Michigan State has yet another coaching vacancy to fill this off-season. Assistant coach Mark Snyder will be following former defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett to Florida State as the Seminoles new defensive ends coach. Snyder served in the same capacity for MSU this past year, after two years as the linebackers coach. He has also been the team’s special teams coach for the past three seasons.
It was an up and down tenure for Snyder with Michigan State, and while the need to replace another assistant coach this off-season isn’t great for continuity purposes, this loss isn’t even close to as big as losing Barnett.
I had previously been critical of Snyder’s work as special teams coach coming in to this season, and even more so after the poor start the special teams got off to this year. They were able to get things pulled together as the season went on, and their kicking game was quite strong, but the coverage and return units continued to have their issues.
Michigan State checked in at number 68 in this year’s final Special Teams Efficiency (STE) rankings put together by Football Outsiders with a -0.1 overall rating. That puts them right about middle of the pack. Last season they were 77th overall, and the year before that they were 110th. So while they did improve each of the past two years, they were never an above average group under Snyder by this metric.
The previous four years, Michigan State ranked 11th, 36th, 74th, and 21st in the STE rankings.
Under Snyder the Spartans allowed five kick return touchdowns in three seasons. They had only allowed four total in the previous seven seasons.
Meanwhile the Spartan return game was nothing special under Snyder either. The kick-off return teams finished 63rd, 67th, and 60th on his watch. The punt return units were even worse, checking in at 119th, 81st and 121st overall.
Snyder should get some credit though for his work with the defensive ends this past season. Kenny Willekes led the Spartans with seven sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. The former walk-on earned All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore and established himself as a playmaker on the defensive line. MSU went from 11 sacks last year to 28 this year.
The loss of Snyder is one that the Spartans should be able to move on from without a big, if any drop off. You would hope that they find someone to fill the special teams coach spot that may actually be an improvement.
However, that is still another spot to fill on the coaching staff, which brings the total of openings to three. Mark Dantonio has had a ton of continuity on his coaching staff during his time in East Lansing, and has often credited that as one of the major reasons for their success. This is the first time he’s had several spots to fill, so it is a bit of a new challenge for him. But there should be no shortage of decent candidates to fill these roles and I trust Dantonio to find the right people to fill out his staff.
The Spartans still have Mike Tressel and Ron Burton on the defensive staff, and don’t forget the head coach himself is a pretty good defensive coach as well. The new faces will have plenty of talent to work with, so I think that in the long run, the Spartans will be just fine.