Michigan State football

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Stock Watch: Michigan State football coaches edition

It’s end-of-season stock watch time. Which Michigan State football coaches should you buy stock in and which should you avoid?

In year three of a rebuild under a new coaching staff, it is not uncommon to see regression. At that point, the recruits from the previous regime will be upperclassmen. And you likely won’t see the fruits of the new staff’s efforts on the field yet. That can be said about the current Michigan State football staff.

Mel Tucker attempted to combat this by raiding the transfer portal, to a mixed bag of success and failure. Kenneth Walker III single handedly willed last year’s team to a New Year’s Six bowl. This gave the impression that the Michigan State football rebuild was well ahead of schedule. However, a tough slate of games as well as some glaring coaching and talent issues have indicated otherwise.

Here we will dive into each of the members of the MSU coaching staff and take stock on their performance to date.

Mel Tucker (Head Coach)

Stock Down. Tucker, who took home Big Ten Coach of the Year last season, has some fans murmuring about their confidence in him being “the guy” long-term. During his postgame pressers, Mel consistently pointed to “failures in execution” as the reason for a plethora of slip-ups in a 5-7 season. While some of those moments can certainly be put on the players, the coach still has to take responsibility for all the decisions that are made underneath him. Some of the end-of-game situations were puzzling to say the least, and all of that points back to the top.

Additionally, Mel indicated that he would personally oversee the coaching of the defensive backs. That is an admirable thing to hear from the head honcho when an obvious issue is present. However, when you look at how the defensive backs performed this year, that is a direct reflection of Mel’s ability to coach.

I still believe Tucker can right the ship, with his strong recruiting and willingness to adapt to the modern era. But his seat is definitely starting to feel warmer, especially if no other coaching changes are made this offseason.

Chris Kapilovic (Assistant Coach, OL coach, run game)

Stock Level. MSU’s offensive line, by most regards, performed similarly or improved from last season. Pass protection has been slightly better year over year (2.3 sacks per game allowed in 2020, 1.6 in 2021, 1.5 in 2022).

You can also see some flashes of improvement in the run blocking, leading to some decent performances from Jalen Berger, Jarek Broussard, and Elijah Collins in the second half of the season. However, MSU’s run game was still the second worst since 2007, averaging just 113 yards per game.

The offensive line was undoubtedly one of the biggest projects at the start of the Mel Tucker era, so Coach Kap has some amount of leeway to get them up to the level of what we saw in 2013-15. Looking at the recruits waiting in the wings, we can be hopeful this position will continue to improve going forward.

Jay Johnson (Offensive Coordinator, Quarterbacks)

Stock Down. Was there a bigger plummet in stock from last year to this year? Jay Johnson, who showed some spectacular creativity at moments in the 11-2 Peach Bowl season, has put up a dud of a year.

The offense averaged 31.8 PPG and 429.4 YPG in 2021 and have regressed to 24.4 PPG and 359.7 YPG in 2022. While a large portion of that can be attributed to the contributions from Kenneth Walker, that level of regression with the weapons at MSU’s disposal is unacceptable.

The play-calling, particularly on fourth and short situations, has left MSU fans pulling out their hair. Additionally, Johnson received criticism for his lack of using tight ends to their full capability.

Jay is certainly near the top of the list of assistants that may be looking for new work when the calendar turns to 2023.

Scottie Hazelton (Defensive Coordinator, Linebackers)

Stock Down. For Hazelton, 2021 was a “bend don’t break” year. MSU fielded a porous pass defense, but when the opposing offense made it to the red zone, we saw the defense stiffen and make key plays when needed.

Tucker and Hazelton mentioned in their pressers this year that MSU’s defensive breakdowns have been a “death by inches.” But when you look at the total yardage allowed, you have to feel it’s more like “death by miles.”

We should note that the past two seasons have been roughly the same statistically (25.3 PPG and 441.6 YPG in 2021, 27.4 PPG and 416.8 YPG in 2022).  And even though this year got off to a horrendous start defensively, Hazelton showed some bright moments, particularly in the Wisconsin and Illinois games.

Also keep in mind that Hazelton operated the majority of the year without key defenders at every position. Darius Snow missed the whole season due to injury. Xavier Henderson missed five games. Jacob Slade missed four games. Jacoby Windmon missed the last four games with an indefinite suspension. You certainly need to take those players’ vacancies into account when you look at the product on the field.

But with all that said, allowing 400-plus yards in eight out of twelve games, and 500-plus yards three times this season is still atrocious. In the 13 years under Mark Dantonio at MSU, not once did they allow more than 400 yards per game defensively over a season. That occurred in each of Hazelton’s three seasons under Mel Tucker.

