Michigan State has reportedly found its next defensive coordinator in Kansas State’s Scottie Hazelton, according to Riley Gates of GoPowerCat.com.
It’s important to note that Gates reports that while Hazelton has interviewed with MSU, no deal has been reached and he hasn’t officially accepted the position. With that said, Kansas State is “anticipating Hazelton to take the job” and the school “can’t match” MSU’s offer. Hazelton made $550,000 with the Wildcats last year, while Mike Tressel made $725,000 as defensive coordinator for the Spartans in 2019 — so expect Hazelton’s salary to exceed that.
Update 2/28: Hazelton has officially joined Michigan State as defensive coordinator.
This is a big time hire for Tucker and Michigan State. In his first year on campus, Hazelton was a huge reason why Kansas State turned its defense around in 2019. The Wildcats ranked second in the Big 12, and 34th nationally, giving up just 21.4 points per game. K-State allowed more than 25.4 points per game in 2018. Kansas State ranked 30th in the NCAA in Football Outsiders’ defensive FEI (Fremeau Efficiency Index) ratings and 47th in ESPN’s final SP+ rankings.
KSU also significantly improved in total defense, giving up 403.4 yards per game in 2018 compared to just 368.4 yards per game in 2019 (fourth in the Big 12 and 44th in NCAA). The pass defense was particularly strong, giving up just 202.9 yards per game (second in the conference and 33rd overall) and a nearly 43-yard improvement year-over-year. The rushing numbers weren’t as impressive, as the Wildcats gave up 165.5 yards per game there and ranked toward the bottom of the Big 12.
Prior to his stint in Manhattan, Kansas, Hazelton had a successful run at Wyoming in 2017 and 2018 where he led the school to back-to-back top-25 finishes in total defense and top 30 finishes in scoring defense, including a ranking of ninth in 2017 (17.5 ppg).
Hazelton also brings NFL experience with him. He worked as assistant linebackers coach under Gus Bradley for my beloved Jacksonville Jaguars from 2014 to 2016. In 2016, he helped coach a defensive unit that ranked in the top-10 in the NFL in points allowed, total yards allowed and passing yards allowed.
Additionally, Hazelton worked as Nevada’s defensive coordinator in 2013, and as USC’s linebackers coach in 2012. Hazelton spent 2007 through 2011 with North Dakota State, starting out as defensive line coach and then defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. He also spent 2000-2001 there as a graduate assistant. Hazelton worked with current Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman at NDSU in 2011. Other stops include Michigan Tech, Missouri Southern State, St. Olaf, and his alma mater Fort Lewis. Hazelton played linebacker at Fort Lewis (Durango, Colorado) from 1992 through 1994.
Mel Tucker has finalized his coaching staff at Michigan State, and Hazelton will lead an experienced defensive staff of Mark Dantonio disciples in Tressel (likely linebackers coach), Harlon Barnett (defensive backs coach) and Ron Burton (defensive line coach).
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