Big Ten: Dan Enos

LOS ANGELES -- Documents have yet to be drafted and pens haven't quiet made their way to paper, but Michigan State fans can feel good about the future of their football coaching staff.

Athletic director Mark Hollis on Monday reiterated that discussions about raises for coach Mark Dantonio and his assistants remain in a very good place. Hollis and Dantonio have had several discussions, and agreements could be finalized shortly after the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO. Dantonio, arguably the nation's top coaching bargain with a salary of $1.96 million this year, will receive a $2 million longevity bonus in January as well as a bump in salary going forward. Dantonio, one of only a few major-conference coaches who doesn't have an agent, has given every indication he will return to MSU for an eighth season (and many more).

"We've verbalized where we want to be with the entire staff, with the coordinators, with the assistant coaches and with Mark," Hollis said. "Those numbers ensure continuity if the choice of the coaches are to remain at Michigan State. We've stepped forward. I get concerned sometimes about where we're going with coaches' salaries as an industry, but at the same time, as a coach, you need to ensure that continuity is in place."

Hollis added that the worst thing that can happen to a program is losing a coach after becoming wrapped up in "short-term thinking." He's completely in line with Dantonio regarding staff continuity.

Dantonio has had only four assistants depart since arriving at Michigan State in 2007 -- two for college head-coaching positions (Dan Enos and Don Treadwell) and one for an NFL coordinator job (Dan Roushar). Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was a prime candidate for the head-coaching vacancy at Connecticut but intends on staying at MSU. Other assistants like secondary coach Harlon Barnett, quarterbacks coach Brad Salem and linebackers/special teams coach Mike Tressel could be targeted for other jobs.

Michigan State has examined the coaching salary market, both within the Big Ten and nationally, to determine potential raises.

"We're getting down more into the smaller details," Hollis said. "When you get down to it, it's, 'What am I being paid and how safe do I feel being the coach here?' Those are the two pieces we're trying to put together.

"We're very comfortable where the basic components of compensation for our staff are, in order to ensure continuity."


LOS ANGELES -- As Lorenzo White watched the confetti fall at Lucas Oil Stadium and Michigan State raise the Big Ten championship trophy Dec. 7, one thought came to mind.

"It's been a long time coming," he said.

White starred at running back for Michigan State's last Rose Bowl team, 26 long years ago. Fueled by a stifling defense and a run-heavy offense -- sound familiar? -- the Spartans blitzed through the Big Ten to earn their first trip to Pasadena since the 1965 season.

It looked like the start of a surge for a team featuring four future first-round NFL draft picks -- White, wide receiver Andre Rison, offensive tackle Tony Mandarich and linebacker Percy Snow -- and a strong coaching staff led by George Perles. But Michigan State once again went more than two decades before its next Rose Bowl berth.

"It's great to have them back," said Perles, who coached Michigan State from 1983 to '94. "It brings back some great old memories."

MSU's latest Rose Bowl run in many way mirrors the path taken in 1987. Both squads faced adversity in nonleague play, regrouped after a loss to Notre Dame, began their ascent with a win at Iowa's Kinnick Stadium in the Big Ten opener and never looked back.

[+] EnlargeLorenzo White
AP Photo/Lennox McLendonLorenzo White carried 35 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the 1988 Rose Bowl.
Both leaned heavily on talented defenses guided by coordinators (Pat Narduzzi now, Nick Saban then) pegged for big things. Both offenses struggled before Big Ten play but eventually settled down. Running back Jeremy Langford's workload isn't as heavy as White's in 1987 -- White logged 357 carries for 1,572 yards and 16 touchdowns, and backup Blake Ezor added 617 yards -- but he has been just as valuable in closing out Big Ten wins.

The 1987 "Gang Green" defense surrendered an average of just 37.6 rush yards in Big Ten play, the second-lowest average in league history behind the 1965 Spartans (34.6), and forced 35 turnovers. The current "Spartan Dawgs" lead the nation in rush defense (80.8 YPG) and thrive on takeaways, recording a league-leading 27, tied for 17th nationally.

"The [current] defense reminds me of our defense 26 years ago," Perles said. "That proves again you win championships with defense."

MSU defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett, a boundary cornerback on the 1987 squad, notes that the schemes were different -- the 1987 team primarily used a Cover 3 defense that Perles brought over from the Pittsburgh Steelers; the current defense mainly lines up in Cover 4, often leaving the corners isolated on opposing receivers. But both defenses keyed on stopping the run and had fiery coordinators with uncompromising standards.

Saban, who turned 37 that October, oversaw a secondary that recorded 28 interceptions. Safeties Todd Krumm and John Miller combined for 17 picks.

"Nick had a lot of, as he would say, piss and vinegar in him," Barnett said. "He was on us about every little thing and demanded excellence and perfection. So in turn, we got turnovers, we stopped the run, we tackled well and played with toughness, similar to our current defense."

[+] EnlargeDenicos Allen
Raj Mehta/USA TODAY SportsLinebacker Denicos Allen had nine tackles, three for a loss, and two sacks against Michigan.
This year's defense recorded its signature performance Nov. 2 against Michigan, holding the Wolverines to minus-48 net rush yards, the lowest total in Michigan history, while racking up seven sacks. It surely reminded some of MSU's 1987 visit to Ohio Stadium, where the Spartans held Ohio State to 2 net rush yards (minus-14 in the second half) and had seven sacks in a 13-7 win.

"That's when we realized how dominant our defense was," said Dan Enos, then a freshman reserve quarterback for MSU who later became an assistant coach at his alma mater. "After that game, we thought, 'Man, we've got a really, really good shot here.'"

There wasn't as much optimism when MSU entered Big Ten play at 1-2. After beating eventual Rose Bowl opponent USC on Labor Day -- in the first night game at Spartan Stadium -- MSU fell to eventual No. 2 Florida State and to Notre Dame, scoring a combined 11 points in the losses.

