College Football Players With Mask On Helmet Over Their Eyes College Football – Evaluating Three First-Year Coaches – Saban, Erickson and Dantonio – Part 2

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College Football – Evaluating Three First-Year Coaches – Saban, Erickson and Dantonio – Part 2

When Mark Dantonio took over as head coach at Michigan State University this year, he was essentially a low-profile hire and much less known outside the college football fraternity than Dennis Erickson and Nick Saban.

Dantonio made his biggest impact as an assistant coach at Ohio State rather than as a head coach at Cincinnati. Not that he did poorly in Cincinnati. He became the second head coach in Cincinnati history to take the Bearcats to a bowl game in his first season in 2004, leading Marshall to a 32-14 record in the Fort Worth Bowl and a 7-5 season.

His 2006 Cincinnati Bearcats played the second-toughest schedule in the nation and went 7-5 overall with four losses to ranked teams and an upset win over then-No. 7 Rutgers, marking the highest-ranked opponent ever defeated in Bearcat history. While serving as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State, he helped the Buckeyes to a 32-6 record in three seasons and went 14-0 over Ohio State and won the national championship in 2002. His national championship defense was second nationally in scoring defense.

His defense was ranked first nationally in rushing defense and 9th in total defense during the 2003 season, leading the Buckeyes to an 11–2 record and a No. 4 national ranking. Six Buckeye defenders were named first team All-Big 10 during Dantonio’s 3-year tenure and 13 were drafted into the NFL with first-round picks.

Prior to becoming the head coach at Michigan State, he spent 6 years as a secondary coach and associate head coach with the Spartans. He was instrumental in Michigan State’s successful 1999 season when the Spartans went 10-2, won the Florida Citrus Bowl and were ranked No. 7 in the final poll.

Dantonio’s first season at Michigan State was the school’s most successful since 2003. His Spartans went 7-5 losing all 5 games by 7 points or less and qualified for a bowl game for the first time in four years. The Spartans will play the Boston College Eagles on Dec. 28 in the Champs Sports Bowl. Coincidentally, Michigan State defeated Boston College for the College Hockey National Championship in 2007. Known for his defensive prowess, Dantonio won 7 games this year. Average scoring players in all major defensive categories: scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, pass defense and pass efficiency defense.

His offense was average in scoring offense (24th nationally), rushing offense (22nd nationally) and passing offense (23rd nationally), while his total offense and passing offense were average.

The former defensive end at South Carolina inherited a team that was not bowl eligible and went 5-7, 5-6 and 4-8 the past three years. Going 7-5 and getting to a bowl game in his first season was quite an accomplishment, especially since Dantonio didn’t select his players talent-level and trust me when I say they had some slugs on defense. Michigan State lost by touchdowns to both No. 1 Ohio State and Iowa in away games, lost to Wisconsin by a field goal, lost to Northwestern by a touchdown in overtime at home, and lost to Michigan by 4 points at home. . In 4 of those losses, the Spartans gave up 48, 37, 34 and 28 points; Which is just leaving too many points to expect to win.

Dantonio’s first recruiting class is currently ranked 55th according to Scout.com, with no recruits in the top 100, no 5-star players and one 4-star player. This is not a good sign. Notre Dame has the nation’s top recruiting class with seven top 100 players, four 5-star players and thirteen 4-star players. Alas!

Ohio State, another big rival for recruiting in the Midwest, has nine top 100 players, four 5-star players and eight 4-star players. The Spartans will have to tighten their helmet straps a bit and dig deeper to deal with this type of opposition.

Let’s hope Mark Dantonio and his players understand that motivation is an inside job. Coaches select the talent and convince the talent to come to their program, but the players ultimately pay the price for their talent. You can’t win big without talent, but talent doesn’t just have to be seen, it has to be played on game day or you lose anyway.

Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Part 3 evaluates Nick Saban’s performance at Alabama.

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

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