Throughout Michigan State’s 7-5 season, the offense has been at the center of heavy criticism as the Spartans try to identify why a once-promising season has now resulted in disappointment.
Michigan State ranked near the bottom of Division 1 college football in several offensive statistical categories, including scoring offense, where the Spartans rank 123rd out of 130 teams with 19.8 points per game and total offense, ranking 117th with 343 yards per game.
Those anemic offensive numbers, along with play-calling that can be described as predictable and unimaginative, have led to several questions regarding the job security of members of Michigan State’s coaching staff, most notably offensive coordinator Dave Warner.
Spartan Nation asked Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio about possible staff changes following the 2018 season after last Saturday’s 14-10 win over Rutgers and Dantonio said he will again evaluate his coaching staff like he does after every season.
“Those are questions that I think are in-house questions and when I make those decisions I make those decisions,” he said. “I do think that first of all you self-evaluate and you start to think about people and you start to think about things, you always do. Every year we do, we did last year too, and the year before and the year before and the year before...we always look at those things. From my perspective, it is more than just about calling a play. It is about the teaching progressions, it is about what is being taught in the classroom, what is being taught on the field, it is about the execution of that and it is also about how do you recruit, how do you handle people in general and what kind of person you are.”
Michigan State’s offensive woes aren’t anything out of the ordinary in recent years, as the Spartans ranked 91st in total offense and 96th in scoring offense despite finishing 10-3 in 2017. The Spartans ranked 75th in total offense and 104th in scoring offense in 2016.
Those finishes are a far cry from Michigan State’s 2014 season where the Spartans ranked 11th in the nation in total offense at 500.8 yards per game and No. 7 in scoring offense with 43 points per contest.
As far as Michigan State’s 2018 struggles are concerned, injuries can be blamed to a certain extent, but for a season where several players were expected to take a step forward, the argument could be made that many of those players regressed instead.
But when asked by Spartan Nation, Warner said that he believes he and the rest of the offensive staff have proven to be able to develop players and added that while the statistical rankings are disappointing, he’s more focused on the team’s record and following Dantonio’s lead.
“I think the proof is in the pudding that we’ve developed our players,” he said. “Obviously, we’re not happy with the results as far as our rankings. I’m concerned about wins and losses and what coach Dantonio wants to run, that’s my biggest concern.”
But considering the fact that Michigan State has taken considerable steps backward over the course of the past five years, the question of whether or not there will be changes to the coaching staff will be made.
During his tenure at Michigan State, Dantonio has been a coach who has valued loyalty continuity on his staff and believes that is a key factor in his team’s success in previous years.
But even with his offense’s struggles and the fact that he will evaluate his staff at season’s end, Dantonio admitted that, at the moment, he would prefer to keep his staff intact, rather than make sweeping changes on the offensive side of the ball.
“I have always said that loyalty goes both ways so my inclination is sort of sit and hold with people,” he said. “That is who I have been, that is why we have had continuity because it goes both ways. I know everybody out there is on a warpath and the wolf is at the door as I said last week. That is why I am the head coach, so I can deflect some of that.”
They now head to San Francisco for a New Year’s Eve tilt at the Redbox Bowl on Monday, Dec. 31 at 12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET in Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, versus the Oregon Ducks.
As Michigan State will head for its bowl game and during the time leading up to the season finale, Dantonio will have plenty to ponder about his coaching staff and if he is still confident in the direction of an offense that has gone backwards over the course of the past five years.
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