"That was our nonconference: Southern Cal, Notre Dame and Florida State," Enos said. "Who does that these days? Nobody."

Things didn't get much easier against Iowa, which led 14-7 at halftime. Perles didn't hold back as he addressed his team in the infamous pink locker room at Kinnick. The Spartans rallied to win 19-14.

"He came in, gave us a few choice words," White said with a laugh. "From that point on, we never looked back. The whole season changed."

The next week, MSU beat Michigan in East Lansing for the first time since 1969, thanks to seven interceptions. Despite a tie at Illinois, the Spartans faced Indiana on Nov. 14 with a Rose Bowl berth on the line for both teams.

White carried 56 times, one shy of the Big Ten/NCAA record, for 292 yards as MSU crushed Indiana 27-3. The postgame celebration included a surprise visit from Indiana coach Bill Mallory, who briefly addressed the team.

He congratulated the Spartans and, mindful of the Big Ten's six-game Rose Bowl slide, told players to "go out to the coast and kick [USC's] ass."

"That fired us up," White said. "For another coach to show how much class he had to come over to us and tell us that we had a fine football team, and for us to go out there and kick some butt, that was great."

Mallory, who received Perles' permission before speaking, doesn't recall going into any other opposing locker room after a game in his long career.

"I just had that gut feel," Mallory said. "I didn't want to get carried away, but I wanted to make sure they got our support."

The Spartans' 20-17 Rose Bowl win in many ways typified the 1987 team. They attempted only seven passes but connected for some big gains to Rison, and White had 113 rush yards and two touchdowns.

Snow, who recorded 17 tackles and earned game MVP honors, led a defense that forced five takeaways.

"It was a team loaded with toughness," Perles said.

Barnett, just a redshirt sophomore, expected the Rose Bowl to become an annual trip.

"Little did I know it was going to take 26 years," he said. "I'm really excited for our players to get a chance to experience the granddaddy of them all."
You've probably seen The Scowl. Just about everybody has.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is often typecast on the sideline, where he's most exposed. His standard game-day expression -- furrowed brow, piercing eyes, pursed lips often forming a scowl -- creates a default image.

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesMark Dantonio might be best known for his sideline scowls, but his success at Michigan State has made Spartans fans smile.
Saturday snapshots create lasting labels for coaches, as the Mad Hatter (LSU's Les Miles) or The Vest (former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel) can attest. For Dantonio, it's the scowl.

"People always ask me questions, about how he's grumpy or scowling," said Dan Enos, an assistant for Dantonio from 2004 to '09. "My daughter's even said that to me, watching him on TV. I don't know how he portrays himself to the public, but he's very funny, very engaging, obviously very bright -- one of the most pleasant, best people I've ever been around."

There's much more to Dantonio than the scowl. There's the meticulous mind who impressed his superiors as a young defensive coach by providing scouting reports, recruiting evaluations and game reviews. There's the chief who grants autonomy to his deputies while creating a culture of confidence fueled by themes -- this season's: Chase It -- and gutsy decisions.

There's the 57-year-old who names his trademark special-teams fakes after children's movies such as "Little Giants" and dances to hip-hop -- specifically, Rich Homie Quan's "Type of Way," MSU's anthem this season -- in the locker room after wins. There's the man dedicated to faith and family whose beliefs have been strengthened in recent years after a health scare and his father's death.

There's another label Dantonio has earned: elite coach. He has won 41 games since the start of the 2010 season, guiding Michigan State to two Big Ten championships, including its first outright title and Rose Bowl appearance in 26 years. Only five coaches have won more games than Dantonio in that span, including Alabama's Nick Saban, a Dantonio mentor known to scowl occasionally.

"He's just been rock solid," said Tressel, who had Dantonio on his staff at Ohio State and at Youngstown State. "He's always known what he wants to accomplish with his kids. He knew if he established a good, steady program, the winning would come, and it certainly has."

Dantonio's plan is blossoming at MSU, but the seeds were planted decades ago. As a graduate assistant at Ohio State, Dantonio oversaw live scouting (then permitted) and compiled extensive reports.

While serving as Ohio State's defensive coordinator, Dantonio wouldn't let the team recruit defenders unless they were sound tacklers and unselfish, regardless of their raw athleticism.

"He was very strict and stringent in his evaluation," Tressel said. "He wanted to meet every one of those defensive kids."

Dantonio's ability to "take the entire picture of a recruit," as Enos puts it, sets him apart. It helped when he left the brand-name program in Columbus for his first head-coaching post at Cincinnati, which he boosted in three years there.

Michigan State had greater recruiting reach, but, other than the 2009 class, Dantonio's hauls haven't landed on the national radar. Even this year's team, which featured the nation's No. 1 defense, had just three players rated in the ESPN 150/300, including two redshirting freshmen (Shane Jones and Damion Terry).

"They might not have a lot of four- or five-[star] recruits, but they play like four- and five-star," said Big Ten Network analyst Glen Mason, who had Dantonio on his staff at Kansas from 1991 to '94. "That's what he went after, that's what he's built it around."

Michigan State men's basketball coach Tom Izzo sees similarities between Dantonio's program and his own, from player development -- "It's not like either of us are loaded with top-five guys," Izzo said -- to core values. The difference: Spartans hoops is a national powerhouse.

Dantonio's teams had been very good but not elite until this year. Player development and staff continuity helped -- only four assistants have departed in seven years, two for head-coaching jobs -- but Dantonio's handling of adverse situations pushed MSU a step further.

"He's gotten better at making tough decisions," Izzo said.

Dantonio suspended 13 players for the 2009 Alamo Bowl for their roles in an on-campus fight after the team banquet. He showed patience with a messy quarterback situation early this fall. Connor Cook eventually emerged.

"Everybody ripped him for having three quarterbacks in the same game," Izzo said. "Nobody stood out; he's trying to give each a chance. He did what he knew was right."

