Jonathan Smith implements a purposeful plan

Spartan fans should be encouraged and inspired with Jonathan Smith’s, purposeful, “can do” leadership.

Let’s set the table.

When Jonathan Smith was hired on Nov 25, Spartan Football was a veritable train wreck.

After all, Smith inherited a team from Mel Tucker that posted 3 losing Big Ten seasons in 4 years underscored by a dismal 14-20 Big Ten record.

Moreover, those 3 losing seasons rendered unthinkable Big Ten finishes of #11, #13 and #13 and statistically speaking, Mel Tucker’s team was a showcase for dysfunction, compiling some of the worst game day statistics in Spartan history.

When measured against 133 FBS Schools this past season, Michigan State ranked #128 Scoring Offense: #125 Rush Offense and #125 Total Offense (the bottom 6th percentile of 133 teams).

And when measured against 14 Big Ten teams in Big Ten competition, the Spartans ranked #13 (next to last) in 5 statistical categories including Total Offense, Pass Defense, Rush Defense, Total Defense and Score Defense and ranked #14 (dead ass last) in Rush Offense and Scoring Offense.

Hardly a Badge of Honor, in fact Mel Tucker’s team was synonymous with dysfunction at every level and every position group.

Mel Tucker, the man of meaningless mantras, had built a helter-skelter, hodgepodge of mix and match athletes, coached by a cadre of misfit or unfit Coordinators who had never distinguished themselves anywhere.

Tucker’s mantra’s: you know, “Relentless”; “Drag ‘em into the deep end”; “Take ‘em to the woodshed”, “Keep choppin’”; etc, etc, etc, don’t mean much if you can’t back it up.

Tucker had a few good athletes, but the numbers speak for themselves and by an large the players on his roster needed an abundance of coaching and development, yet Tucker’s staff was clearly not up to the task.

Of course, we were told by Michigan State insiders when Mel Tucker was hired that he was a gifted recruiter, but after 4 years it was abundantly clear Tucker had neither a coherent recruiting strategy, a game plan nor a playbook.


Recruiting was a casualty of Tucker’s incompetence:

As losses mounted, recruiting faded and the 2024 recruiting class was a prime casualty given it had faded to just 7 players.

To put that into perspective, a traditional recruiting class would normally total between 22 and 26 players to account for graduation and normal attrition,

Sadly, Michigan State was no longer considered a desirable recruiting destination by Elite athletes and recruits of all stripes were like rodents jumping ship.

In fact, when Jonathan Smith was hired, the Spartan recruiting class ranked #100 or worse by every major recruiting service when measured amongst 133 FBS Schools.

Simply stated, recruits with NFL aspirations were making an unspoken declaration that Michigan State was no longer a highly regarded destination, rather it had morphed into recruiting back water with minimal market value, after all, why would a highly regarded recruit be enticed to choose Michigan State?

Let’s remember, Spartan Football had become an utter embarrassment nationally suffering humiliating losses in 2023 to Washington, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State by a combined score of 170-10, or a losing margin of 160 points.

With each successive loss, recruits jumped ship and Spartan recruiting declined in lock step: Spartan Football morphed into a “destination of despair” instead of a “destination of dreams”.

But Jonathan Smith was undaunted, he understood the challenge and set about to make an immediate and positive impact.


Smith implements a purposeful plan:

Smith and his staff had a purposeful plan and executed corrective action.

In fact, I would argue no coach has had more recruiting success in the last 50 days than Smith.

Between the time Smith was hired on Nov 25 and the “early signing” deadline which was Dec 22 (just 26 days) Smith added 18 players including four (4) highly regarded 4-Star players. That’s nearly a 3-fold increase to the recruiting class he inherited.

Given his remarkable reputation for “turn arounds” both as a player and coach at Oregon State, Smith utilized his savvy experience and purposefully reeled in four, 4-Stars including: QB; WR; OL, TE.

Let’s look at those 4-Star players:

  • Aidan Chiles, 6’3”, 200#, 4-Star QB from Oregon State by way of Downey, CA. Upon entering the Transfer Portal after a productive 2023 Freshman season at Oregon State, Chiles was considered #1 Transfer in the Transfer Portal superseding 5-Star, Dante Moore from UCLA, and 5-Star, Kyle McCord from Ohio State. Chiles is a football gem!
  • Nick Marsh, 6’3”, 200#, record setting WR from River, Rouge, MI. Marsh, originally committed to MSU but “decommitted” when Mel Tucker was fired yet reconsidered and recommitted to Jonathan Smith. Marsh is rated #22 WR in the land.
  • Rustin Young, 6’5”, 275# Offensive Tackle from Honolulu, HI, rated #23 OT in the land.
  • Jack Velling, 6’4”, 241# TE from Oregon State by way of Seattle, WA. Velling draws a favorable comparison to Austin Hooper who played at Stanford, then followed his collegiate career with NFL stints at Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders.

