Dantonio Must Look Hard At Offensive Staff For Next Chapter

Dantonio Must Look Hard At Offensive Staff For Next Chapter

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Dantonio Must Look Hard At Offensive Staff For Next Chapter

It’s undeniable – Michigan State’s offense was among the worst in all of college football in 2018. As he examines the season and prepares for the bowl game and the 2019 season ahead, Mark Dantonio must make substantial adjustments offensively.

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The statistics aren’t even necessary.

All anyone has had to do is watch Michigan State’s offense throughout the frustrating 2018 season to know that Mark Dantonio has to make changes as he prepares for the program’s next phase.

The 14-10 victory over Rutgers on Saturday at Spartan Stadium counts as a win – but the game was a perfect example of the season-long slog that the offense plodded through.

The injuries across the entire team – particularly on the offensive line and throughout the offensive skill positions – contributed significantly to the team’s inability to live up to the preseason expectations.

But the offense wasn’t ever able to produce in any meaningful way and it prevented the Spartans from being able to take advantage of having one of the nation’s best overall defenses.

In 2019, the defense is going to be every bit as good as it has been this season.

The offense has to measure up.

Whether Brian Lewerke or Rocky Lombardi is playing quarterback – a big enough question in and of itself – the Spartans have to be able to gain a yard on 4th and 1 against Rutgers.

We know all of that.

What we don’t know is whether or not Mark Dantonio will make adjustments to the staff in response to the worst offensive output during his 12-year tenure.

Dantonio has been able to have success at Michigan State for many reasons – one of them is the continuity in his staff and the way that has provided the program with consistency in so many ways.

However, sometimes a fresh voice and a fresh perspective is helpful for an environment that may be in need of new energy, new strategic thought, and, above all else, productivity.

Dantonio hasn’t ever exhibited a cutthroat, win-at-all-costs attitude in his leadership style and that’s allowed for chemistry and loyalty to run throughout the program’s DNA.

And we wouldn’t ever advocate for “cutting a coach loose” since we all forget what Dantonio doesn’t – these guys all have families and homes and dogs and cats.

But like any organization, the leader has to be the one to adjust the various elements of the operation when necessary.

And the Michigan State offense has to be adjusted.

Dantonio’s mantra that the offense must have around 40 carries in order for the team to have the best chance at winning is something we agree with, believe in, and want to see as a continuing overarching philosophy.

We’ve talked a lot about how his “40-carry rule” has to do with much more than the piling up of yards gained on the ground and plenty to do with owning the time of possession battle.

However, there isn’t any reason why the “40-carry rule” can’t also include piling up yards on the ground.

Out of 129 FBS teams, Michigan State finished 115th in the nation in averaging 122 yards rushing per game.

Michigan State finished 13th in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game.

Does anything else need to be looked at to know that the offense has to undergo adjustments?

There were moments over the course of the season when it appeared as though the Spartans were beginning to find an ability to get yards on the ground.

The win at Penn State generated some hope – but even on that day, Michigan State eeked out a mere 123 yards in the 21-17 win at Happy Valley.

The high-water mark for the Spartans came against Maryland when the team managed to pile up 269 yards – but it’s fair to point to the turmoil the Terps were going through at the time and see that afternoon’s performance as the offense’s outlier for the season.

Is it an issue with the offensive line?

There was a lot of talk in the aftermath of that win at Penn State about the schematic adjustment that allowed for more of a zone-block approach in that win – but that adjustment didn’t seem to carry over for the remainder of the season.

Is it an inability on the part of the running backs to extend runs?

Is it an overall offensive scheme issue?

Will a healthy LJ Scott mean maybe 50 more yards per game?

And, of course, the injuries had to have been one of the reasons for the poor output.

One thing seems clear – it isn’t one, single issue but, rather, a whole bunch of issues without any simple answers.

And so it seems as if a change of philosophy, staff, leadership, or all of the above may be necessary.

Let’s acknowledge that Dave Warner was the offensive coordinator for two of Mark Dantonio’s three Big Ten Championship teams – and the 2015 offense ranks as one of the most prolific in program history.

But Warner has been in the position (with his co-coordinator, Jim Bollman) for six full seasons now and maybe the time has come for a new face, a new voice, and a new approach.

The last time Dantonio made a change with the offense was following the 2012 season.

That 2012 season, in many ways, compares to this 2018 season.

Dan Roushar had helped lead the Spartans to a Big Ten Legends Division Title in 2011 and after 2012 it was evident that a change was necessary.

After a season that featured the worst offensive performance in the Dantonio Era, the sense is that 2019 could become another 2013 if a strategic change is made.

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