Dantonio made one of his toughest calls Wednesday night, suspending starting middle linebacker and two-time captain Max Bullough for the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.

Dantonio's coaching trials have been interspersed with personal challenges. He suffered a mild heart attack in the 2010 season and missed two games. Five days before the 2011 season, Dantonio's father, Justin, died at age 86.

"You hope that all these experiences shape you," Dantonio said.

Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has seen a more relaxed Dantonio, who often reminds players that life is short so enjoy every moment.

"Mark is still the same Mark, but, when you lose your dad, it has an impact," MSU athletic director Mark Hollis said. "Do you shift the rudder a bit? Absolutely.

"But he's used those life experiences, I believe, to complete his life in a positive way."

Hollis hopes Dantonio will complete his coaching career at MSU. Hollis built bonds with Dantonio and Izzo while all three served in assistant roles at MSU in the 1990s. The triumvirate talks daily about player conduct, recruiting, academics and other issues.

"The three of us literally are like brothers," Hollis said.

Hollis has kept the family intact despite NBA overtures to Izzo. He must do the same as Dantonio's stock soars.

Named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2010 and again this season, Dantonio is arguably the nation's best bargain, earning about $1.96 million, ninth among Big Ten coaches. A substantial raise is coming.

"Coach D and I are in a very good place," Hollis said. "We both know what the future is going to look like for him and his staff."

Deep-pocketed programs such as Texas still might court Dantonio, but the Zanesville, Ohio, native is rooted in the Midwest and at MSU, where both of his daughters are students.

Asked recently about the Texas job, Dantonio called it flattering but said, "I see Michigan State as a destination, not a stop."

Those who know him best agree.

Mason: "He might want to be the Tom Izzo of football at Michigan State. He's definitely put his footprints all over that program."

Izzo: "Mark's not all about the money, he's not about the name, he's about building something that's his. I'd say this is home for him."

Tressel: "He's never been a guy that's bounced around. All signs are he'll be wearing that green and white."

For Spartans fans, that's nothing to scowl at.
Mark Dantonio has seen two of his former Michigan State assistants -- Dan Enos (Central Michigan) and Don Treadwell (Miami University) -- leave for head-coaching positions elsewhere.

There's an assumption that Dantonio eventually will lose a third aide, longtime defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, to a top job elsewhere. Michigan State has taken steps to keep Narduzzi in East Lansing, doubling his salary last year after Texas A&M courted him and promoting him to assistant head coach on Monday.

Although Narduzzi hasn't gained serious consideration for head-coaching vacancies, there's a belief that it's just a matter of time, especially if he keeps churning out elite defenses in East Lansing. Dantonio expressed disappointment that Cincinnati didn't show more interest in Narduzzi for its recent vacancy. Narduzzi served as Dantonio's defensive coordinator at Cincinnati from 2004-06 before following him to MSU.

Could Narduzzi become a head coach without leaving town? Dantonio mentioned the possibility Monday.

From the Detroit Free Press:
Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was named assistant head coach. Dantonio has never had one in nine seasons as a head coach, but the move is an indication of Narduzzi's value -- and of his potential future candidate for his boss' job.

Asked Monday on "The Drive with Jack" on WVFN-AM (730) in Lansing whether he would like Narduzzi to be MSU's head coach some day, Dantonio said: "That would be my hope."

"As I move forward, I'm gonna coach for a while," Dantonio said on the show, "but you always want to leave a legacy."

Dantonio turns 57 on Saturday and has plenty of job security at MSU. His five-year rollover contract recently was picked up through the 2018 season, and in 2011 he received a deal designed to keep him a "Spartan for life." He suffered a heart attack in September 2010 and missed several games while recovering, but he has since had no known health issues. Bottom line: Dantonio doesn't appear to be going anywhere any time soon.

Narduzzi, 46, certainly is ready for a head-coaching job, and he'd be a good fit at Michigan State. Would he be willing to wait for Dantonio to step aside? It's possible, but it could be tough if a good job in a BCS automatic-qualifying conference comes along. Narduzzi is popular at Michigan State and has done a tremendous job with the defense, but would the school want its next leader to have previous head-coaching experience?

Time will tell how things play out, but it's interesting to hear Dantonio mention Narduzzi as a possible successor. He doesn't hide his admiration and respect for his lead assistant.

Michigan State fans, I'm interested to hear your thoughts on Narduzzi. Send 'em here.
In a somewhat surprising move, Michigan State announced late Friday afternoon that defensive line coach Ted Gill won't return for the 2013 season.

Gill's contract runs through March 31 and "will not be renewed," head coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement.

"He has been a contributing member of my coaching staff for nine years, including the last six seasons here at Michigan State," Dantonio's statement reads. "I wish Ted the best in his future endeavors."

Gill has served as Dantonio's defensive line coach since Dantonio led Cincinnati's program. Gill also has coached defensive line in the NFL (Carolina Panthers), CFL (Montreal Alouettes) and XFL (Los Angeles Extreme) and at another Big Ten school (Iowa). He served as Oklahoma State's defensive coordinator in 1995.

Michigan State ranked fourth nationally in total defense and eighth in rush defense last season. The Spartans' pass rush wasn't as strong as expected (93rd nationally in sacks, 42nd in tackles for loss), but the unit's overall performance certainly stood out.

Staff continuity has been a hallmark for Dantonio throughout his tenure at Michigan State. The only coaches he has lost -- Don Treadwell and Dan Enos -- left for head coaching opportunities elsewhere.

Perhaps Gill is headed for retirement after nearly four decades in coaching. We'll see. If not, this move seems odd.
Thanks to reader Erik from Waco, Texas, for inspiring this post.

