“I’m here today to talk about our team and about our game against a very good opponent in Washington.” This is how Michigan State Football’s acting head coach Harlon Barnett opened his introductory press conference today. From the outset, the long time Michigan State assistant who is stepping in for suspended head coach Mel Tucker put the focus on Football.
“Our job as a staff is to focus on our guys and get them ready and prepared for the game on Saturday,” Barnett added. The newly introduced acting head coach said he met with the team on Sunday and “told those guys that ‘hey man we got to all come together in this time of adversity.”
Despite a sea of questions roiling around Michigan State University’s handling of the Mel Tucker situation, reporters present at the press conference seemed to get the message to let Coach Barnett focus on the football side of things. And there are a number of fascinating issues about how Michigan State’s football team moves forward and focuses on the actual game this saturday.
Coach Barnett spoke for more than 25 minutes as he fielded questions. Among the highlights were his answers surrounding the return of former head coach Mark Dantonio to the formal coaching staff as Associate Head Coach.
“Coach D[antonio] brings the the calming presence, the wisdom, the knowledge of being a head coach - a very successful head coach,” said Barnett. Dantonio and Barnett have worked together at various colleges throughout their careers, including Barnett serving as an assistant while Dantonio was head coach at MSU.
Beyond Dantonio, the new head coach laid out some of the steps he is taking to get to know the broader team even better. As a current assistant, he is obvious familiar to members of the team, but building stronger one-on-one connections with each member of the team will be important. In this era of the transfer portal, Barnett is on a ticking clock to get the team focused for the game this Saturday and build the connections necessary to avoid a potential flight of current players from the program.
To this goal, Barnett outlined he had met with 27 players individually yesterday and planned another 20 meetings for today on his way to cementing relationships across the roster.
During the press conference, coach Barnett reflected on the hard path his players are facing amidst the current situation, “young people are very resilient, they they just know how to push through.”
Acting Head Coach Barnett, Associate Head Coach Mark Dantonio and the entire fan base will be hoping this roster can push forward and show the “unity” Barnett is preaching as they face a powerful Washington team in just a few days.
Watch the full Press Conference Below