Mel Tucker stays the course and keeps his Offensive Coordinators…but why?

What do they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a better result?

Mel Tucker is about to commence his 5th season as a head football coach with Jay Johnson and Chris Kapilovic as his Offensive Coordinators, the same Offensive Coordinators who have played a major role in 3 losing seasons over the last 4 years.

If you are unfamiliar with Jay Johnson and/or Chris Kapilovic, then you should know Jay Johnson is Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback Coach, while Chris Kapilovic is Assistant Head Coach, Offensive Line Coach and Run Game Coordinator and as a tandem they have been with Mel Tucker for 4 years (1 yr at Colorado & 3 years at Michigan State).

Johnson and Kapilovic oversee the Spartans Offense, including but not limited to: Offensive Recruiting; Offensive position groups and player development; developing the Offensive playbook, and as a tandem they are responsible for play calling and clock management.

In brief, Johnson and Kapilovic run the Offensive show and that means Offensive accountability falls squarely upon their shoulders, yet there isn’t much to celebrate regarding their Offensive achievements.

Over the past 4 seasons, Johnson and Kapilovic have coached 44 games including more than 3000 Offensive plays, and here are the indisputable facts:

Their Offense has been anything but championship caliber, averaging a meager 357 Yards per game over the past 4 years with a cumulative ranking of #82 when measured against 130 D-1/FBS schools and that translates to the bottom 40%.

Of course, there was the breakout year in 2021, whereby the Spartan Offense led by Kenneth Walker III averaged 429 YPG and ranked #42 in the land.

Yet when we check 2019, 2020 & 2022, the Offense guided by Johnson and Kapilovic compiled dismal national rankings of #83; #109; and #97 respectively or a #96 cumulative ranking and that’s the bottom 30%.

Further to that point, when we check Offensive rankings compiled by Johnson and Kapilovic within conference competition which means Colorado (PAC 12) and Michigan State (Big Ten), the results are even more dismal:

  • 2019 (Colorado, #9 PAC 12)
  • 2020 (Michigan State, #14 Big Ten)
  • 2022 (Michigan State, #10 Big Ten)

So, other than 2021 whereby Johnson and Kapilovic had the good fortune to inherit KWIII via the Transfer Portal, and let’s not forget KWIII led the nation in Yards after contact (YAC), which means he created his own success, otherwise there hasn’t been much Offensive success to celebrate.

Of course, some will ask: “why are you including stats from Colorado?’…well, the answer is because Colorado constitutes 25% of overall offensive statistics compiled by Johnson and Kapilovic over the past 4 years.

And let’s remember, good or bad, Mel Tucker’s 5-7 losing record at Colorado got him hired at Michigan State and that included an Offense ranked #83 at the time, yet someway, somehow, Michigan State determined that to be satisfactory credentials for their next head coach.

For what it’s worth, I profiled both Johnson and Kapilovic in 2020 shortly after they were hired by Mel Tucker to join his staff at Michigan State but that was 3 years ago, so I think it worthwhile to review their profiles once again and I hope you find it informative and you can be the judge if Johnson and Kapilovic have the credentials and wherewithal to lead Spartan Football to the promised land.

The Jay Johnson file:

Jay Johnson is 53 years old and coached football since 1993, but Johnson hasn’t spent much time at any one school and certainly hasn’t built a championship caliber track record.

In fact, in 26 years prior to being hired by Mel Tucker at Michigan State, Johnson held 16 jobs at 12 different schools and his career can best be described as a coaching odyssey.

For example: 1 year at Augsburg University (D-III); 2 years at Truman State (D-II); 3 years at Southern Miss (Conference USA) and 5 years at University of Louisiana Lafayette (Sunbelt Conference) and so on, and so on.

Of course, a coaching odyssey is acceptable assuming there is a consistent progression to better jobs at bigger schools, but Johnson languished in lower tier jobs, at lower tier schools for nearly 23 years and didn’t get a job at a Power 5 school until he became Offensive Coordinator at Minnesota (Big Ten) in 2016 just 6 years ago.