He writes:
Adam, there are seven teams matched up in two or more games against Big Ten opponents this season: Syracuse, Northern Iowa, Central Michigan, Navy, Massachusetts, Notre Dame, and Western Michigan. Two questions. 1) Which team(s) do you think will fare the best against the Big Ten. 2) With most of these games being strongly in Big Ten favor, does a school use "we play Big Ten schools" as a recruiting factor even if they don't win many? Is there a hidden advantage here?

To answer Erik's question, there are actually eight teams facing multiple Big Ten opponents -- the seven listed above, plus Eastern Michigan. Notre Dame has the best chance to rack up some wins against Big Ten competition, namely because the Irish play two Big Ten squads (Michigan and Purdue) on their home field in South Bend. Syracuse also is positioned for success against the Big Ten. The Orange open the season by hosting Northwestern, which has some question marks on both sides of the ball. In Week 3, Syracuse visits Minnesota, which has won just six games the past two seasons. Navy also has a good opportunity for a win against Indiana in October, while Western Michigan has two winnable road games (Illinois and Minnesota).

Regional teams like Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Northern Iowa undoubtedly use their games against Big Ten foes in recruiting. Although they're underdogs, all three teams have been competitive against the Big Ten and can sell the chance to play in Big Ten stadiums to recruits from the Midwest.

With the season less than three months away, let's take a closer look at the eight teams that will face multiple Big Ten opponents in nonconference play this fall.

Syracuse
Sept. 1 vs. Northwestern; Sept. 22 at Minnesota

The Orange come off of a 5-7 season under Doug Marrone, who closed most of the team's practices this spring in an effort to eliminate distractions and foster team chemistry. Syracuse plays just five true home games this season, which puts a premium on the Northwestern game. Northwestern is 6-0 in season openers under coach Pat Fitzgerald. Minnesota and Syracuse both are looking for a boost on offense after finishing 110th and 90th, respectively, in total yards in 2011.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 1-1

Northern Iowa
Sept. 1 at Wisconsin; Sept. 15 at Iowa

Anyone who follows the FCS knows Northern Iowa boasts a very solid program. The Panthers come off of a 10-3 season and have won seven or more games every season since 2002, recording 10 or more wins four times. UNI gave Iowa all it could handle in the 2009 season opener and will face two Big Ten squads going through some personnel transition at key positions.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 0-2

Central Michigan
Sept. 8 vs. Michigan State; Sept. 22 at Iowa

After a terrific run under Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, Central Michigan has backslid under former Michigan State assistant Dan Enos. The Chippewas have gone 3-9 in each of Enos' first two seasons in Mount Pleasant. They get Michigan State at home, and it'll be interesting to see how the Spartans respond after their blockbuster opener against Boise State. Central Michigan stunned Michigan State in East Lansing in 2009 but has lost its only two meetings against Iowa.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 0-2

Navy
Sept. 15 at Penn State; Oct. 20 vs. Indiana

After seven consecutive bowl appearances and seven consecutive Commander-in-Chief trophies, Navy's run ended last season with a 5-7 mark. The Mids haven't faced a Big Ten opponent since nearly stunning Ohio State in Columbus in the 2009 opener. Indiana is the first Big Ten team to visit Annapolis since Northwestern in 2002.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 1-1

Massachusetts
Sept. 8 vs. Indiana; Sept. 15 at Michigan

After winning 23 games combined in 2006 and 2007, Massachusetts has hovered around the .500 mark in the FCS. Now UMass is moving to the FBS and the MAC, beginning with the 2012 season, and will play its home games at Gillette Stadium. The Minutemen went 5-6 last season and hired Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charlie Molnar as their new head coach. Molnar brought in Purdue assistant Phil Elmassian as his defensive coordinator.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 0-2

Notre Dame
Sept. 8 vs. Purdue: Sept. 15 at Michigan State; Sept. 22 vs. Michigan

The Irish begin Year 3 of the Brian Kelly era after a disappointing finish to 2011. Their quarterback issues are well documented, and highly touted recruit Gunner Kiel enters a crowded mix this season. Notre Dame has won three straight against Purdue and five of six but struggled against both Michigan and Michigan State in recent years. The Irish play arguably the nation's toughest schedule, so the two home games against Big Ten foes are huge for Kelly's crew.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 1-2

Western Michigan
Sept. 1 at Illinois; Sept. 15 at Minnesota

The Broncos are no stranger to Big Ten foes, having faced both Michigan and Illinois in the 2011 regular season and Purdue in the 2011 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Bill Cubit's squad always airs it out and returns talented senior quarterback Alex Carder. Record-setting wide receiver Jordan White departs and the receiving corps will have a new look to it, but the Broncos should be able to test the secondaries of both Illinois and Minnesota.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 1-1

Eastern Michigan
Sept. 15 at Purdue; Sept. 22 at Michigan State

Eastern Michigan is on the rise under former Michigan assistant Ron English, as the Eagles went 6-6 in 2011, snapping a streak of 15 consecutive losing seasons. What had been one of the worst programs in the FBS seems to be showing some life, and EMU should once again boast a strong rushing attack in 2011 after finishing 14th nationally last season.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 0-2
Coaching changes defined the Big Ten's offseason, but one of the most significant moves in the league was made to keep a key assistant in place.

Michigan State retained defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi after he turned down a lucrative opportunity to go to Texas A&M in the same role. Narduzzi, who earned $233,000 last year, would receive a substantial raise to stay in East Lansing.

That raise is now known, as the Detroit Free Press first reported. Narduzzi will be paid $500,000, more than doubling his previous salary. All of Mark Dantonio's assistants received salary increases following a season where the Spartans won the Legends Division title and the Outback Bowl, and recorded 11 victories for the second consecutive season.

As expected, Narduzzi received the biggest increase ($267,000), although his salary ranks behind several Big Ten assistants, including Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell ($750,000) and Michigan coordinators Greg Mattison ($750,000) and Al Borges ($650,000). Given Narduzzi's success the past few seasons, his compensation seems reasonable, given the market.
"I think coach Narduzzi's going to be a head coach," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said Thursday. "I think coach Narduzzi believes in this program. What we did is we sat down and said, 'Here's a compensation that gets you in the frame, but also an opportunity for you to achieve what you really want to achieve, which is a head-coaching position.' He and some of the other [assistant] positions were very far off from the norm, and now I believe they're in the norm."

