi's head after the defense couldn't back up a great offense. How things have turned around. He got his players in, and they love his attacking system. MSU has had one of the nation's best defenses over the past two years, has been sending defensive players to the NFL regularly and has talent stockpiled for years to come.

The New Guy - Ron Burton

As mentioned, it was a big surprise when Burton replaced Gill, who turned the defensive line into one of the best units on the team. Some former players were upset Gill isn't returning. But Gill was up there in age and didn't help much with recruiting. Burton has done a fantastic job on the recruiting trail so far. Although MSU's run defense was great, there was a sharp decline in negative plays forced from 2011-12. Burton has brought in more energy with new techniques, and things look good moving forward.

The Old Faces - Mike Tressel, Harlon Barnett

MSU's linebackers coach and secondary coach have been with Dantonio for a long time, including all six at MSU. As a result, the linebacking corps and secondary have been among the nation's best in the past two years. There is so much depth and talent in the back seven. If Narduzzi leaves, it's expected that one of these two men would take over as defensive coordinator.

Do they Tweet?

Over the past few months, just about all the assistants have joined Twitter. Even Dantonio joined. Most of them tweet about their recruiting trips, while Dantonio typically tweets positive things about MSU.


Overall, a big reason for MSU's success has been the staff continuity. The two coaches who left for head coaching jobs didn't bring full-timers with them. Could that change if Narduzzi leaves? Maybe. But for now, the offense made some necessary changes after last year's debacle, while the defensive staff reloaded in preparation for what should be another dominating year on that side of the ball.

The overall coaching situation is pretty boring, and that means good things are happening at Michigan State.