This is how the “early signing” period played out, whereby Jonathan Smith added an extraordinary 18 players in just 26 days, yet the “Transfer Portal” is still open and traditional “Signing Day” takes place the first Wednesday of February, so Smith is still plenty active and continues to build the Spartan roster with a championship plan.


The last 5 days:

Moreover, in the last 5 days, Smith has reeled in 5 highly regarded players including a 5-Star Cornerback, an All American O-Lineman, a D-Lineman, a Linebacker, and a record setting graduate transfer QB.

Let’s look:

  • Tony Grimes is a 6’0”, 190 #, 5-Star, Cornerback from Texas A&M by way of Virginia Beach and University of North Carolina. Grimes is a welcome addition that will help shore up the Spartans’ unspeakably bad Defensive Secondary which was the ill designed product of Harlon Barnett, Scottie Hazelton and Mel Tucker.
  • Tanner Miller is a 6’1”, 290#, O-Lineman/Center from Oregon State by way of Valencia, CA. Miller was All American selection by ESPN, so Miller will be an incredibly positive addition to the Spartans woefully inept Offensive Line, which was the ill conceived product of Chris Kapilovic, Jay Johnson and of course, Mel Tucker. In the last 4 seasons, the Spartans Offensive Line was arguably amongst the worst in the land and ranked “dead ass last” in Big Ten Rush Offense (the key indicator of O-Line efficiency) in 2023 posting a meager 81 YPG, so the Rush Offense was an unmitigated failure under Tucker and a massive rebuild is underway.
  • Tommy Schuster, is a 6’0”, 190#, record setting, graduate transfer QB from North Dakota (runners-up in 2023 FCS, C’ship game), by way of Chippewa Valley HS in Clinton Twp, MI. Let’s remember, the championship hopes for Spartan Football in the next 4 years lie with Aidan Chiles, the 4-Star Freshman QB Transfer from Oregon State, yet Aidan Chiles is reasonably inexperienced given the fact he got limited playing time in a backup role to DJ Uiagalelei, the 5-Star, Junior transfer from Clemson. Yet, Chiles got meaningful playing time in 9 games. Nevertheless, Schuster fills a need for an experienced QB and becomes a welcome addition to a QB depth chart that now includes a Senior transfer (Schuster), a sophomore transfer (Chiles) and two incoming 3-Star Freshmen.
  • D’Quan Jones, 6’3”, 290#, 3-Star, D-Lineman from Georgia Tech by way of Savannah, GA. He has one year of eligibility remaining.
  • Wayne Matthews III, 6’2”, 225#, 3-Star, Linebacker from Old Dominion by way of Upper Marlboro, MD. Matthews has two years of eligibility remaining.

In total, Smith reeled in 19 HS Recruits by way of conventional recruiting and complemented those players with 11 players from Transfer Portal for a total of 30 players in less than 50 days.

Meanwhile, the Spartans recruiting rank has improved from #100 or worse, to #36 in less than 50 days, and continues to improve with each new player added to the roster by Smith and his staff.

I think we could say “Smith is a man with a plan” and the rapid improvement in recruiting is extraordinary given Smith’s late start and given the fact the majority of recruits had already committed when he was hired in late November.

Especially notable is the fact Smith reeled in 4 QB’s and 6 Offensive Linemen to shore up dysfunction at each position groups.


At the bottom line: Spartan fans should be encouraged and inspired with Jonathan Smith’s, purposeful, “can do” leadership.

We know the sad tale, Michigan State misfired horribly when it hired Mel Tucker,

The numbers tell us Mel Tucker dragged Spartan Football into the abyss, but Jonathan Smith who is renowned for “turnarounds” both as a player and coach at Oregon State is implementing a plan for a championship turnaround at Michigan State.

Quarterback is a prime example of Smith’s championship plan.

Notably, Spartan fans who were “angsting” about losing 3 QB’s (Kim, Houser and Leavitt) when Smith was hired, can feel confident those QB’s held very little interest for Jonathan Smith’s championship plan, and the quality of Smith’s 4 new QB recruits easily overshadows the 3 QB’s who quickly opted for the Transfer Portal.

Smith is also addressing major problems on the Offensive Line as well as Defensive Secondary, two position groups Tucker and staff were unable and incapable of fixing.

To his credit, Smith added 6 highly regarded players to the Offensive Line and 3 players to the Defensive Secondary, both of which were festering sore spots under Mel Tucker.

And more is yet to come. I estimate Smith will add another 15 players or so by the time fall football camp opens (perhaps by the Spring Game), and we can all forget about the mess created by Mel Tucker.

In my next missive, we’ll take a long look at the men behind the scenes, Smith’s very capable coaching staff.

Thank you for reading.