Some of the other reported raises include a $75,000 bump for offensive coordinator Dan Roushar from $230,000 to $305,000; $33,000 raises for secondary coach Harlon Barnett and linebackers/secondary coach Mike Tressel, from $170,000 to $203,000; and $30,000 raises for offensive line coach Mark Staten and running backs coach Brad Salem from $170,000 to $200,000.

Dantonio often credits Michigan State's success to staff continuity. The only assistants who have left the program in his tenure -- Don Treadwell and Dan Enos -- did so for FBS head-coaching positions elsewhere.

Narduzzi's time will come soon, but Michigan State took an important step by keeping its top assistant in East Lansing for another year.
Mark Dantonio has lost only two assistants during his tenure at Michigan State, and both men -- Dan Enos and Don Treadwell -- left for head-coaching positions elsewhere.

Like several Big Ten programs, Michigan State ties its recent success to continuity on the coaching staff. Dantonio would like to keep it that way heading into 2012.

"I hope so," Dantonio told ESPN.com on Friday. "You never know how things change as you go through January, but our staff has been a big part of our success here. Great people, great teachers, great relationships with their players. It's one of the main reasons we're having great success."

Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi appeared to be the likeliest candidate to move onto a head-coaching position. Narduzzi, who guided the No. 5 defense this season, had been mentioned for vacancies at both Illinois and Akron, which since have been filled. While the coaching carousel is still spinning, it's a decent bet Narduzzi remains in East Lansing for another year.

But he needs to get paid. So do Dantonio's other assistants after what the program has done the past few seasons.

Narduzzi reportedly earned $235,000 this year. Offensive coordinator Dan Roushar earned $232,000, while the other assistants pocketed between $165,500-$182,550.

Michigan State's salaries are in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten, although comparable programs such as Wisconsin and Iowa both have a higher-paid assistant than the Spartans (Paul Chryst and Ken O'Keefe, respectively). Narduzzi certainly would appear in line to be one of the league's highest-paid aides.

Michigan State has pledged its commitment to Dantonio, who in October received a new contract designed to keep him a "Spartan for life." Dantonio has voiced the need to recognize his assistants' contributions as well, and he has received favorable feedback from the school's administration.

"When you see the pay scales for assistants and coordinators and things of that nature, we have to be able to keep pace with other people or we're going to lose [assistants]," Dantonio said. "Inevitably, this is a job and you have to worry about the benefits to your family long-term. Michigan State's a football program that's won 10 games this year, 11 games last year. We're on the cusp of something great here, but we haven't done this alone. This hasn't been just the head coach. It's been the assistants as well.

"People will recognize that. [Athletic director] Mark Hollis recognizes that and is doing everything possible to put us on equal footing financially."
While State College will be the center of the college football world Saturday, another significant Big Ten game is taking place hundreds of miles away in Iowa City. Michigan State and Iowa meet at Kinnick Stadium in a matchup with enormous implications for the Legends division. Both teams control their own fate with only one division loss (in Michigan State's case, just one Big Ten loss).

Michigan State will try to do what few Big Ten teams have accomplished this season -- win a big game on the road. The Spartans are 1-2 away from East Lansing this season and got spanked 37-6 last year at Iowa, which handed Michigan State its first and only regular-season loss.

I caught up with Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio on Wednesday to discuss the matchup.

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
Andrew Weber/US PresswireSpartans coach Mark Dantonio's team is heading into a tough road environment this week against Iowa.
When did Iowa first come to mind as a program you wanted to model Michigan State after when you took over in East Lansing?

Mark Dantonio: When I was here before, toward the tail end of my time here as an assistant, Kirk Ferentz had just been hired [as Iowa's coach]. They were a football team that for the first couple years struggled a little bit, but over the course of time, when we played them when I was at Ohio State, and also when I was at Cincinnati, they made their way in this conference. They gradually continued to get better until they were at the top of the conference. And they've been there pretty traditionally since then. Always in contention.

So when I became the head football coach here, I looked at football programs that have some similarities to ours in terms of what challenges they may have, those types of things. And I thought, 'Here's Iowa, good defensive football team, built on toughness, built on stability, continuity on their coaching staff, good fan support, but not one of the programs that were set up for the ages, I guess.' So I felt like that was a program to try and emulate, and we went about our business to try and do those things.

Our coaching staff has remained intact for the most part, losing two guys who became head football coaches [Don Treadwell and Dan Enos]. We've gradually made our way. We've been able to compete for a championship, and we find ourselves in the thick of things now. We're working toward it. We're not there yet.

In terms of players, did you feel you had to recruit similar types of players as Iowa? They've done really well talking walk-ons and kids that might not be the most decorated recruits and have gotten them to the NFL.

MD: We put an emphasis on recruiting who's going to fit our program as a person, number one, and number two, who's going to fit our program's needs. I think Iowa does the same thing. They don't get caught up in how many stars are behind someone's name. A great example of that with us is Le'Veon Bell. It was us and Bowling Green, and we offered him and he came here and has become a tremendous player. We have some four-star players and that type of thing as well, but this program, we're trying to recruit to our needs as much as anything. We spend a lot of time looking at the player, evaluating that guy, not just on film but in person as well.

Iowa has been able to compete with the traditional power programs in the league. Where is Michigan State in that realm in your mind?

