Better than nothing? Dantonio is making minor changes in an attempt to fix Michigan State's major problems
Mark Dantonio probably isn’t going to be a featured guest on any HGTV program anytime soon. Holding the sledgehammer with a chance to entirely gut the inside of the house and start from scratch, he instead decided to merely rearrange the furniture, assuming it would improve the market value.
The house, in this case, is Michigan State’s offensive staff, and Dantonio had every reason to swing that sledgehammer after this past season. The Spartans were abysmal offensively, forcing the head coach to make some difficult decisions. But rather than cut ties with some of the minds responsible for one of the B1G’s worst units, Dantonio opted to shuffle around the staff he had in place.
It was college football’s musical chairs of coaching, except in this rendition everyone got a seat.
“Obviously we were not productive on that side of the ball nearly where we need to be, and I understand that,” Dantonio said at his press conference on Thursday. “So, I’m going to shake up the offensive side of things.”
“We just need to shake it up a little bit. But we have good coaches. We understand concepts. We understand the history and what went wrong. Now let’s try and fix it. We’ve got good players. We’ve got a lot of players back and we should compete.”
Here’s the list of changes Dantonio announced to his staff on Thursday:
The most significant change comes at offensive coordinator, as Brad Salem will now occupy that position, as well as coaching running backs. He was previously the quarterbacks coach.
Salem replaces Dave Warner, who will now be the quarterbacks coach.
In addition to that major change, Jim Bollman will move from tight ends coach to offensive line, Mark Staten goes from offensive line coach to tight ends and special teams and Don Treadwell will become the wide receivers coach.
Mike Tressel will become the assistant head coach.
Credit Dantonio for recognizing something needed to change. He could’ve used the plethora of injuries — L.J. Scott, Felton Davis III, Brian Lewerke, and others — as a scapegoat. He could’ve aimed all of the offense’s shortcomings on the health of the most productive players and ignored the idea of making an alterations.
A simple reshuffling seems less than adequate, though. It’s not as if the Spartans are looking to plug one leak in the offense. If that was the case, rearranging a few staff members might make a little more sense.
Michigan State owned one of the B1G’s worst offenses in every capacity in 2018. The Spartans ranked 13th in points per game (18.7), rushing yards per game (124.9) and total yards per game (342.1). They were eighth in passing yards per game (217.2).
Offensive line play was atrocious, the rushing attack was non-existent and touchdowns were a rarity. There’s really no good way to spin it. And as the season continued, things only got worse.
In its final five games — the month of November through the Redbox Bowl — Michigan State totaled just four offensive touchdowns. Michigan State settled for only six points in three of those games — vs. Ohio State (26-6), at Nebraska (9-6) and vs. Oregon (7-6) — all of which were losses.
To put that in perspective, Rutgers reached the end zone five times in four contests. The Spartans averaged 9.2 points per game offensively in that stretch and the Scarlet Knights averaged 10.2. Rutgers owned the worst scoring offense in all of college football for the seaosn.
Michigan State’s defensive played at a level capable of winning a B1G title all season long, but the Spartans ended the year merely 7-6 because of the offensive woes. One of the best defensive efforts was essentially wasted.
With eight defensive starters returning next season — including Josiah Scott, Joe Bachie and Kenny Willekes, among others — Dantonio is running the risk of another frustrating season. The defense will likely enjoy similar success in 2019 as it did this past season.
The question is whether or not the offense can figure out a way to move the football. If not, there could be more significant changes coming in East Lansing, maybe even something beyond Dantonio’s control.
Dantonio had an opportunity to clean house and potentially change the direction the offense was headed. Instead, he decided to shift around his current staff, hoping the circulation would produce better results in 2019.
Something is better than nothing when it comes to change with Michigan State’s offense. But a reshuffling is a minor adjustment for a major problem.
Outside the walls of Spartan Stadium, there isn’t a lot of faith that this move will lead to an increased market value for Michigan State’s offense.