Jonathan Smith is now the head coach of Michigan State football, pending the Board of Trustees’ approval. However, athletic director Alan Haller would not have offered if it was not a slam dunk. Haller said he was a program builder and yes he is. He did it at arguably the toughest school to do it.
He has developed linemen, something MSU never could seem to do. He has a running game and he turned quarterback DJ Uiagalelei into a pretty good quarterback. There is freshman quarterback Aiden Chiles at Oregon State, who loves Smith. Depending upon what happens with MSU’s quarterback situation there are possibilities for Chiles.
If Smith is the quarterback whisperer that everyone says he is, then he could do something with Katin Houser and Sam Leavitt if they stick around.
The obvious concern is the lack of Midwest connections. However, if the rumors are true that he will keep coach Courtney Hawkins and possibly Harlon Barnett then this would help. Oregon State has a really good defensive coordinator in Trent Bray. This could finally solidify the Spartans on defense. He has a lot of pre-snap candy for offenses. There is talent on this MSU team despite its record. Smith has proven he can develop players much like former coach Mark Dantonio, which could be a major reason he was hired.
However, he is not without his flaws. He had a strange gesture during a game a year ago. He was able to apologize and move on from it. I am not going to hold that against him. It is concerning. For Spartan fans who remember the John L. Smith days, it was reminiscent of his antics. It is something to be aware of.
MSU has a good coach. A competent coach. This is something that has been lacking in East Lansing for a while. Yes, 2021 was great. This year’s team could have used a Kenneth Walker III to erase mistakes. This is the roster that former coach Mel Tucker put together. This was his year if he stuck around to live up to the promise.
Unfortunately, everything fell apart.
What could Spartan fans expect in 2024? I will say there are a number of factors like whether he will be active in the transfer portal, who will be the quarterback, and whether he could flip recruits. He will have the resources to go get players.
Plus, the schedule breaks nicely for him. No Penn State, but you have Oregon, but at least Bo Nix is moving on. There are a number of beatable teams on the schedule if there can be competent coaching. I am willing to say a 6-6 season would be fair.
If things really get going then they could be even better.