Michigan State Football Preview: Mark Dantonio Hopes to Bring the Spartans to the Promised Land



Mark Dantonio, who enters his seventh season as head coach at Michigan State, has really helped transform this program into an annual Big Ten Championship contender.

Michigan State did not have a very fortunate track record with coaches before Mark Hollis hired Dantonio in 2006 as the senior associate AD for MSU at the time. Hollis used 72 different metrics on every possible coach, and was quoted saying, “Coach D gave us 72 reasons to make him our head coach. He’s the complete package”.

As the Spartans head coach, Dantonio claimed a share of the Big Ten Championship in 2010, and won the inaugural Big Ten Legends Division title in 2011. But as he has stated many times there is one goal, and that goal is to go to the Rose Bowl. The 2013 season will be the 25th anniversary of the Spartans last Rose Bowl appearance; I am sure Mark Dantonio and co. would love to end that drought this year.

History Tells Us:

A Zanesville, Ohio, Native Dantonio has led Michigan State to a school-record six consecutive bowl appearances (2007-12) and back-to-back 11-win seasons (2010-11) for the first time in program history. Dantonio has led MSU to 27 B1G victories the past five seasons, the most of any team in the conference. He has been able to bring a hard-nosed, winning mentality to East Lansing.

Mark Dantonio has 33 years of collegiate coaching experience and has coached in 17 bowl games. As a head coach he led MSU to back-to-back bowl victories for the first time since 1989-90.

Dantonio has a 51-28 record and a .646 winning percentage at Michigan State since his arrival in 2007, which is the most wins by a Spartan head coach in his first six seasons. He has also won at least nine games in a season three times (2008, 2010, 2011), tying him with the most seasons of at least nine wins of any coach in program history; he is also the first MSU coach to accomplish that within his first five years.

Michigan States 29 wins over the last three seasons ties for 1th among NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams and second most in the B1G during that period and is the winningest three-year stretch in school history. The Spartans have earned three consecutive winning seasons, a first for the program since recording six in a row from 1985-1990.

So basically, Mark Dantonio has been a winner and one of the best coaches in MSU history as of late. He has improved recruiting which has led to a Spartan team with more depth than ever before. That depth will surely be tested as the Spartans hope to battle their way to the B1G Title game and hopefully a Rose Bowl appearance in 2013.

Coaching Staff:

Fire Roushar! Well fortunately for my twitter timeline and all of our sanity, Dan Roushar will not be with Michigan State in 2013. He will be the running backs coach for the New Orleans Saints in 2013. Michigan State fans were not very fond of the play calling that did, or did not come directly from Roushar the last few years as he was the Offensive Coordinator. With Roushar gone, Jim Bollman and Dave Warner will act as co-offensive coordinators.  Bollman was hired in 2013, after last coaching at Purdue in 2012/13 as their offensive line coach. Jim Bollman has 36 years of coaching experience, both at the collegiate and professional levels, including 11 years as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at Ohio State (2001-2011), and will also coach the tight ends.

The other co-offensive coordinator, Dave Warner, enters his 7th season at Michigan State. Warner previously coached the quarterbacks for six seasons, and will also coach the running backs in 2013. Warner has been a quarterbacks coach and/or offensive coordinator or passing game coordinator for 24 of his previous 29 seasons as a college assistant. This will be the second time in his career he will be an offensive coordinator, as he held the same position at Connecticut for two seasons (1999-2000).

Pat Narduzzi has made a name for himself in East Lansing over the past 6 seasons, and enters his 7th season as Michigan State’s defensive coordinator. Narduzzi was promoted to assistant head coach on March 4, 2013. He has had the Spartans defense atop of the B1G for the past two years.  In 2012 the Spartans ranked in the Top 10 nationally in eight categories: touchdowns allowed (second with 16), pass efficiency defense (third at 98.8), total defense (fourth at 274.4 ypg.), pass break-ups (tied for eighth at 4.8 pg.), rushing defense (ninth at 175.8 ypg.) and scoring defense (ninth at 16.3 ppg.). Narduzzi also had MSU first in the B1G in six defensive categories (touchdowns allowed, total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, rushing defense and third-down defense).  Oh yea, his defense and Alabama’s are the only two programs in the country to rank in the NCAA FBS Top 15 the past two seasons in total defense, rushing defense, passing defense and scoring defense.


With Dantonio at the helm recruiting has clearly been based on talent, rather than star rankings. Sure Michigan State has signed some five-stars and quite a few four-stars, but it seems like Dantonio and co. get the most out of 2 and 3-star guys.

Want to see what I am talking about? Here is a group of 2 and 3-star players recruited under Mark Dantonio that have moved on to the NFL: Keshawn Martin, Johnny Adams, Trenton Robinson, Jerel Worthy, Le’Veon Bell, Kirk Cousins, Bj Cunningham and Chris Rucker. Pretty impressive list, it would be hard to find another school or coach that develop more 2/3-star players into the NFL.

Not only has Dantonio had success with the lower star recruits, he has brought quite a few 4 and 5-star recruits to the NFL as well, including: Mark Dell, Edwin Baker, Dion Sims and William Gholston. Quite a few other Dantonio recruits and current players will follow in their footsteps in the next few years, including quite a few “lower” star recruits.

What about for 2014? The Spartans already have 10 commitments and the class looks to be the strongest of the Dantonio era. Keep your eyes on this class as it will only get stronger as the Spartans land more recruits throughout the season.

What Does it All Mean:

I think that the history, the coaching staff and the recruiting tell us a lot. It tells us that Mark Dantonio has brought consistency to the Michigan State football program and his 6 straight bowl games speak to that. Dantonio has also been able to bring talent to East Lansing, which has resulted in many Spartans being drafted to the NFL.

For 2013, it means that Michigan State should be in the race to win the B1G Legends division and have a chance at making the Rose Bowl. The schedule is set perfectly for this Spartans to achieve just this, but I will get into that in our schedule breakdown on Friday. For now we will hope that Mark Dantonio will have Michigan State doing what he has made Spartan fans accustomed to in 2013; win.  

About Will Nahikian- @SpartanWilliam