Answering Your Michigan State Football Questions and Emails...

Hondo, Do you think that the performance of the O line will be improved enough to give us a decent running game. Thus allowing some pressure being taken off whoever the starting qb is? Dave Emery

At this point I only know a couple of things that I am certain of. One is that we have some talented young men who are offensive linemen. Secondly, based on what I see with my own eyes and the experts who work in college and pro football that I trust, they are not being coached at a high level. Take a look at LeVeon’s numbers; the majority of his yards came AFTER contact. I know a lot of people think he should have stayed, but he didn’t have a choice. There are good players on the OL; they lack coaching.  Answering your question, I would say no. Now your definition of decent may be different than mine, but running a pro-style offense in the Big Ten with high expectations, requires a good running game.  Mark Dantonio has said many times that the expectations for this program every year is a Big Ten championships and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Hondo, I am still going to order my 2013 season tickets, but (I will be doing it) reluctantly (I am really hopeful MD who I think is the best coach we've had sense Perles / Saban will make the changes on offense). Thanks, Paul Connolly

Thanks Paul, here is in an email from someone on the other side:

Hondo, I drive in from out of state every home weekend. The tailgating has been regulated to a short amount of time, the season stunk this year, and the game day experience is no longer fun. We have the means, but no longer the patience. We are out this year as season ticket holders. Karen

Hondo, this has been a hot topic around the water cooler here at work so we decided to e-mail you.  From your perspective, do you think that coach D really will have open competition at the qb spot? There are a lot of us Spartan fans behind the blue wall. From the guys of the Ford River Rouge plant

Great question and I don’t want to sound like Bill Clinton and debate meaningless details and definitions.  The staff was very high on Keith Nichol. Talking with many of them, they thought Keith Nichol was a shoe in for the QB spot in his battle with Kirk Cousins. Kirk thrived in the pro-style offense and Keith was more of a hybrid pro-spread. Kirk won the job in the system they wanted to run fair and square and ended up as one of the Spartans’ best QBs ever. They wanted Nichol, but the system they ran favored Cousins. All four QBs on the team come summer are very talented. Because I do not know the parameters of the competition or the wrinkles that will be added I can’t answer that. So many questions!

Hondo, it is very difficult to run a pro-set without a very good O-Line and we do not seem to have a top tier one, so why do we stubbornly stick with the power running game? Players like Bell who can do it without holes to run through do not come along all that often. Thanks for your informed responses, Grant

Grant, great question. MSU has the talent on the OL to be better than they have been. I love power football, but you have to look at it philosophically. Why isn’t it working? I actually heard someone defending the OL coaching this year because of the amount of yards LeVeon ran for.  I guess they didn’t see players making the SAME mistakes (technique wise) in week one or two that they made in week 12 or the bowl game. A player making a mistake is the player’s fault. A player continually making those mistakes is on the coach. MSU is getting crushed in recruiting by other programs with the performance of their OL and OL coaching. It can’t be ignored. Negative recruiting is something I detest, but telling kids the truth isn’t negative recruiting. I will have a lot more including what schools are telling recruits that MSU goes after on the OL in my end of year wrap up.

Hondo, any idea when your end of season article is coming out? I can’t wait. I love those every year, but this one is like waiting for Christmas as a kid. Kent

Kent, as you know they usually come out in January. I am holding off until February 13-15; three articles over three days.

Hondo, I am anxious for your report on Michigan State Football. You mentioned several times that you have got NFL people to help with the evaluation. Can you tell me how that came about? That idea fascinates me. Rick

Sure can Rick. I foolishly bought in on what I was being told inside of MSU football last year. The sad part was that I drank the Kool Aid and the people pouring did as well. It is MY responsibility to control what I drink and I didn’t. As you know, every year my friends and connections in the NFL help me with one of the nation’s most accurate MOCK Drafts. I thought this season had a great shot of ending up in a Rose Bowl and I was going to use their evaluations of what they thought coming in and how the year ended in a book I was going to write. By week three it was clear that the Spartans were not as good as we thought and when the season ended, it was a lot of great perspective from people who get paid at the highest level of football in our nation.Â

I will use some of their information, but as I do each year it will be full of many stories and inside looks at the program: some great moments and some not so great moments, some amazing coaching decisions and some head scratchers. I can tell you this…90% of what the NFL people had to say about MSU was great. The 10% was specific and might be considered brutal. We will go back to the preseason and look for signs that I might have missed or others who thought the year was going to be so great. I hope you find it educational. I do want to make one thing clear. It is not people inside the program whose enthusiasm I took to heart. There was an air of excitement not seen in MSU football since the year after the Rose Bowl win with George Perles. It was my fault. I failed you my readers/viewers/listeners by not seeing some things. This story isn’t about blame it is about what happened. Three days, and I think three stories. Maybe we make it four in three days, but not sure yet. Still writing…

Hondo, you never make criticism personal, but you can really bring it. I know that you have known Dantonio for a long time. I have to guess that with some of your commentary that it has to strain the relationship. Does it? Linda in Waterford

Linda, I get asked that a lot. First, let me say that Mark Dantonio is an honorable and good man.  One tim Mark and I were having a conversation and the topic of criticism came up. Dantonio wasted no time saying, “You have to call them like you see them.” I agreed with him.  I attend everything; every open practice, every game, every press conference and hustle outside of organized events to gather information. Because I have known Mark for a long time and because I know him and his character, he will get the benefit of the doubt from me. But, I will call them like I see them and NEVER make it personal.

Hondo, I know that you don’t like Mark Staten, the OL coach. Who would you replace him with? Michah

First, let me say your email is not true. Whoever told you I don’t like Mark is a liar. Mark is a super husband, a great dad, and a fantastic human being. I care for him very much. I have been critical of his coaching, but no one wants to see him do well more than me. Unfortunately, he isn’t paid for all of that.  My evaluation of him is about job performance. Let’s all hope he has an amazing year in 2013 and gets better. This IS NOT personal and people who can’t be critical of someone’s performance without making it personal are not fans or journalists, they are fools.

As far as whom I would hire that one is easy. A man who has been here before, loved it here and has done an amazing job in his career. He wanted to come back when Mark Dantonio was hired and had Mark Staten not come to MSU from Cincinnati he would have.  Jeff Stoutland the offensive line coach at Alabama. He couldn’t say it and wouldn’t say it publicly, but I can assure you that MSU could hire him away from Alabama. He makes $395,000 per year as the OL coach at Alabama. Let me put this in perspective. Dan Roushar made $307,000 at MSU this year as the OC. Mark Staten the MSU OL Coach made $202,900. Stoutland is a great coach, loved it here and if MSU wants to compete there are great coaches who will come.

Hondo, do we have any chance that Mark Hollis steps in and demands more staff changes from Dantonio? Dennis

NO, and he shouldn’t. My philosophy is that every coach should have the only say in who they hire on the staff. NO ONE should have a say. NO ONE. Obviously, the school has to make sure they pass a background check, but NO ONE should have any say, but the head coach.  That should ONLY be his call. JLS was forced to hire Dan Enos. I love Dan, but I didn’t support it at the time. If Mark Dantonio makes no further changes, and if those coaches fail again next year, it is on the head coach.  He is a big boy and he can take that. It is Mark’s staff and Mark’s program. What everyone else thinks, doesn’t matter. He should do it his way and be judged on the merits of his choices.

OK everyone, there you go. Our weekly Q/A article. If you would like your email to be considered for this article, please add to the subject line Football Q/A. Email me at