There was a moment Thursday afternoon when I was mulling potential candidates for the Michigan State job. This is what happens when a school announces an out-of-nowhere press conference on a Thursday afternoon in the offseason; you assume either something is wrong or someone is resigning.
Mark Dantonio is holding a press conference at 5:45 p.m. today. No word on what it's about.
— Graham Couch (@Graham_Couch) January 10, 2019
It was neither of those things, really. Instead we had one of the more bizarre press conferences I can recall. Mark Dantonio is still Michigan State's head coach and all of the assistants that were with him in 2018 as the Spartans dropped to 7-6 while scoring 18 points per game are still there, too. Just in different roles.
Six Michigan State assistants are changing roles. Most notably for the rest of the Big Ten, Jim Bollman and Dave Warner are out as co-offensive coordinators and former quarterbacks coach Brad Salem takes control of the offense.
"I'm a foxhole guy," Dantonio said. "I don't apologize for that in any respect. I believe in surrounding myself with loyal people. I believe in digging in when things get tough."
Fair enough and credit to Dantonio for that in an industry that's increasingly not that way. Still strikes me as strange, however. I'm going to assume most people aren't that familiar with Michigan State's assistant coaches and their previous roles, so I ran what happened yesterday through the Nebraska translator. If Scott Frost announced a similar change –– it's not one-to-one as MSU had co-OCs and all of the roles don’t line up –– this is close to what it would look like.
- Troy Walters is out as OC and goes from coaching wide receivers to coaching defensive backs.
- Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher is now coaching the wide receivers.
- Mario Verduzco is the offensive coordinator now, while also coaching the running backs.
- Running backs coach Ryan Held now coaches the quarterbacks.
- Offensive line coach Greg Austin and tight ends coach Sean Beckton switch roles, while Austin also gets some special teams duties.
I mean, it's not that something like that can't work, but did I mention that Michigan State averaged 18 points a game last year? Just strange, but perhaps continuity is the Spartans biggest advantage in the East given changes elsewhere.
Nebraska doesn't face Michigan State in 2019, but it will face four other schools breaking in new head coaches. The latest to join the list is Northern Illinois. The guy who walked into Memorial Stadium two years ago with an undersized-but-underrated defensive end and beat Nebraska in Lincoln won't be walking in there this fall. Rod Carey is reportedly headed to Temple.
That NIU win in hindsight looks like a real butterfly-flaps-its-wings moment for Nebraska football. Because of that win, and AD Shawn Eichorst's surprise postgame appearance with the media, Eichorst is out. Because Eichorst is out Bill Moos is in and because Moos is in a) Mike Riley also ends up being out, and b) Scott Frost is willing to be in. There were a lot of other things going on that led Nebraska to this point, of course, but if you want to trace back a specific chain of events, Carey is part of that story.
NIU in 2019, at least in my view, was already headed for a little bit of a reloading year, though it’s to the program’s credit that it rarely has to fully rebuild. Here are the last three head coaches for NIU: Carey (on to Temple), Dave Doeren (still the head coach at North Carolina State) and Jerry Kill (was succeeding at Minnesota before he had to resign). The Huskies will probably be fine.
The Huskers also face new head coaches at Colorado (Mel Tucker), Ohio State (Ryan Day) and Maryland (Mike Locksley). For now, but you never know what can happen.
The Grab Bag
- Isaiah Roby had himself a game last night in Nebraska’s 70-64 win over Penn State. (3 Takeaways, Photos)
- Derek Peterson and I recorded a podcast late last night hitting on Husker hoops, the outlook in the Big Ten East and shared some takeaways from the Clemson-Alabama game. Listen to that recording here.
- Greg Smith has some names to watch on the Nebraska recruiting trail this contact period. (Premium)
- Nebraska also released its camp schedule for the offseason ahead.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.