While he has been up and down this season, most MSU fans would still agree that he’s on a short leash.

Harlon Barnett (Secondary)

Stock Down. Barnett produced a string of very successful of secondaries under Dantonio. Under his and Pat Narduzzi’s tutelage, the “No Fly Zone” was alive and well at MSU in the 2010s.

Since his stint at Florida State in 2018-19, Barnett has been a shell of himself, with the defensive backs showing little to no sign of improvement over the last three seasons.

You can point to the defense needing to learn a new scheme as part of the issue, but you should still see some sign of improvement at this point. The talent, the development, the coaching, and the execution have not been there for MSU’s secondary.

MSU has certainly shown some nice moments from the younger talent in Mangham and Tatum. And the safeties have some studs with Henderson and Brooks. But overall, the pass defense has suffered since Barnett and Hazelton have been on campus.

The secondary needs an overhaul, and in a major way.

Marco Coleman (Defensive Line, Run Game)

Stock Level. MSU’s run defense was the worst it has been since 2002, allowing 178.9 yards per game. While that is certainly troubling, there are still signs of life on the young and talented defensive line.

Jacob Slade was the centerpiece of the line, and he was out for a third of the season. Simeon Barrow, Derrick Harmon, Maverick Hansen, Avery Dunn have all shown some really nice flashes throughout the year in his place.

Coleman should get the benefit of the doubt with some of the inexperience he battled, but we still need to see improvement from the run defense next year.

Ross Els (Special Teams)

Stock Down. From the moment he was hired, many questioned the choice of Els as linebackers coach. And when he moved to solely focus on special teams, fans also scratched their heads.

To say that special teams for MSU have been a disaster is an understatement of massive proportions.

The place kicking for Michigan State football this season might be the worst we have seen in quite some time. Additionally, the kickoff coverage has singlehandedly lost MSU a game this season against Indiana. Several long snaps were mishandled or too high, albeit at the result of an injured Hank Pepper.

The lone bright spot for Els certainly is Bryce Baringer, who will likely win the Ray Guy Award. But that is more a testament to Bryce’s talent rather than Els’s coaching ability.

If MSU does not replace Els this season, the comments from the fan base could become ugly, very quickly.

Ted Gilmore (Tight Ends)

Stock Level. MSU fielded more talent at tight end than we have seen in several years. Tyler Hunt operated well in pass-blocking situations. Maliq Carr showed flashes of greatness with his freakish athleticism. And Barker stood out as an NFL-caliber player on more than one occasion, with a one-handed grab and several clutch seam routes.

The lone critique on the tight ends is how under-utilized they were. While that is more a reflection on Johnson than Gilmore, part of the reason their use was limited was due to their skill sets.

Carr and Barker did not show as much of an ability to pass-block. That meant when they were on the field, defenses more easily picked up that they would be receivers. Similarly, Hunt does not possess nearly the upside of the other two when it came to making key catches.

MSU saw a combined 546 yards and four touchdowns from their tight ends this year, which is not too shabby considering the overall performance of the offense. But there was much more potential in the tank for this group.

Courtney Hawkins (Wide Receivers)

Stock Up. Two words: Keon Coleman. People buzzed about Coleman as a breakout star the entire offseason, and for good reason. Nobody presented more confidence or more of a matchup problem than the 6-foot-4 star. He exploded for 58 catches, 798 yards, and seven touchdowns this year, up from 7/50/1 in 2021. And the best part is he is still only a sophomore. The sky is the limit for Coleman, who will likely head to the NFL after one or two more seasons in the green and white.

Next to Coleman was the ever-reliable Jayden Reed, who posted a respectable 636 yards and five touchdowns his senior year. Considering he battled injuries throughout the first few games of the year, he played as solidly as you can ask for. He certainly had the capability to go for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. But even still, he played effectively alongside his former high-school teammate, Payton Thorne.

Beyond those two, Tre Mosley proved to be a decent WR3, posting 359 yards and four touchdowns. Many expected bigger things from Mosley this year, but part of his lower numbers was due to Coleman’s meteoric rise.

Overall, Hawkins has done an excellent job developing the MSU wideouts. He also has some promising young talent ready to step into bigger roles with Germie Bernard, Antonio Gates Jr., and more.

Effrem Reed (Running Backs)

Stock Level. If you compared every running back to Kenneth Walker, you would undoubtedly be met with disappointment. Michigan State football fans had tampered expectations for their running backs going into this year. There was a good chance the combined effort of their running backs would still be less than what Walker was able to provide in his lone magical season.

