Update: Mel Tucker retaining 2 Mark Dantonio assistants at Michigan State

Update: Feb. 17 - 11:15 a.m.

There will be two holdovers from Mark Dantonio’s staff on the new staff of Mel Tucker at Michigan State. The school announced over the weekend that both Mike Tressel and Ron Burton will remain in East Lansing. Burton, after reports last week indicated he was headed to Indiana, will stick with MSU as the defensive line coach. Tressel, meanwhile, will stay on in a yet-to-be-determined role.

Tressel came to MSU with Dantonio from Cincinnati in 2007 and has been the team’s linebackers coach ever since. Tressel was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2018 and also held the assistant head coach title in 2019. Tressel was also the special teams coordinator from 2007 to 2014.

Original story: Feb. 14 - 12:10 p.m.

Mel Tucker is reportedly cleaning house at Michigan State. 

According to the Detroit Free Press, Tucker, hired Wednesday to replace the retiring Mark Dantonio, will not retain any of Dantonio’s assistants from the 2019 season. Instead, Tucker will bring in an entirely new staff. 

Many of those assistants coached alongside Dantonio for a significant part of his tenure leading the program. In fact, three of them — defensive coordinator Mike Tressel, quarterbacks coach Dave Warner and tight ends coach Mark Staten — were part of Dantonio’s original staff back in 2007. Dantonio hired offensive coordinator Brad Salem in 2010. Jim Bollman joined the staff in 2013.

Retaining assistants for that long is uncommon in today’s era of college football. That continuity and staff chemistry helped the Spartans ascend to new heights, including three Big Ten titles, a Rose Bowl victory in 2013 and a College Football Playoff appearance in 2015. It also contributed to a dramatic downturn for the program in recent years. MSU plummeted to 3-9 in 2016 before struggling mightily on offense the last two seasons. 

Dantonio refused to bring in new faces to his staff after a 2018 season that saw the MSU offense rank No. 117 in the nation. Instead, he shuffled their titles — he moved Warner from co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach to quarterbacks coach, for instance. Predictably, that decision did not yield much improvement as the Spartans finished 7-6. 

Mel Tucker was introduced as Michigan State's new football coach on Wednesday in East Lansing. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Dantonio deserves blame for fate of his staff

From afar, Tucker evidently did not like what he saw from MSU’s staff. A new coach will obviously want to bring in assistants he’s familiar with. But it’s also commonplace for a new coach to retain a few assistants from the previous staff in order to bridge the gap between regimes. Tucker reportedly will not do so. 

It’s a decision that leaves MSU’s assistants in a really tough spot ahead of the 2020 season. And a significant portion of the blame for that should lie at the feet of Dantonio for the timing of his announcement. Had Dantonio stepped down in December or January, it would have given his assistants a chance to land on their feet at another school. Instead, those assistants find themselves unemployed at a time when the majority of staff positions across the country are filled. 

Tucker has a lot of work to do in a short period of time, so he wasted no time letting Dantonio’s guys go. The first priority for any coach is to assemble a staff — especially with spring practice around the corner. Tucker, who more than doubled his salary from Colorado to MSU, was given a substantial financial pool (reportedly $6 million) to hire his staff, too. 

One name that has already emerged as a possibility is Vince Marrow, the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Kentucky. Marrow has been instrumental in Kentucky’s recruiting in the state of Ohio and would be a big get for Tucker. 

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