Yet, Johnson’s stint at University of Louisiana Lafayette (ULL) from 2011 to 2015 is note worthy: ULL, also known as the Rajin Cajuns which compete in the Sunbelt Conference had to vacate an extraordinary 22 games during Johnson’s tenure due to ACT Fraud as well as Payment to Players.

Johnson was not implicated in the charges by the NCAA, rather David Saunders, ULL Cornerback Coach was charged, yet it would be fair to say the entire ULL coaching staff was implicated due to the fact the fraudulent charges occurred throughout the program from 2011 to 2015 and at the very minimum the entire coaching staff could be considered “guilty by association”.

“Fraud” is an onerous term, yet it is the term applied by the NCAA for manipulating ACT scores and of course there was the additional and equally disturbing charge of “Payment to Players”.

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to believe that every single member of ULL coaching staff (including Jay Johnson) were unaware that such malfeasance occurred over 4 years.

Nevertheless, after leaving ULL, Johnson finally got a job as OC at Minnesota (Big Ten) in 2016, his first Power 5 job, at which time he was nearly 50 years old.

By all measures, Minnesota was in turmoil at the time given the fact it suffered thru 4 dismal years (2007 to 2010) under Tim Brewster, compiling a miserable record of 17-37 followed by 5 dismal years under Jerry Kill from 2011 to 2015 whereby Minnesota compiled a record of 31-33.

That set the stage for Jay Johnson to be hired as Offensive Coordinator on Tracy Claey’s staff at Minnesota, but that “gig” only lasted one year and it’s hard to cite any positive impact from Johnson as Offensive Coordinator, after all Johnson’s Offense ranked # 107 when measured against 130 D-1/FBS schools (or bottom 20%).

Regardless, the Minnesota job only lasted one year and Tracy Claey’s entire staff was fired and replaced by PJ Fleck.

Thereafter, Johnson became “Offensive Quality Control Coach” (OQCC) at Georgia in 2017 and 2018, and if you are unfamiliar with the title “Offensive Quality Control Coach” then it can best be described as analyzing game film and compiling statistical analysis of forthcoming opponents for the benefit of the Offensive Coordinator.

Simply stated, Johnson’s job as OQCC at Georgia was in support of Jim Chaney, Georgia’s Offensive Coordinator at the time.

OQCC is an important job but it’s a support role and a far reach from the critical job of “building Offensive game plans…and calling plays”.

Regardless, the job of OQCC at Georgia only lasted two years at which time Johnson was hired by Mel Tucker as Offensive Coordinator at Colorado.

So, let’s summarize: Jay Jonson only had one year as OC at Minnesota and one year as OC at Colorado prior to being hired by Mel Tucker at Michigan State and just 2 years as Offensive Coordinator at Power 5 schools over the past 6 years can easily be described as a sketchy resume.

Yet, given Johnson’s profile, and given the fact he had just 2 years as OC at two different Power 5 schools prior to being hired by Michigan State, and no championships, we can ask the question: are those the credentials Spartan fans believe can lead Spartan Football to the Promised Land?

You be the judge?

Now, let’s look at Chris Kapilovic who carries 3 titles including: Offensive Line Coach, Running Game Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach.


The Chris Kapilovic file:

Kapilovic had a two-year career as O-Lineman at Missouri State in 1989 & 1990 and graduated in 1992 when he was 24…he is currently 54 years old.

Yet, Chris Kapilovic didn’t land his first coaching job until 2001 nearly 10 years after graduation when he commenced his coaching career at Alabama State.

We don’t know the details, but from 1992 until 2001 Chris Kapilovic was seemingly engaged in a career other than football that spanned nearly 10 years.

Thereafter, Kapilovic held coaching jobs at Alabama State, Missouri State and Southern Mississippi before he finally got a coaching job at UNC, a Power 5 school in 2012 (nearly 20 years after graduation). To be blunt, his career progress has been remarkably slow.

But let’s identify the measurables…and when measuring success of an Offensive Line Coach and Run Game Coordinator, there is no better measuring tool than Rushing yardage per game.

