The #5 Michigan State defensive coaching staff will have a bit of a different look when the Spartans take the field this fall as co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett is now gone after taking the defensive coordinator position at Florida State.
Mike Tressel, a co-defensive coordinator last year, will assume the play-calling duties this fall and the lone title of DC, while the Spartans have a number of new defensive assistants joining the staff, including Chuck Bullough (Defensive Ends), Paul Haynes (Secondary) and Don Treadwell (Assistant Defensive Backs).
Spartan Nation caught up with Tressel to talk about the Michigan State defense heading into the 2018 and the longtime assistant said that he has seen some of the Spartans’ more experienced players have helped make it an easier transition for some of the newer defensive staff members.
“The biggest thing really is that we now have five coaches on the defensive side of the ball instead of four,” he said. “So we have a couple of coaches working in the secondary in coach Haynes and coach Treadwell, which allows our corners to get individual attention or our ‘star’ to get individual attention and how we shuffle them and meetings on the field has been an adjustment. There’s also using of guys like Khari Willis or David Dowell in terms of coaching new coaches. They’re very experienced, fantastic coaches, but they haven’t run our defense in the last couple of years, so it’s nice to have experience.”
While the Spartans have the majority of their starters from last year’s team returning the glaring hole that needs to be addressed before taking the field is the void left by Chris Frey, who is now with the Carolina Panthers.
Two other linebackers that have caught the attention of the Michigan State coaching staff have been senior Byron Bullough and senior Grayson Miller, who has made the transition from safety to linebacker since the end of last season.
Tressel said that he’s been impressed with the improvements that Bullough has made in terms of being able to shed blockers and make tackles and was one of the standouts from a spring scrimmage.
“He’s doing a great job of getting off of blocks,” he said. “He was always smart enough to recognize formations and read his keys, but once he engaged those 300-pound linemen, he didn’t do a great job of getting off blocks and using his hands. He doing a great job of disengaging and finishing plays. Our last scrimmage, he probably had double-digit tackles because of his ability to get off blocks.”
For many defensive backs (Miller), making the switch from playing in the secondary to playing in the front seven can be a difficult one, but Tressel said that he’s bought into the position change and took steps forward throughout the spring.
“He told me he would much rather bang his head against a 300-pound man then have to run with a 4.4 guy in a vertical,” he said. “He’s all-in and he’s doing a good job.”
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