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Interviews with Frenemies: Michigan State

Sparty Fans are Dreaming of a New Coach with One Game to Go

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 Michigan State at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michigan State is closing out a tough season on Friday in Detroit. Next year, the Spartans will have a new coach and a whole lot of things to sort out before returning to the field in September. To get a gauge on the current state of the program, we exchanged some questions with Oren “O” Basse of sister site The Only Colors.

1. The Mel Tucker saga certainly seemed to take a lot of life out of Michigan State in the early part of the season. It seems that Michigan State has continued to play hard under interim coach Harlon Barnett, including a win last week at Indiana. What good can be taken from this crazy year?

Yes, there has been an amazing amount of resiliency on the part of the MSU players who got caught in the middle of this unfortunate turn of events. Us fans were expecting to see a lot of the guys step away from the team and preserve a year of eligibility (this all began after 2 games) for after they went through the transfer portal. That largely did not happen. The biggest name to put his name into the portal was DL Simeon Barrow, a captain on the team, though he ended up removing his name from the portal and returned to the team without missing a game (he did lose his captain’s C).

Unfortunately, all that resiliency does not cover up for the poor coaching and the lack of overall talent. We can tip our caps to interim coach Harlon Barnett for keeping this team together and never letting them quit, and for that I would be happy to see whoever the next Head Coach is bring him back on as an assistant coach. But by and large, the staff that former HC Mel Tucker had assembled was not performing. Players were not being developed over time and game strategies were often laughable.

What good can come from this year? Maybe that MSU doesn’t owe Tucker all that buyout money ($70 million, we will see what happens when the legal process plays out). Aside from that, I am struggling to be a “glass is half-full” person in this case. It’s just a season we are ready to put behind us so we can find out what happens next.

2. Speaking of coaching, what are you hearing about the coaching search for the Spartans and what are you looking for in terms of MSU’s next leader?

An article came out over the weekend stating that MSU had interviewed Jonathan Smith (Oregon State), Jedd Fisch (Arizona), Mike Elko (Duke), and Jason Candle (Toledo) and was hoping to invite all four back for a second interview. You can read into that what you want, but I don’t think it means anything. I am sure they will still invite other candidates in for interviews, and who knows if the above four will accept a second interview.

Then there is still the contingent of Sparty fans who want to see the rumors about Urban Meyer’s candidacy revived. If I am being honest, I would be happy if he ends up as the HC in East Lansing. As stated in my answer to question 1, I could still see several players leave for the portal after the season. But a big name coach like Meyer could prevent that. That is why I personally am looking for someone who has succeeded as a HC to be the pick, even if it is not Meyer, and I hope they make a decision shortly after the season concludes. They need someone who can help prevent a mass exodus. There is actually a strong core of talent on this team, particularly on the defensive side; so MSU needs someone who will make them want to stay and will actually be able to make them better.

3. Offensively, there was a quarterback switch at midseason and the Spartans have been riding with highly touted freshman Katin Houser. What have you seen from his development and what weapons will he bring to face Penn State’s defense?

I was happy when they made the switch from Noah Kim to Katin Houser, but the results have not necessarily been better. Under the circumstances, I was even hoping for true freshman Sam Leavitt to get to start a couple of games to really get next year’s QB competition going early. Who knows who, if any, of these quarterbacks is back in the Green & White next season. I have not been overly impressed with Houser. He is fairly immobile which obviously limits him, and his accuracy has been off at times. Some of that is just his own natural limitations and some of that could be poor coaching. But he does seem like a natural leader and he is vocal and respected by the other men in the huddle. He does need to put in some extra time this offseason, though.

Surrounding the MSU QB, the biggest talent is RB Nathan Carter, who has 753 rushing yards this season along with 102 receiving yards; he is the only MSU RB who has over 100 yards rushing on the year. TE Maliq Carr has made a big leap from his first two seasons. Montorie Foster and Tre Mosley were expected to have big seasons at WR. Though they are the leading WRs on the team in terms of yardage, Mosley’s season has been underwhelming. Unfortunately, no one else has really stepped in to fill that void. That said, Tyrell Henry has been coming along these last couple of weeks.

4. Penn State’s offense has struggled in a lot of games this year, especially in the first half. What can Michigan State do to make life difficult for a unit being coached by two interim offensive coordinators and who are players Penn State fans should be aware of on Friday?

Michigan State has to hope that Penn State tries to predominantly run during this game, and with the QB situation in question, that just may happen. I say this because the MSU defensive line is arguably the best unit of the defense and they have some large men out there who can stuff the run. Aside from Simeon Barrow who I mentioned earlier, the DL also features Derrick Harmon, who weighs 320 lbs. The linebackers were supposed to be the strength of the defense, but the absence of Jacoby Windmon since week 3 changed that. Now, Cal Haladay is handling the second level without his partner in crime. The secondary is porous. Go ahead and throw the ball (if your QB can).

5. What are the keys for Michigan State pulling the upset and how do you see this one playing out?

MSU is going to have to play its best game of the season if they want to win their finale. A lot of things need to go right: OL blocking well, WRs catching passes, DL and LBs not missing tackles, and DBs not getting lost in coverage.

My head says MSU will lose this game but my heart will say 24-20 MSU.

Good luck and happy Thanksgiving.

We thank O for dropping by and answering our questions. We also encourage everyone to check out The Only Colors for the MSU perspective on Friday’s game and all things Big Ten.