In that regard, in 4 out of 7 years as O-Line Coach and Run Game Coordinator at UNC (2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017), Kapilovic Rush Offense was remarkably “Unremarkable”.

In fact, in those years, UNC Rush Offense averaged a dismal 147 YPG and compiled a dismal cumulative ranking of #89 when measured against 130 D-1/FBS Schools.

Of course, UNC Rush Offense enjoyed a “break out” season in 2015 (call it their Kenneth Walker “break out” year) whereby UNC Rush Offense averaged 224 YPG, ranked #18 in the land, and compiled an overall record of 11-3 including an ACC Coastal Division Title.

But Chris Kapilovic has been Run Game Coordinator for 11 years at two Power 5 schools (UNC and Michigan State) and yet he only has one season whereby he eclipsed 200 Yards Rushing, and let’s make this point, 200 Yards Rushing is generally considered the minimal threshold to compete for Power 5 conference championships.

And let me underscore this point as well: in 2 out of 3 years at Michigan State, the Rushing Offense guided by Chris Kapilovic has been downright dismal, ranking #109 in 2020 and #111 in 2020 both in the bottom 20% when measured against 130 D-1/FBS schools.

More importantly, do you see any improvement from 2020 to 2022…or do you see a decline from bad to worse?


At the bottom line (if past is prologue, why should Spartan fans be optimistic that Jay Johnson and Chris Kapilovic can guide Spartan Football to the Promised Land?):

Jay Johnson and Chris Kapilovic have been overseeing Mel Tucker’s Offense for 4 years (1 Yr at Colorado and 3 Yrs at Michigan State), meanwhile they have guided an mostly inconsistent Offense that participated in 3 losing seasons over the past 4 years.

Yet, Mel Tucker has steadfastly decided to stay the course with Johnson and Kapilovic…but why?

Let’s remember, Johnson is 53 and Kapilovic is 54 and both are in the autumn of their coaching careers and with precious little to demonstrate they are capable of building and guiding a championship caliber Offense.

In fact, after all the games played over the decades, Johnson can’t claim a single Power 5 conference title, while Kapilovic can only claim one “outright” conference title, and that was in 2015, some 7 years ago when he was a member of UNC coaching staff that claimed an ACC Coastal title.

Meager achievements for certain!

So, if past is prologue according to Shakespeare, or if history is the best predictor of the future according to modern vernacular, then it’s hard to be exuberant and/or optimistic regarding the Spartans Offense under the guidance of Johnson and Kapilovic.

In fact, 4 snapshots over 4 years reveals the Offensive ineptitude of Johnson and Kapilovic offense:

  • 2019: scored just 7 points in a 54-7 beat down by Washington
  • 2020: held scoreless in 24-0 loss to Indiana
  • 2021: scored just 7 points in a 56-7 loss to Ohio State
  • 2022: scored just 7 points in a 34-7 thrashing by Minnesota

As an example of offensive ineptitude, Johnson & Kapilovic Offense was outscored 168 to 21 in those 4 snapshot games.

So, let’s ask this question: would Johnson or Kapilovic be employable to run the Offense at Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, TCU, USC etc. etc. etc?

I think not.

Of course, if Johnson and/or Kapilovic were employable by Championship caliber programs then there would be national clamor for their services, yet in 4 years, not a single program beyond Michigan State has tendered an offer to hire either Johnson or Kapilovic.

Think about that?

If a school’s top Offensive coordinators are not receiving competitive offers from championship caliber teams, then you have to ask the question: “why? and then ask another question “why are we so lucky to have them?”

In summary, I submit Michigan State Offense in 2023 won’t look any different than the Offense deployed by Johnson and Kapilovic in 2019, 2020 and 2022 when it posted 3 losing seasons and finished amongst the worst offenses in the land and posted a record of 12-19.

But that’s my point of view…you be the judge if Johnson and Kapilovic can lead Spartan Football to the promised land, and I welcome your comments.

Thank you for reading.

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