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You Got A Friend In D: Dantonio Sticks To Who He Knows In Assistant Hires

Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

There hasn’t been much to talk about for this article the past few years, as MSU has enjoyed a level of coaching stability very uncommon in college football, especially for a relatively successful program.

There may be reason for that, as the three former Dantonio assistants who have struck out on their own as head coaches have at best a mixed record.

Don Treadwell, architect of the Kirk Cousins-era offenses, washed out after just 3 years at his alma mater, Miami Hydroxide.

Dan Enos, after four unremarkable years at Central Michigan, left of his own accord to join none other than Bret Bielema’s ultimately doomed Arkansas staff, was then set to cross the uncrossable line by joining Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor this offseason, but ultimately got Harbz with the fake high five by jumping for a spot on Nick Saban’s staff instead.

Beloved former defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi - probably still the choice of the majority of MSU fans if Mark Dantonio were to retire tomorrow - is entering his fourth year at Pitt, where he started off well enough with back-to-back 8-5 seasons but then backslid to 5-7 last year. Pitt nonetheless extended his contract through 2024, so it seems the administration at least is pleased enough with him.

And that’s it. Longtime assistants who oversaw some really good units - Harlon Barnett, Mike Tressel, Dave Warner - have seen offseason after offseason of stasis, and to the best of my recollection have never really been mentioned for other jobs,

Well, some of that finally shifted this year. Barnett made a lateral-but-lucrative move to join Willie Taggart’s new staff at Florida State and took Mark Snyder, last year’s defensive ends coach, with him. With the NCAA’s addition of a new assistant position this offseason, MSU therefore had 3 vacancies to fill, so let’s meet the new guys:

Don Treadwell

Oh hey, Don’s back. This is a move that I had heard proposed a few times over the last several years by other fans, as Treadwell was popular, successful, and after he was discharged by Miami, didn’t appear to be doing anything while MSU’s offense had floundered a bit under Dan Roushar and, in some fan’s eyes, under Dave Warner as well (we tend to forget that the program’s best-ever offense was the ‘14 group Warner was in charge of). Tread is back now, but with Warner and co-OC Jim Bollman still in place, his role is defined as “assistant defensive backs/special teams & freshmen.”

Paul Haynes

Yet another one-time Jim Tressel acolyte, Haynes is fresh off of a rather tough stint as head coach at Kent State, which gave him five years of rope before cutting bait after last year’s 2-10 campaign to top off a 14-45 overall record - though to be fair the general consensus among the very minimal web traffic surveyed on the subject tends to agree Kent State is a really tough place to win. Most of Haynes’ other coaching stops have featured defensive backs work, and sure enough, he takes over that responsibility from Barnett.

Chuck Bullough

Here’s a name most of you will recognize, as his nephews have been mucking things up as linebackers for MSU for most of the last decade. The Bulloughs are probably MSU’s football royal family, and Chuck was present for the last great period of success before Dantonio in the late 80s. His coaching career has seen him supervise all kinds of position groups, but also slants heavily to the defense. He’s never been a head coach, and comes over from his last job as Eastern Michigan’s DL coach to take over as DE coach for MSU.

Beyond these three, OL coach Mark Staten adopts Barnett’s former honorific as Assistant Head Coach, though what if any additional benefits and responsibilities that confers is anyone’s guess. Probably has to run another meeting or two.

None of the new coaches seem likely to have primary roles in gameplanning, but there’s some decent and varied experience here, and Dantonio has always valued familiarity in his staff, an approach that has generally worked for him.