However, the backs this season have been adequate given the situation around them. Berger posted 683 yards and six touchdowns as the lead back. Collins (318 yards, six touchdowns) and Broussard (298 yards, six touchdowns) provided some nice support and change of pace behind him.

A point of concern is MSU’s inability to obtain yardage in many short third and fourth down situations. The offensive line is still a work in progress, and the play calls from Johnson certainly didn’t help.

But overall, you have to feel good about the future of the running game at MSU with the talent in that room.

Brandon Jordan (Pass Rush Specialist)

Stock Level. Jordan was a hot name on social media if you talked to MSU fans this summer. He is known for his knack of developing NFL talent into fearsome pass rushers. This hire was certainly an unconventional one, but shows promise long-term.

Jordan has been killing it on the recruiting trail. He helped nab commitments from four stars Andrew Depaepe, Bai Jobe, Jalen Thompson, and Jordan Hall.

On the field, MSU’s defense generated 29 sacks on the year, a respectable number. Before his suspension, Jacoby Windmon terrorized on defense with 5.5 sacks and six forced fumbles over eight games.

The jury’s still out on if BT will pan out as a coach, but his impact is being felt with how the pass rush is developing.

Final thoughts on Michigan State football coaches

Michigan State football has some work to do this offseason. Overall, the program can still right the ship under Tucker and Co. But serious adjustments need to be made in order to accomplish their goal of becoming Big Ten champions and returning to the College Football Playoff.

Michigan State football

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Michigan State football must make one obvious change this offseason

One change could fix Michigan State football quicker than you might think. What change must Mel Tucker make?

Michigan State’s 39-31 loss to Indiana in overtime this past Saturday was the worst of Mel Tucker’s tenure so far for obvious reasons. Indiana came into that game having lost seven in a row and nothing was going their way. On top of that, it was a home game for Michigan State football and the win would’ve locked it into a bowl game.

Instead, the Spartans blew a 17-point halftime lead. And with a top 10 Penn State team looming, it’s looking like we won’t be going bowling. You just can’t blow a 17-point lead to a team like Indiana at home.

But now that the dust has settled and emotions are no longer running high, we need to look at the reality for this MSU football team.

Obviously, changes must be made. Too much went wrong this season to just run it back with the same staff intact next season. But I also think it’s important not to overreact and just blow the whole staff up. We need to remember this is really only year two for Tucker and Co. because of COVID-19 ruining the 2020 season.

So what changes need to be made?

Believe it or not, I think Hazelton’s job is the safest of the main coordinators. Last Saturday was far from the best defensive performance for MSU, seeing as Indiana ran for 257 yards. However, half of those yards came from the first drive of the game and one 80-yard run combined.

The defense only allowed 31 passing yards. Yes, Indiana’s pass game is terrible, but during Hazelton’s time here, plenty of terrible passing teams have thrown all over MSU. So the 31 yards they allowed Saturday is encouraging.

Last week, I wrote about why Hazelton deserves to stay. And while I did research, I noticed something a bit concerning after Saturday’s game. While the defense has drastically improved over the last few weeks, especially the pass defense, the run defense has not been great.

In Hazelton’s one year at Kansas State, his team allowed 166 rushing yards a game, the second worst in the Big 12. Michigan State currently has its worst rush defense since 2004, allowing 180 yards a game.

I think the concern with Hazelton is no longer the pass defense he puts on the field. But with a history of poor run defenses, he needs to prove himself there. I still believe he deserves another year as MSU has recently been plagued with injuries and suspensions. But it’s something to watch closely next season.

Jay Johnson became a popular name among fans pretty quickly after his hire. During the end of the Dantonio era, we saw some of the worst offenses in Michigan State football history. Johnson brought new life to the offense, and we saw drastic changes fast.

Now, it’s important to note we had Kenneth Walker III last season. A player who will go down as one of the greatest to ever play at MSU. So, naturally, he made the offense look better than it probably actually was.

Outside of Walker, the offense remained pretty much intact, and we have seen a drop in production this season. Last year, MSU averaged nearly 32 points per game, while this season it has dipped to just over 25. A whole touchdown difference is never good unless it’s an improvement. But I don’t think Johnson is all to blame.

While it has been frustrating to watch this MSU offense at times this year, I think Johnson’s job is safe and I think it should be. Remember the staff is still trying to get their guys in there to make this team succeed. A quarterback battle next spring could help bring more life back to this offense.

