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Michigan State Football: Coaching Staff Changes Tracker

With Mel Tucker hired as head coach, who’s in and who’s out on his staff?

Image courtesy of @MSU_Football Twitter account

The Michigan State Spartans officially introduced Mel Tucker as its 25th head coach on Feb. 12. Tucker was unanimously approved by the MSU Board of Trustees.

With the Mark Dantonio era over (arguably the most successful era in MSU football history), and the Tucker era set to begin, that means we can expect plenty of changes to the coaching staff.

With Tucker’s contract details recently emerging, it appears that the assistant coaching salary pool number is exactly $6 million, which would be third-highest in the Big Ten, ever-so-slightly behind Michigan ($6,005,000). Ohio State’s is first in the conference at more than $7.2 million. MSU also plans to put an emphasis on the strength and conditioning program with a “substantial increase” in resources. Tucker has a large enough budget to entice plenty of coaches to make the move to East Lansing.

Who’s In?

As Tucker fills out his staff, this section will be updated throughout the next couple of days/weeks (each change will be denoted with “update,” followed by the date of said update, in the body text. An updated time stamp will appear at the top of the page after each significant change to the story as well). Tucker will be “thorough” with his search and said at his introductory press conference that he wants to bring in guys who are “coaches of tremendous character” and “role models.”

As of Feb. 28, Tucker’s coaching staff is complete with 10 full-time assistant coaches.

Update 2/14: It appears Tucker has made his first hire in Geoff Martzen — who was the director of player personnel for Colorado. Martzen will play a significant role in recruiting. Prior to Colorado, Martzen has also spent time with Alabama, Boise State, BYU, Colorado State and UCLA.

Martzen’s Twitter bio now reads “Michigan State University Football.” He also tweeted this:

Update 2/15: Tucker will actually keep at least two of Dantonio’s assistants.

  • Defensive line coach Ron Burton is staying at MSU. Burton was reportedly hired to Tom Allen’s Indiana staff to work as the defensive line coach, but has seemed to change his mind. Burton is a well-respected defensive line coach who joined MSU in 2013. After coaching the whole defensive line during his first four seasons in East Lansing, he switched to solely focusing on defensive tackles in 2017. According to his Twitter bio, he will go back to coaching the full defensive line.
  • Mike Tressel will stay in East Lansing as well. It is unclear at this point what his role will be, but likely linebackers coach. Tressel has been with MSU since Dantiono took over, originally serving as linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. After being promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2014, Tressel took the sole reins in 2018. Tucker coached under Jim Tressel —Mike’s uncle — at Ohio State from 2001 through 2004. The younger Tressel was also on the OSU on staff as a graduate assistant in 2002 and 2003.

Update 2/17: Michigan State has hired Colorado offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic. Kapilovic will take over for the offensive line for retired coach Jim Bollman. He will also serve as run game coordinator. Kapilovic spent the previous year with Tucker at CU, also serving as the run game coordinator. Additionally, he has spent time with North Carolina, Southern Mississippi, Kansas, Alabama State and Missouri State. In 2019, Colorado was second in the Pac-12 in terms of fewest sacks allowed. The Buffaloes also averaged 150.3 yards per game on the ground — 23.1 yards per game more than MSU averaged last season. Kapilovic has also been a successful offensive line recruiter.

Update: 2/17: The Spartans have found their next offensive coordinator in Jay Johnson. He is also the quarterbacks coach for the Spartans. This is somewhat unsurprising seeing how Tucker was expected to bring several members of his Colorado staff to East Lansing.

Before serving as CU’s offensive coordinator in 2018, Johnson was with Tucker at Georgia in 2017 and 2018. He is entering his 25th year of coaching and has also spent time with Minnesota, University of Louisiana (formerly UL-Lafayette), Central Michigan, Louisville, Southern Mississippi, Kansas and Missouri. For more on Johnson’s background, check here.

It’s official (2/20):

  • Update 2/19: Flint native and MSU alumnus Courtney Hawkins hired as wide receivers coach. This hire has been rumored for a couple of days, but is now confirmed. Hawkins played wide receiver and returned punts and kicks for MSU from 1988-1991 under head coach George Perles. He was the first player in school history to post a 1,000-yard receiving season in 1989. Hawkins was selected in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and spent nine years in the NFL with the Bucs and Pittsburgh Steelers. His most recent role was as head coach and athletic director at his alma mater, Flint Beecher High School, where he was named Regional Athletic Director of the Year by the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association in 2018. His strong recruiting ties, especially in the state of Michigan, will be crucial for Michigan State. The only question here is coaching experience, as Hawkins doesn’t seem to have any previous experience at the college or professional levels.
  • Update 2/20: Harlon Barnett returns to East Lansing as defensive backs coach: Barnett played for Perles as well, from 1986-1989 and was teammates with Hawkins for two seasons. He then played in the NFL for seven seasons. Barnett originally coached DBs for Michigan State under Mark Dantonio from 2007-2014 before being promoted to co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach from 2015-2017. He left MSU in 2018 to become Florida State’s defensive coordinator. He has won Big Ten championships with MSU as both a player and coach.
  • Update 2/21: Ted Gilmore hired as tight ends coach. Gilmore has served as wide receivers coach for Wisconsin from 2015-2019, and also took on the passing game coordinator role in 2017. He has also spent time with USC, Nebraska, Colorado, Purdue, Houston, Kanas and Wyoming. Gilmore brings NFL coaching experience as well, spending 2012-2014 with the Oakland Raiders. Most of his experience is as a wide receivers coach, and he was even honored in 2011 as the WR Coach of the Year with USC. With that said, he served as TE coach early in his career with Wyoming and Kansas.
  • Update 2/21: Other staff announcements:

-Geoff Martzen official as director of player personnel/chief of staff

-Cody Cox will serve as director of football operations

-Former Michigan State player Darien Harris hired as director of player engagemen

  • Update 2/21: Ross Els joins the staff as special teams coordinator. Els coached special teams and inside linebackers at Colorado from 2017-2019. Prior to that, he was the defensive coordinator at Purdue. Els also has coaching stops at Nebraska, Ohio, New Mexico State, Northern Iowa, Nebraska-Omaha, and Hastings College where he served as head coach from 1997-2000.
  • Update 2/24: Colorado’s Will Peagler is the next running backs coach at Michigan State. Peagler worked as an offensive quality control analyst for the Buffaloes in 2019, and previously worked with Mel Tucker and new offensive coordinator Jay Johnson at Georgia. Peagler also worked with Johnson at prior stops with Minnesota and Louisiana. Peagler went back to Louisiana in 2018, where he served as director of player personnel and quality control coordinator. He worked as a student assistant at Clemson from 2006 through 2009, and then served as tight ends coach at Veldosta State in 2010.

Update 2/26: Akron’s Scott Aligo is expected to be Michigan State’s new director of player personnel. Aligo also spent time in the NFL as a scout with the Browns and Chiefs, and is well regarded in media. He has been a successful recruiter in the college ranks. Geoff Martzen was already announced as the director of player personnel, so this is a bit surprising. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman now reports that Martzen will serve as “chief of staff.”

Update 2/27: Kansas defensive coordinator Scott Hazelton expected to join Michigan State’s staff. No deal has been reached yet, but he is likely Michigan State’s next DC, as Kansas State is unlikely to be able to match the offer. Hazelton spent one year with the Wildcats, and previously worked as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Wyoming. He’s also spent time with Nevada, USC, North Dakota State, Michigan Tech and other schools. Hazelton also brings NFL experience, coaching the Jacksonville Jaguars’ linebackers under Gus Bradley from 2014 through 2016 (loving all of these Jaguars connections with the new staff). Stay tuned.

Update 2/27: Michigan State has hired Jason Novak as head strength and conditioning coach. Novak was the head coach of physical conditioning at IMG Academy in Florida for the past year. Prior to that, he spent four years as the director of strength and conditioning at Central Michigan, and 11 years as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Tennessee Titans. Novak has also spent time at Yale, Alabama State, Baylor and Stephen F. Austin. The school also officially announced the hiring of Scott Aligo as director of player personnel.

Update 2/28: Hazelton is officially the next Michigan State defensive coordinator.

Who’s Out?

Initial reports were that Tucker was going to start with a completely clean slate and hire all new assistants. That hasn’t been the case as at least two of Dantonio’s assistant in Tressel and Burton are staying on. Outside of that, things are still unclear.

Here are the assistant coaches/staff from the previous regime that have been reported to take new jobs or move on from the program:

  • Terrence Samuel, wide receivers/assistant defensive backs coach: Samuel is set to become the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator at UNLV. He spent nine total seasons at Michigan State under Mark Dantonio. Samuel served as the wide receivers coach from 2011 until 2018, and then transitioned to assistant defensive backs coach alongside Paul Haynes in 2019 — a head-scratching move as Samuel appeared to be one of the few offensive coaches to actually get something out of his position group.
  • Jim Bollman, offensive line coach/co-offensive coordinator: Bollman’s Twitter bio now reads “Retired College and NFL Football Coach.” It was rumored that Bollman would be retiring this offseason, and that has now come to fruition. Bollman coached offensive line in 2019 and was MSU’s co-offensive coordinator/tight ends coach from 2013 through 2018. He also coached offensive line at MSU from 1995 though 1997.
  • Ken Mannie, head strength and conditioning coach: We mentioned that the new regime will be allocating more financial resources toward the strength and conditioning budget, which is a good thing since the athletic department will need to find a new head strength and conditioning coach. Ken Mannie, who led the program for 25 years, just announced his retirement. Congratulations on a great career, Coach Mannie! It’s clear how much both current and former Spartans truly admired him.
  • Shayne Graham, special teams analyst: According to MLive, there are no longer any records indicating Graham is employed by the university. He spent the past two seasons working as the team’s special teams analyst. He worked directly with special teams coordinator Mark Staten on day-to-day special teams operations last season. Graham also spent 15 years as a kicker in the NFL. Graham has reportedly landed a job with Florida as special team quality control coach.
  • Paul Haynes, defenive backs coach: Haynes has reportedly accepted a job as cornerbacks coach with Minnesota. Haynes served as DBs coach for MSU in 2018-2019. Prior to that, he was head coach of Kent State. Haynes also held the role of DBs coach for Michigan State in 2003-2004 under John L. Smith.

If reports that Tucker doesn’t plan on keeping the rest of the staff are true, in addition to all of the names already mentioned above, offensive coordinator Brad Salem, tight ends/special teams coach Mark Staten, defensive ends coach Chuck Bullough, quarterbacks coach Dave Warner and wide receivers coach Don Treadwell are also out.

As mentioned this will be a living post and updated throughout (although, still be on the lookout for one-off stories regarding big coaching hires). Let me know in the comments section if I have missed anything!