Mel Tucker has been fired, but Harlon Barnett has proven incapable of leading Michigan State Football back to respectability and in turn he has guided the Spartans to two consecutive humiliating losses.
Of course, Michigan State got humiliated by Maryland 31-9 last Saturday, (-22 point losing margin) and there is now enough evidence to suggest this season is trending worse than last season.
Currently, the Spartans are ranked #67 nationally, while their next recruiting class is falling fast and ranked #62 after losing two Defensive Backs who decommitted in the past 7 days after watching Barnett’s 0-2 slide from afar.
With the recruiting cycle 95% complete and with recruiting classes essentially set for most teams, and whereby an average recruiting class is usually 22-24 recruits, the Spartans have acquired just 11 commits, while Ohio State has 23, Penn State 24 and Michigan has 25. And if the Spartans continue to their slide, more recruits will bail out.
So essentially Michigan State is no longer on the radar of the best recruits in the land.
And to add insult to injury, the Spartans are 12-point Underdogs at Iowa which lost to Penn State 31-0 last weekend.
Harlon Barnett has been a liability instead of an asset so far:
Barnett’s two game audition as Interim Head Coach, has been an unmitigated disaster.
He was humiliated at home by Washington 41-7 and then miscued his way to a 31-9 loss at home to Maryland underscored by a laundry list of blunders and miscues. The losses weren’t unexpected, but the unpreparedness and lack of discipline was.
The two losses underscore that Barnett has been unable to demonstrate any improvement since last season, yet let’s remember, Mel Tucker informed us before the season this was his best roster since taking the reins at Michigan State.
Of course, last season Tucker’s team posted a dismal 3-6 Big Ten record with a Rush Offense that averaged just 95 YPG in Big Ten competition (#12), while its Rush Defense yielded an “eye glazing” 210 YPG and ranked #14 when measured in Big Ten competition.
And for good measure, the Pass Defense ranked #13 in Big Ten competition by way of yielding 229 YPG.
Now, under Barnett’s two game leadership, Michigan State has yielded 713 Yards to Washington (the most yielded by Spartan Football team in its 127 year history), while the Defensive Secondary (the unit specifically coached by Barnett) yielded an eye glazing 536 Yards Passing.
Think about that?
The Spartans yielded 536 Yards Passing to Washington. That’s more than 5 complete trips down the football field…from end zone to end zone. Even to unbiased observers across the land, it was a god-awful exhibition of unpreparedness vs Washington.
Yet, Barnett’s speech from the pulpit after the Washington loss whereby he implored his team to be more disciplined and execute their assignments, arguably fell upon deaf ears because Barnett’s team conducted a Master Class in “unpreparedness and lack of discipline” when they hosted Maryland.
The miscues of unpreparedness were shocking:
Here are the dismal miscues against Maryland:
Total yards lost 150, including 6 Penalties (-70); 6 TFL’s (-43); 3 Sacks (-37); there were 5 Turnovers including 3 Interceptions and 2 Fumbles which yielded 21 points; meanwhile Special Teams yielded a fake punt for 14 Yards inluding a 1st down; allowed a blocked FG and fumbled a Kickoff in the closing minutes of the game.
It was systemic failure across the board.
So, we have to ask ourselves, has anyone been coaching this team since Spring Football? Anyone?
If you’re keeping score, Harlon Barnett is 0-2 by way of allowing two opponents to run up more than 1100 yards, including more than 750 Yards Passing in two humiliating losses.
At the bottom line, there is nothing to suggest a magical turnaround.
Spartans will be a 12 point underdog when they play on the road at Iowa but let’s be honest, the point differential is likely to be much greater:
Although Iowa only posted 76 Yards of Total Offense in their brutal 31-0 loss at Penn State, nevertheless Iowa Defense remains formidable yielding an average of 106 Yards Rushing, 179 Yards Passing and just 12 points to 3 opponents not named Penn State.
Of course, Mel Tucker has been fired but his dreaded legacy lives on including an inept organization which arguably deploys 3 of “the worst” Coordinators in the land, including Jay Johson (O-Coordinator); Chris Kapilovic (Assistant Head Coach and Run Game Coordinator); and Scottie Hazelton (D-Coordinator).