Changes must be made, however, and the guy who absolutely needs to go is Ross Els, the special teams coordinator. Of the three main coordinators, he has been the only one whose group has steadily gotten worse with time. And this past Saturday was the tipping point.

Against Indiana, the offense and defense both played well enough to win the game. However, the special teams allowed Indiana to start the game at the 50-yard line, which led to a touchdown. They allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown. And missed two field goals, both of which would have won the game for MSU even after all the other mishaps.

Kicking has been an issue for MSU all year, and I think has been the biggest contributor to the Spartans’ points per game total falling off seven points from last season. The inability to make even chip shot field goals I believe cost Michigan State more than three points per game, on average.

Now not having a good kicker certainly hurts. But it’s Els’ job to find a good kicker and to also develop the kickers we have. Els is more to blame than anyone else when it comes to that. And on top of the poor kicking, MSU’s punt and kick return coverage has not been good in years. And that all falls on Els.

I think special teams is a unit that often gets overlooked in the grand scheme of things because everyone just thinks offense and defense. But I believe if Tucker fires Els and brings in a good special teams coordinator, we’ll see a much better team on the field next season.

So while some of you may want to see a bunch of changes during this offseason, I don’t think they’re coming. But as long as Tucker brings in a new special teams coordinator, I think we’ll be just fine. Just hang in there, Spartan fans, MSU will return to glory sooner than you may think.

Michigan State football

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Michigan State football: Has Scottie Hazelton earned himself another year?

After a disastrous start to the season, Scottie Hazelton has rebounded. Has he earned himself another year with Michigan State football?

Scottie Hazelton is a name most Michigan State football fans recognize, and not for good reason. He’s grown quite a bad reputation in his tenure at Michigan State, mostly because of how bad his defense was in 2021.

While the Mark Dantonio era at MSU will go down as one of the best in school history, the end of that era was not so great. One of the biggest complaints about Dantonio was his reluctance to change up the staff when things got bad. So when Mel Tucker hired Hazelton along with many other new faces, it felt like a breath of fresh air for the program.

Some fans were skeptical of the Hazelton hire, stating that a Big 12-style defense just wouldn’t work in the Big Ten. Others were a bit more optimistic, as it didn’t take too much digging to see what Hazelton was able to accomplish in his time at Kansas State. Although Hazelton was only the defensive coordinator at Kansas State for one season, his defense allowed just 368 total yards a game, consisting of 203 passing yards and 165 rushing yards — and just 21 points. This led Kansas State to have the second-best total defense in the Big 12 which is known for not playing defense.

While leading Kansas State to the second-best defense in the Big12 is great, my biggest takeaway from his lone season there was just the mere 203 passing yards per game his group allowed. Since Hazelton has taken over at MSU, we have been notorious for having a very poor pass defense.

So what exactly has gone wrong with this Hazelton defense?

Michigan State ranked dead-last in the Big Ten in total defense in Hazelton’s first season on the job, just a year after it was a middle-of-the-pack unit, ranked sixth in the conference. But that was a COVID-19 year, which was especially hard on teams with new personnel. Coaches couldn’t work out with their players in spring. So it wasn’t until a delayed start in the fall that the new staff could get accustomed to their new players.

Many fans weren’t too upset with the season, they understood the circumstances and were just ready to move on to the 2021 campaign.

Now, 2021 was a great year of Michigan State football as it went 11-2, a complete turnaround from a bad 2-5 season in 2020. After such a great season, those not familiar with MSU football might be surprised by the outrage directed toward Hazelton. What they didn’t realize was MSU was just a decent defense, not even a good defense, away from competing for a national championship.

While 2021 was a great season, Hazelton’s defense got exposed in one particular area: the secondary.

Michigan State’s total defense improved from the season before, moving up to 10th in the Big Ten. The 325 passing yards they allowed per game was not an improvement, and it ranked last in the entire country.

The Spartans were a victory over Ohio State away from going to the College Football Playoff, but as I’m sure most of you remember, that game was over at halftime. CJ Stroud torched the MSU secondary with ease and crushed the Spartans’ hopes for their second playoff berth. Naturally, the fanbase began calling for Hazelton’s job.

We have a great team that’s just missing a decent defense, so fire the guy that leads the terrible defense and all problems are solved, right? While that’s what many fans wanted to happen, Tucker kept Hazelton on the staff.

