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Michigan State football: Quotes from Harlon Barnett’s first Coaches Show

Harlon Barnett did a great job.

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Michigan State football
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Acting Michigan State football coach Harlon Barnett hosted his first Coaches Show at Reno’s East on Thursday. What’d he have to say?

Applause and a standing ovation. That’s what acting Michigan State football coach Harlon Barnett was greeted with at the Thursday night Coaches Radio show at Reno’s East in East Lansing. It was quite a scene and enough to make any Spartan fan fired up for his first game as the captain of this ship on Saturday night.

He proceeded to the front, where his family was waiting, stepped up on the stage, and began to sign some things for people in the crowd. 

Truthfully, I was kind of taken aback as he walked past my table and gave people fist bumps on his way up. Entering from the front door was abnormal, as the door right next to the stage that leads into the parking lot was already open for him. Although the radio show only allows for a smaller intimate crowd, it felt like the entire fanbase was behind him in that moment.

I think he fully embraced it as well. 

Up to the task

Coach Barnett has reminded us now several times, that being the head coach at Michigan State has been a dream of his for a while now. Just not like this. But regardless of the circumstances, he is in a position that a lot of people would envy him for. Throughout the week I can’t imagine the rollercoaster of emotions that he’s been going through, but in front of the public, and the media? Cool as a cucumber. The long-time defensive backs coach seems up to the task.

Back to his roots

George Blaha started off the show by explaining to the listeners and crowd the history that comes with Barnett. From a player in the late 1980s, back to East Lansing as a sideline reporter after a brief NFL career, and then as a coach courtesy of Mark Dantonio, the path has seemingly always led to East Lansing, and Harlon is sure that he “bleeds green.”

Is he nervous? Barnett offered up the simple answer of, “No, I’m not nervous about it … it’s something I’ve been preparing for.” To which Blaha mentioned the history of great coaches that Barnett has been able to learn and draw inspiration from including George Perles, Bill Belichick, Bill Parcels, and Dennis Greene, and then as a sideline reporter and grad assistant under Nick Saban was in East Lansing and at LSU.

Barnett gives a bunch of credit to them. I think the stories could have gone on for hours, and I would have listened intently for every second of it. 

On physicality

Coach Barnett has a way of capturing you, drawing you in. I don’t know if it’s the charisma, the fact that he seems like a guy I could have a beer with, or the hours of words of wisdom he could share. He’s funny, mentioning his love for the physicality of the game, telling the listeners what he’s told his players for years now: “This is the last time you can legally hit people without going to jail.”

This checks out as something a guy nicknamed the “boom stick” would say. Barnett followed that up with this on playing with physicality, “The Bible says it’s better to give than receive.” It drew another laugh from the crowd. 

On Coach Dantonio

When it comes to Mark Dantonio being back in a sort of assistant role, Harlon continued to make it clear how much he means to him. 

“You know, Coach D, that’s my guy… He’s got a lot of wisdom and knowledge… I love him for it.”

Barnett mentioned that during his time with Michigan State football, especially under Dantonio, he’s helped develop and put 11 defensive backs into the NFL. He mentioned Darqueze Dennard and others, in lieu of the Rose Bowl festivities for the weekend.

On taking over the team

Blaha asked about the goal of meeting with every single player on the team that Barnett set in his Tuesday press conference. Barnett said that he planned to get through the last of the roughly 115 players on Friday. He reiterated that the first question he has been asking players is, “How’s the team, how are the guys.”

In the Monday meeting with the team, Barnett spoke in front of them and told them that everyone needs to be a leader.

“You lead by love, encouragement, accountability, and discipline,” were the words he used. 

Speaking more on the preparation for Washington, Barnett said that he had a lot of respect for the team, head coach, and offensive coordinators there. After they announced Nate Carter for his performance against Richmond, Barnett said that a staple of football, especially in the Big Ten, is the ability and willingness to run the football. He mentioned that on Saturday, Michigan State is focused on playing complimentary football.

“Offense, defense, and special teams.”

On the support

It’s hard to say exactly how the Spartans will look on Saturday. It’s hard to say where players’ emotions are, and even where Barnett’s emotions are, understanding how much this opportunity means to him. But there are a few things that are for sure. Harlon clearly has the attention and best intention for every single one of his players, and the other coaches. He has the ear of the fanbase, and the support of them, too.

Barnett loves this place, you don’t face the fanbase head-on, right through the front door if you don’t. You also dont cheer like that, and give a standing ovation for just anyone that walks through that door. I expect it to be even louder when he leads the team out of the tunnel on Saturday.

Get ready, Michigan State football fans, you don’t want to count this guy out. 

Writer for Spartan Shadows since 2022. Articles focusing on Michigan State Basketball, Football, soccer, and general experience. Die hard Michigan State fan, with a passion for creating engaging content.

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