MD: We're coming. We've beaten Ohio State. We've beaten Michigan four straight years. We're competing on equal footing with Penn State, 2-2 in the four [previous] years since we've been here. We're 3-2 against Wisconsin. The one program we've not got is the one that we're trying to emulate. But we've had close games with them, other than last year. It'll be a great challenge for us, but we're excited about the opportunity, and we're excited about where we're at. We recruited a lot of these guys -- Kirk Cousins and others -- with the idea that we can get to this next step, we can get to a championship-type game and we can get to a Rose Bowl. Now we're in control of our own destiny, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel in that respect. Now it's important we meet the challenge.

How big of a step is this game, then, in terms of taking that jump as a program?

MD: It's a statement game, I think, in terms of going away from home and winning on the road, especially after last year and things. It's a challenge game. And usually when you're challenged, you tend to take it personal. But a tough challenge, a good football team we're playing, well-coached. Their team is built on toughness and execution as well.

You've been open about how your season is going to be largely decided on the road. Obviously, you had a rough outing last time at Nebraska. How have guys handle the road environments so far?

MD: We've played three on the road, and some tough ones. We've gone down to Notre Dame, we've played at Ohio State and we've played at Nebraska. We're 1-2 right now, so we've got two more left, and both of them will be challenges. You evaluate that at the end, but we need to go more mentally prepared maybe than we were this past time at Nebraska. We have to create our momentum. Momentum won't be created by the crowd.

How do you feel about the offense coming out of the Minnesota game and into this one?

MD: I felt Kirk Cousins played very well. He only has five interceptions for the entire season. He makes great decisions. Have to continue to try and run the ball more effectively and keep balance so we can protect our quarterback, and then we have to just protect him, period. Which we've been able to do. Explosive plays are always very, very important. When we've gotten eight explosive plays or more [in a game], we're 35-5. So that's where it's at. We've got to find explosive plays, either running the football or passing it.

And defensively, we've played pretty well on the road. How do you feel about that group going against a potent offense in Iowa?

MD: It's another challenge for us. They do a great job running the football. They've got a great offensive line, a big, powerful back [Marcus Coker]. He leads the league in rushing. A big-play wide receiver [Marvin McNutt], a quarterback [James Vandenberg] who makes good decisions, can get out of the pocket. So it's a challenge for us. To play well on the road, we've got to play well in the red zone and come up with turnovers and try to take the crowd out of the game and be relentless.

Everyone's new to divisional play, but how do you address that with your players?

MD: They're very aware of what we have to do. We're in control, but all things are not lost if we lose. Our players understand that. It's exciting to look at all the possibilities because there are possibilities across the board on both sides of these divisions, and that's exciting for college football.

Big Ten lunch links

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
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This was bound to happen eventually. I've been trying so hard to suppress like my carefree idiot side that it just rebelled and came out swingin'.
My team-by-team breakdown of each Big Ten schedule continues with the Michigan State Spartans.

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records)

Sept. 2: Youngstown State (3-8)
Sept. 10: Florida Atlantic (4-8)
Sept. 17: at Notre Dame (8-5)
Sept. 24: Central Michigan (3-9)

Legends division games

Oct. 15: Michigan
Oct. 29: at Nebraska
Nov. 5: Minnesota
Nov. 12: at Iowa
Nov. 26: at Northwestern

Crossover games

Oct. 1: at Ohio State
Oct. 22: Wisconsin
Nov. 19: Indiana (protected)

No plays

Penn State
Purdue
Illinois

Gut-check game: At Ohio State. We'll find out early on if Michigan State is a team that once again can contend for a Big Ten championship. The Spartans open conference play in Columbus, where they take on an Ohio State team playing its final game without quarterback Terrelle Pryor, four other suspended players and (presumably) coach Jim Tressel. Ohio State is the only Big Ten team (besides newcomer Nebraska) that Michigan State hasn't beaten in coach Mark Dantonio's tenure. The Spartans have dropped seven consecutive games to the Buckeyes.

Trap game: Minnesota. Although it's a division game, the Minnesota contest falls after Michigan State plays archrival Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska and before the Spartans visit Iowa City, where they were thrashed 37-6 last season. Minnesota is going through a coaching change and visits East Lansing for the second consecutive year after falling to Michigan State 31-8 last November.

Snoozer: Florida Atlantic. Michigan State's nonconference schedule offers several possibilities, but Youngstown State is the opener (on a Friday night, no less) and Central Michigan marks the return of former Spartans assistant and former Spartans quarterback Dan Enos to East Lansing. The Owls are coming off of back-to-back losing seasons.

Non-con challenge: Michigan State has won four of its past six meetings against rival Notre Dame, but the Spartans could head to South Bend as the underdogs this year. Notre Dame returns 16 starters and could make a jump in Brian Kelly's second season as coach. The Irish haven't forgotten "Little Giants," and Kelly could have a few tricks up his sleeve for Michigan State.

Key stretch: Like many Big Ten teams, Michigan State gets few breaks during the month of October. The Spartans begin with the league opener at Ohio State. After an open week, they host rival Michigan and try to record their first four-game win streak against the Wolverines since 1959-62. Michigan State then hosts a Wisconsin team looking to avenge last year's loss in East Lansing and wraps up the month at Nebraska in a game that could decide the Legends division title.

Analysis: One of the few knocks against Dantonio during his Spartans tenure is the absence of a signature road victory. He and his players will have plenty of chances to record one this season. No Big Ten team faces a rougher road than the Spartans, who play five away games against teams that had a combined record of 37-16 in 2010. It further magnifies the importance of the Ohio State game because the Spartans can gain some confidence with a big win in Columbus. Michigan State should be favored in most if not all of its home games -- the Wisconsin contest could be a pick 'em -- and it'll be imperative for the Spartans to take care of business at home.

More B1G schedule analysis

Big Ten assistant coach updates

February, 7, 2011
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Several Big Ten teams are still filling out their staffs for 2011, and we'll hear an official announcement or two later Monday.

