After a disappointing football season that saw MSU finish 7-6 with the worst offense of the Mark Dantonio era, fans were clamoring for a change to the offensive staff. They got it…sort of…but not really.
On Thursday Dantonio announced that the current staff would remain intact, but with changes to what each coach would be handling.
The biggest change is the move of Brad Salem to offensive coordinator and running backs coach, with Dave Warner being demoted back to quarterback coach.
Salem spent his first three seasons at MSU as the running backs coach, and before joining MSU was the head coach at D-II Augustana College, where he was 31-26 in five seasons. He has been at MSU since 2010.
Warner, had been MSU’s offensive coordinator for the past six seasons, and coached the quarterbacks for six seasons before being promoted to OC.
In addition to that big change, here are the other pieces of the shakeup:
-Mark Staten switches from the offensive line to tight ends and special teams.
-Jim Bollman takes over the offensive line, after serving as MSU’s co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach.
-Don Treadwell switches to wide receivers, with Terrence Samuel moving to defensive backs.
Bollman moving to the offensive line makes sense, as that is what he has been more than anything else in the past, including back at MSU in the late 90’s and at Ohio State in the 2000’s.
Staten had been the offensive line coach for the past eight years, but the lack of development of the line this year was a big reason for the overall offensive problems. Staten was the tight ends coach from 2007-2010.
Samuel getting bounced from receivers coach is a move I don’t understand at all. He’s been in the job for eight seasons and has constantly developed talent. He was the one guy on the offensive staff whose group wasn’t struggling.
Here is the bottom line, and there is no other way to put it: Mark Dantonio is betting everything he has built at MSU on his friends that have helped him build it. If they go down, he’s going down right beside them.
This feels like it has the possibility to turn into the coaching equivalent of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. With Dantonio ready to play the part of the band playing on until the ship is completely underwater.
Obviously, things could very well change for the better, and let’s be honest, it would basically be impossible not to improve on this season. Michigan State was 117th in the S&P+ rankings on offense, and 126th in scoring offense. They scored two total touchdowns in their final four games, both coming against a 1-11 Rutgers team that the Spartans barely beat at home.
But to think that by moving around the same pieces and collective minds will result in a drastically different outcome seems like a folly. While Brad Salem did not have the co-coordinator title before, to think that he had no input on the offense and game planning seems unlikely.
I do believe that Salem will bring something different to the play calling, the same way that Warner brought something different than Dan Roushar. Sometimes all you need is a different mind, even if it is one that has been in the same coach’s room for the last decade. But I understand and share the concern of fans who dislike this development.
I believed, and so did many others, that it was time for Dantonio to finally step outside of his circle and find someone to breathe some fresh air into this offense. That is not what happened. Instead Coach D doubled down with his buddies. If he goes bust, there will be no one left to take the blame, which will, and should, all fall on his shoulders.
Dantonio will becoming the winningest coach in MSU history this year barring a complete disaster. He may also find himself on the hot seat at the same time, which would be a pretty interesting situation.
Mark Dantonio built Michigan State football into a national program after a decade of it being an afterthought not only nationally, but in the Big Ten. He deserves the benefit of the doubt, because he has earned it. But this feels like he’s using up the last of his capital.
The Spartans have had two massively disappointing seasons sandwiched around a surprising one after making it to the college football playoff. After a decade of moving upwards, the program has started to slip backwards the past few years. When that happens, you need to make changes.
Dantonio has decided on what those changes will be, whether or not they are the right ones will likely determine a large part of the final chapter of his MSU legacy.