The Spartan football coaching staff is getting closer to becoming complete. A big piece of the puzzle was announced over the weekend, and we will get to that in a minute. First, though, we got news this afternoon that new HC Jonathan Smith is retaining at least one member of the prior regime in WR coach Courtney Hawkins.
Hawkins played for MSU in the late 80s and early 90s under George Perles and earned All-Big Ten honors twice before playing nine seasons in the NFL. He has been on the MSU sidelines for four seasons. This is probably the best coach who could have been brought back from the Tucker years, so this should be a positive for the team. Maybe some of the WRs who have entered the transfer portal decide to stick around now. (Speaking of the portal, just a reminder that I am keeping track of things in the article pinned in the upper right corner of the TOC home page.)
Now let’s get to the big news. Minnesota Gophers Defensive Coordinator Joe Rossi is coming to East Lansing to take on the same position for the Spartans. Rossi is very familiar with the Big Ten. Prior to joining the Minnesota staff in 2017, he was the DC for Rutgers, where he coached for five seasons. In 2021, he was nominated for the Broyles Award, given to the country’s top assistant coach. So, at least on paper, it seems like he is a more accomplished defensive coordinator than the individual who previously held that role at MSU.
I am not sure if Smith and Rossi have any connection in the coaching family tree. I imagine they do not just based on the geography where each has been, so I cannot say for sure how Rossi became a candidate for this position. Furthermore, I must admit I do not understand this move from Rossi unless this is based on a significant pay raise. Otherwise, I do not see the point in moving from one middling Big Ten program to another, especially one like MSU that, for now, it seems will have some major holes in its roster next year.
Minnesota’s defense took a step back this past year, giving up 26.9 PPG. But in the previous years under Rossi’s watch, they gave up 22.4, 30.1, 18.3, and 13.3 PPG. So massive improvements were seen in 2021 and 2022.
It looks like Rossi will also be working specifically with the linebackers in addition to being the coordinator (please pull Windmon from the portal). In addition to Rossi, Smith is bringing his defensive line coach and secondary coach from Oregon State with him to East Lansing. It remains to be seen if another coach will be added to the defensive side of the ball.
Let’s hear your thoughts on these most recent hires.