Here's a roundup of what's been happening the last few days:

INDIANA

The Hoosiers on Friday announced the hiring of Brandon Shelby as cornerbacks coach. Shelby, who previously held the same position at Louisiana-Monroe, starred as a defensive back at Oklahoma during IU coach Kevin Wilson's time there and also served as a Sooners' defensive assistant in 2006. Shelby replaces Corey Raymond, who left Indiana to take a position at Nebraska. Although Nebraska hasn't made an official announcement about Raymond, he's expected to replace secondary coach Marvin Sanders, who resigned Thursday.

Indiana also last week hired Nebraska defensive assistant Brett Diersen as defensive tackles coach and Air Force running backs coach Jemal Singleton to the same position. Diersen replaces Jerry Montgomery, who Wilson said left for a position at Michigan.

These appointments complete Wilson's staff for 2011.

NEBRASKA

So far, Sanders' resignation is the only official announcement Bo Pelini has made about his staff. But Wilson said Raymond is on his way to Lincoln, and all signs point to offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and receivers coach Ted Gilmore being on their way out. Nebraska's offensive production dipped toward the end of the 2010 season, and the Huskers' receivers had an up-and-down year.

Multiple media reports from Nebraska state that Pelini might be targeting Oregon receivers coach Scott Frost, the former Huskers' star quarterback, and Notre Dame offensive line coach Ed Warinner as replacements. Warinner served as Kansas' offensive coordinator from 2007-09 and spent time in the Big Ten as Illinois' offensive line coach and run game coordinator from 2005-06.

The interesting part of this is Pelini reportedly will hand over play-calling duties to running backs coach Tim Beck. The Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald both report that Frost might not leave Oregon unless it's for a job as a play-caller elsewhere.

Pelini seems to be reshaping his staff before Nebraska's jump to the Big Ten. It will be fascinating to see how things play out in Lincoln.

MICHIGAN

Coach Brady Hoke will finalize his staff Monday and announce the defensive assistants to join coordinator Greg Mattison.

Montgomery is on his way to Ann Arbor, and he'll reportedly be joined by Akron defensive coordinator Curt Mallory on the Michigan staff. Expect Mallory to coach the Wolverines' secondary, while Montgomery will work with the defensive line. Mallory played at Michigan and has spent his entire coaching career in the Midwest, serving as Illinois' secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator from 2007-09. Montgomery played at Iowa and most recently served as Wyoming's defensive line coach.

MICHIGAN STATE

After promoting Dan Roushar to offensive coordinator last week, Mark Dantonio reportedly has found the final member of his staff.

According to The (Mount Pleasant) Morning Sun, Central Michigan receivers coach Terry Samuel has left to take the same position on Michigan State's staff. Samuel, who played wide receiver at Purdue, worked his way up through the FCS ranks before joining former Dantonio assistant Dan Enos at Central Michigan last year.

He'll coach the position group that previous Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell oversaw. Samuel inherits a deep and talented receiving corps led by B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin.

WISCONSIN

The Badgers lost a key assistant over the weekend as running backs coach John Settle departed for the same position with the Carolina Panthers. Settle did an outstanding job with Wisconsin's running backs, helping to mold standout players like P.J. Hill, John Clay, James White and Montee Ball.

Although Wisconsin always recruits talented backs, Settle leaves some big shoes to fill. It will be interesting to see who coach Bret Bielema hires as his replacement.
Staff continuity has been a hallmark of Mark Dantonio's success at Michigan State.

Dantonio has lost only two assistants during his MSU tenure, and both men (Dan Enos and Don Treadwell) have gone on to head-coaching positions. When it came time to replace Treadwell, the team's offensive coordinator who recently left for the top job at Miami (Ohio), you heard practically no buzz about possible replacements.

That's because Dantonio, not surprisingly, looked to within his staff for a replacement. Michigan State on Tuesday announced that offensive line coach Dan Roushar has been promoted to offensive coordinator.

Roushar, the Spartans' O-line coach for the past four seasons, has served as an offensive coordinator at four schools: Illinois (2004), Northern Illinois (1998-2002), Ball State (1994) and Butler (1989-92).

"He's done this at the Big Ten level," Dantonio said in a video posted on the team's website. "He's coached a multitude of positions: he's coached the offensive line, the tight ends, the quarterbacks, the running backs, so he's got an overall great sense of what we're trying to do. He's very well organized and I think there will continue to be good chemistry in that room, which is important."

Maintaining chemistry, continuity and familiarity with the offensive scheme and the personnel was paramount for Dantonio in finding a replacement.

"Knowing the kids, we've all got a real good idea of who they are, what they do very well and what they need to work on," Roushar said. "So it's going to move us forward quickly."

UPDATE: Mark Staten will take over as Spartans' offensive line coach, while running backs coach Brad Salem becomes the team's recruiting coordinator. Roushar will work with the tight ends, a group Staten previously managed. Michigan State will search for a new assistant to work with the wide receivers, a group Treadwell oversaw.

Michigan State's offense made some strides in 2010, ranking fourth in the league in scoring and third in passing. It'll be important for Roushar to get the run game going as the Spartans' rushing production dropped off during Big Ten play.

I like the hire. Michigan State might have wanted a bigger name, but it's hard to argue with experience and continuity, two qualities Roushar brings to the table.
Michigan State will be sad to see Don Treadwell go, but few Big Ten assistants are more deserving of a head-coaching position than Treadwell.

(UPDATED: Statements below)

After four years as Spartans' offensive coordinator, Treadwell has accepted the head-coaching position at Miami (Ohio), his alma mater. He's the second Michigan State assistant to leave for a MAC job in as many seasons; running backs coach Dan Enos went to Central Michigan after last season. Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and Ohio State co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell also were in the mix at Miami.

Treadwell's highlight as a Spartans' assistant came this season as he ran the program during Mark Dantonio's health-related absence. He made several gutsy play calls in Michigan State's biggest win of the season, a 34-24 triumph against Wisconsin on Oct. 2 that proved to be the Badgers' only loss.