We can also add Ross Els, Special Teams Coach to the list of “underqualified coaches” and of course Harlon Barnett who has distinguished himself over the past 5 seasons (2 at Florida State and 3 at Michigan State) as perhaps “the worst” Defensive Secondary Coach in the land.
In fact in 2021, Barnett’s Pass Defense ranked a definitive “dead ass last” when measured against 130 FBS Schools yielding an eye glazing 335 YPG, and now he is leading Spartan Football as an Interim Head Coach.
I’ve covered the coaching ineptness of the aforementioned coaches and Coordinators multiple times over the past 4 years, but one more time, here is an Offensive and Defensive summary from last season when measured against 14 Big Ten competitors.
- Score Offense #10
- Score Defense #12
- Rush Offense #12
- Rush Defense #14
- Pass Defense #13
- Interceptions gained #14
- Kickoffs #10
- Field Goals #14
- PAT’s #14
A team can’t win with those statistical metrics and they can’t win with coaches like Johnson, Kapilovic, Hazelton, Els and Barnett.
Let’s make this clear, Michigan State is at a crossroads and they absolutely, positively cannot afford to misfire when hiring its next Head Football Coach or they will forever be doomed to irrelevancy. Unlike hiring Mel Tucker who had never distinguished himself anywhere, Michigan State must hire a coach who is currently leading a Power 5 program and consistently competing for Championships.
Names such as Kalen DeBoer (Washington); Mike Norvell (Florida State); Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma/USC); Chris Klieman (Kansas State) and/or Deion Sanders (aka Coach Prime at Colorado) are names that come to mind. Said another way, coaches seeking “on the job training” like Mel Tucker in 2020 need not apply.
Not all of the aforementioned coaches will be interested, but given $80Mn or so that Michigan State will recover from Mel Tucker’s contract, it means Michigan State will be able to put a formidable offer on the table of say $8Mn per year, for 8 Years or a total of $64 Mn, thereby making said coach one of the Top 10 highest paid coaches in the land.
For example, Coach Prime may not take the job but he would be enticed to take the interview given the fact he is only making $30Mn per year at Colorado, so Michigan State would effectively be able to double Coach Prime’s salary instantaneously.
A coaching search is not a gameshow:
But more importantly, hiring a Head Football Coach is big business, and Michigan State needs to stop hiring coaches as if it were a gameshow.
The lack of planning and preparedness has clearly been on display when Michigan State hired Bobby Williams, John L. Smith and Mel Tucker. Those coaching searches were tantamount to a gameshow of “spinning the wheel of fortune” whereby Michigan State would take whomever the wheel landed on.
Consequently, in a forthcoming article, I will describe elements of conducting a coherent coaching search including the need for Michigan State to assemble an independent, “Blue Ribbon Search Committee” comprised of professionals from beyond Michigan State’s insular community.
The Search Committee would be comprised of 7 distinguished professionals, including 2 former university Presidents who had experience leading Power 5 schools; 2 former coaches who competed for championships at Power 5 universities; and 3 former AD’s who had experience hiring championship caliber coaches at Power 5 schools.
Given experience sought by way of forming such a Blue Ribbon Search Committee, their charge would be to identify a short list of “can’t miss” coaching candidates. And given that Michigan State will revert nearly $80Mn previously allocated to Mel Tucker to its operating account, therefore Michigan State will have ample funds to “contract for fee” such a Blue Ribbon Search Committee to facilitate hiring a “can’t miss” coach.
What I am proposing has never been done before, but Michigan State needs a fresh approach in lieu of relying upon the same patronizing, insular voices from within the Michigan State community that continue to trek down the same old, same old path of mediocrity.
Simon and Hollis got it right when Hollis was asked to form a Search Committee that ultimately identified 40 candidates, 8 made the “short list” and 4 were interviewed including Brian Kelly, Bo Pellini, Todd Grantham, and Mark Dantonio, of course Dantonio was ultimately hired and became the winningest coach in Spartan history..
What will Interim President Teresa Woodruff and Alan Haller do? They better get it right or Spartan Football will forever be doomed to irrelevancy in the brave new world of Super Conferences.
I’ll put forth more details regarding my hypothetical coaching search in a forthcoming article and with good planning and good fortune, maybe Michigan State can get it right and become a championship contender once again.
Thank you for reading and I always welcome your comments and opinions.