East Lansing, MI

Earlier this morning Michigan State Co-Defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett made the decision to leave his alma mater to head to Tallahassee, Florida to become the new defensive coordinator for Willie Taggart and the Seminoles. READ MORE HERE.

Mark Dantonio & the #16 Michigan State Spartans now have two positions to fill on his staff. Starting January 9th, the NCAA now allows each football team to add a 10th on-field assistant. Spartan Nation for months has reported that Dave Rayner (former Spartan & NFL Great) who is presently the ‘Special Team Intern” was widely believed to be the front-runner for that job. While as an “Intern” Rayner was not allowed to coach on the field during game day, he was as one staffer called, “Our special team’s coach outside of those three and a half hours and the reason we were so much better this year.”

Will the loss of Barnett change the dynamic?  Doubtful but not certain.

Mike Tressel will NOT be demoted. We are not saying that he should. So does Dantonio give him the title and job exclusively? Does Coach Ron Burton come in and join Tressel as a Co-Defensive coordinator? Burton is a star on the defensive side of the coaching staff.

If Dantonio chooses to continue the “CO” titles, as many wish he would not, then finding a top candidate to take the job and share the title would certainly suggest to a logical thinker that it will be a person coming from either a lower level of competition OR the same level who is a position coach.

Regardless of titles, one of the two coaches hired will also need to possess defensive backfield coaching abilities. While Barnett was assisted by Dantonio, his departure leaves a clear void that can’t be patched by just a head coach.

There are several names on the early hot list that are under consideration, BUT Spartan Nation has learned the search will be extensive. You may recall that when Ron Burton came to Michigan State (Spartan Nation broke the story) he was someone that Dantonio had searched far and wide for.  The same with another great hire that Dantonio made in Terrence Samuel.

One Michigan State senior administrative source told Spartan Nation yesterday, “The best hire that Coach D has made was going outside of his circle and getting Burton. If Harlon goes I would love to see the same.”

While the search will be extensive here is an early hot board of replacements.

Renaldo Hill Pittsburgh Panthers Defensive Backs Coach Hill is a former Spartan great. He was a Spartan captain and All-Big Ten cornerback. He also played ten years in the NFL (01-11). He started at CB for three seasons and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2000. In case you have forgotten he garnered 71 tackles, five TFLs, three interceptions and 12 pass breakups in that magical senior campaign. He has been with Pat Narduzzi at Pittsburgh the last three years as the defensive backs coach and was in the role as the same at Wyoming prior to that. He is a Spartan, very well respected, has NFL ties, is a good recruiter and is already familiar with the Spartan defense.

Demetrice Martin DB Coach formerly at UCLA. Martin was not retained when Chip Kelly took over but was a terrific coach and recruiter. He played at Michigan State from 1992-1995 and was a four-year letterman. He played for the Rams in the NFL. He was a grad assistant at USC and then moved to Washington with Steve Sarkisian to be the defensive backs coach. He returned to Los Angeles in 2011 to Coach DB’s with Jim Mora at UCLA.

Paul Haynes That name may sound familiar. He was at Michigan State from 2003-2004. He then went to Ohio State for seven years and was most recently the head coach at Kent State. He is a terrific defensive backs coach and solid person and a great recruiter. The only “Failure” on his resume was that he was at Kent State. A place that is nearly impossible to win with an administration that isn’t on the same page with football according to many people there. Haynes knew the enormity of the task when he took the job, but it was his alma mater.

Jason Jones Ole Miss Co-defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs. He started as GA for Nick Saban so he has a great pedigree and understands exact expectations of Dantonio. In his 14 seasons as a college coach, his teams have made a bowl game appearance in 12 of them. Jones was awarded by Football Scoop the 2014 National Defensive Backs Coach of the Year. Prior to being at Ole’ Miss, he was a DB coach at Oklahoma State for five seasons. He is also like Haynes and Hill a superior recruiter.

Cory Sanders Defensive Backs Western Michigan Sanders is a rising star. By far he is heralded within the profession as the best recruiter at WMU and a tactician of a coach. Sanders already understands the state of Michigan has been at Western Michigan. While the most “Green” of the early candidates, he is also very intriguing. He has a tireless work ethic. The key to his chances is getting an interview and wowing Dantonio and the staff like Ron Burton did. I was told by a MAC head coach moments ago, “If Sanders gets the interview he gets the job. I hope he gets the interview because we don’t like recruiting against him MAC to MAC.

Maurice Linguist Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Backs Minnesota Golden Gophers Linguist is the best recruiter on Coach PJ Fleck’s staff and was recently rewarded with the title of assistant head coach. He has Big Ten ties, he is a good coach and an absolutely phenomenal recruiter. While I would consider him of all six names listed the least likely, he will get some thought. He has coached a Baylor, Buffalo, Iowa State, Mississippi State and now Minnesota.

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