Arguably no assistant in America played a bigger role in a signature win than Treadwell. He figured to land a top job soon, and Miami (Ohio) is a good spot for him.

Treadwell will coach his last game for Michigan State on Saturday in the Capital One Bowl before moving onto his new gig.

It will be interesting to see where Dantonio turns for a successor. Offensive assistants Dave Warner (quarterbacks), Dan Roushar (offensive line) and Mark Staten (tight ends, recruiting coordinator) all have been with Dantonio for a while, so there's certainly a chance he'll promote one to the coordinator spot.

Michigan State undoubtedly will stick with the pro-style offense that has worked well this season under Treadwell's leadership.

Staff continuity had been a hallmark for Dantonio, so Treadwell's departure presents a bit of a challenge. But I'm sure Dantonio is thrilled to see a top assistant get his shot to run a program.

Here are some statements regarding Treadwell heading to Miami.

Mark Dantonio

"Don Treadwell will be an outstanding head coach - he comes from a great background of coaches and he's ready for this position. He will serve his players well, not only as a coach but as someone they will look up to for the rest of their lives. To go back and do this at his alma mater makes it even more special to him. I know he's extremely excited for this next challenge in his life. We will miss Don and his family deeply here at Michigan State, and I will miss him personally, but this is his opportunity, his time.

"He did a phenomenal job stepping in while I was down, continuing to keep our system in place while showing incredible composure, which is one of his greatest attributes. So often, a team reflects its leader. At that point in time, leadership was thrust upon Don Treadwell. It was thrust upon our players, it was thrust upon all of our coaches, but in particular Coach Tread. They took on that persona of quiet confidence, assurance, and composure. You saw our team play like that, especially in the Wisconsin game, which was maybe our biggest win of the entire season. He was instrumental in helping us build a foundation with our program."

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis

"Even prior to this year, there was no question Don Treadwell was prepared for a head coaching job. In the unfortunate situation with coach Dantonio, he just shined throughout that entire process, not only holding the team together but being the face to represent Michigan State football publicly. There's no doubt in my mind that he has both the football knowledge and the presence to bring a community together to make Miami's program continue to thrive and get better and better. He's been a head coach with us, and now he'll have his own program to run."

Don Treadwell

"It's a dream come true to return to my alma mater, Miami, as head football coach. Miami has always held a special place in my heart, and the opportunity to be a part of the 'Cradle of Coaches' is a privilege as well as a responsibility. I have a blueprint for success for our student-athletes: in the classroom, on the playing field and in the community. Everyone in the program plays an important role, and with all of us heading in the same direction, we can add a new chapter to the rich tradition of Miami football. I can't wait to roll up my sleeves and get started."

When I received a call this morning saying Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio suffered a possible heart attack after Saturday night's dramatic win against Notre Dame, I thought it couldn't be true.

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
AP Photo/Al GoldisMichigan State coach Mark Dantonio is hospitalized in East Lansing and will remain there for several days.
Sure, the excitement of college football reached a fever pitch as Michigan State executed a fake field-goal attempt to beat Notre Dame 34-31 in overtime. Spartan Stadium was going absolutely nuts.

But Dantonio? He looked calm and collected on the sideline, the least surprised person in East Lansing. He had just made the Call of the Year in college football, and he barely flinched.

It's amazing how life can change in a matter of hours.

Dantonio indeed suffered a heart attack following the game and underwent a procedure early Sunday to have a metallic stent inserted to open a blocked blood vessel leading to his heart. The 54-year-old is hospitalized in East Lansing and will remain there for several days. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell has taken over the head-coaching duties during Dantonio's absence.

Dr. Chris D'Haem, a cardiologist at Sparrow Hospital, said Dantonio began experiencing symptoms of a heart attack around 12:30 a.m. Sunday. Dantonio came into the hospital immediately and underwent what D'Haem calls a "relatively common procedure."
“The procedure was successful and blood flow to the heart muscle was restored," D'Haem said in a statement released through Michigan State. "I'm very pleased with the outcome of the procedure. Coach Dantonio is resting comfortably following his procedure and is expected to make a full recovery. He is young, in excellent shape, and the damage to his heart was minimal. Coach Dantonio made the right decision to come in and get checked out immediately.”

The prognosis is very favorable, and D'Haem expects Dantonio to make a full recovery with no long-term negative impact. There's no such thing as a minor heart attack in my book, but it's wonderful to hear that Dantonio is OK and should be fine.

The coach had no known history of heart problems, but as we've learned in recent years, coaching college football can take a toll on one's health.

"Stress doesn't cause coronary heart disease, but very stressful events can be a trigger," D'Haem said at a news conference in East Lansing.

I think we'd all agree Saturday night's game qualified as a stressful event.

Dantonio's health situation certainly puts everything in perspective for a Michigan State program riding high after the Notre Dame game. Everyone wants to know when he'll be back, but his health should be the only priority right now. There's no sense in rushing back.

Treadwell is a veteran assistant who has been in the mix for several head-coaching jobs, including those at Boston College and Miami (Ohio). Dantonio's staff at MSU has seen amazingly little turnover; Dan Enos' departure for the top job at Central Michigan this winter marked the first change.

Athletic director Mark Hollis reiterated Sunday that while Dantonio's return is unknown, Dantonio remains the program's head coach.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Coach D and his family,” Treadwell said in a statement. “We wish him a full and speedy recovery, so he can rejoin us on the sidelines. In the interim, the vast majority of this coaching staff has been together for seven years, so we won’t miss a beat as we move forward and build upon the momentum of last night’s thrilling victory.”

Big Ten coaches have been echoing their support for Dantonio on Twitter, including Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald and Penn State assistant Jay Paterno.

Best of luck to Dantonio during his recovery. While the past 15 hours at Michigan State have been shocking for a number of reasons, knowing Dantonio, I'd be more surprised not to see him get healthy and get back where he belongs on the sideline.

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