Which brings us to the current season; the make-or-break season for Hazelton. The 2022 season couldn’t have started worse for Hazelton and his defense, however. It was the very first game of the season when Michigan State lost Darius Snow for the year and Xavier Henderson for an extended period of time due to injuries. Spartan fans knew they were arguably the two best players they had on defense. But what they didn’t realize at the time was just how crucial they were.

Snow had made the move from the secondary to linebacker, which figured to help MSU’s coverage at that level of the defense immensely — an area they struggled a lot with the season before. What they lost in Henderson was the leader of the defense. But as Mel Tucker often has said this season, it was next man up and Spartan fans still wanted results.

The first game after losing the two key players the defense looked great as the Spartans held Akron to nothing in a shutout win. I think that blowout win made fans think MSU would be fine without Henderson and Snow.

But after that Akron game, things went downhill fast.

The Spartans would lose four in a row, allowing on average 528 yards, 37 points, and 339 passing yards per game. Fourteen yards worse, on average, than a season ago when MSU ranked last in pass defense. It was looking as if things hadn’t changed at all. Fans were once again disgusted with the defensive performance they had to watch week in and week out. They were calling for Hazelton to be fired louder than ever. Even I, myself, thought Hazelton needed to go. We couldn’t possibly run it back with him again next year. Things couldn’t be looking worse for the Spartans.

Enter, Henderson.

After missing five weeks with an injury, Henderson was finally back and ready to hit the field against Wisconsin. And that’s when it all changed. Michigan State had lost four in a row and was in desperate need of a win and they came out and controlled most of that game on their way to an overtime win; a much-needed win and they did so with a great defensive showing. Henderson made his presence felt, and the defense just looked more in tune with the senior on the field orchestrating the defense.

It was easy to overlook what Henderson meant to this team when he went down, but his immediate impact upon return made it obvious how much he meant to the defense.

One good game wasn’t going to get Hazelton off the hook with fans, though. So he went ahead and put together three more solid performances and is making a strong case to keep his job. In the four games since Henderson’s return, Michigan State is 3-1. The Spartans’ only loss came on the road against Michigan where they held the Wolverines to five field goals.

Among the three wins is a ranked road win over Illinois. And in each win, it was the defense that led MSU to victory, and not so much the offense. Over the four-game stretch, the Spartans’ defense allowed just 406 total yards, 23 points, and just 205 passing yards per game which are very similar to the numbers his Kansas State defense put up.

The difference in the numbers with Henderson and without are astonishing. Michigan State gets its best defensive player back and the defense improves. No one should be surprised by that, but when this team was without Henderson, it was Hazelton who took the blame for the poor defense. Now that he’s back and the defense has drastically improved, I fear Hazelton is not getting enough credit. Especially when you consider the last two games the Spartans have been even more shorthanded with eight players suspended.

The one area of the pass defense that remains weak, in my opinion, is the linebacking corps. And who are the Spartans still without? Snow, who would help in that area immensely.

Hazelton has this defense looking the best it has since he took over at MSU, by a lot, at that. And it couldn’t be happening at a better time for him. I believe his job is on the line and with two games to go, he can’t afford to slip up. But if Hazelton puts together another couple of defensive masterpieces, he deserves to stay. What Hazelton is showing us is that when he has the talent on the roster, he can put a defense on the field that’s more than capable of getting MSU back to glory.

Will it all work out with Hazelton? Only time will tell, but he’s got my vote. And, Spartan nation, he’s giving you all a pretty good reason to believe in him, too.

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How can Michigan State football beat Maryland?

Michigan State football is the underdog for a third straight week, but how can the Spartans end the skid at Maryland?

If you wish you could erase the last two weeks of Michigan State football from your memory, you’re not alone. The Spartans have been downright awful since heading to Seattle in Week 3.

For the third straight game, Michigan State is an underdog and it just feels like that’s going to lead to yet another unbearable loss. No, I’m not out on Mel Tucker or the future of this program, but this season just feels unsalvageable at this point. Clearly I’m an eternal pessimist.

But I can be optimistic every now and then and while the Spartans look lost, they face a prime matchup with Maryland on Saturday that could correct the course of the season.

Maryland is coming off a close loss at Michigan in which it nearly pulled off an upset while Michigan State football is fresh off a 34-7 beating at the hands of Minnesota at home. The two teams seem to be trending in opposite directions.

Yet I’m not ready to say Michigan State has ‘no chance’ on Saturday in College Park.

The Spartans have the pieces to beat Maryland on the road in Week 5, and here’s what needs to happen in order for that to become a reality.

1. Payton Thorne has to rebound

I’ll say something controversial here: it’s the offense, not the defense, that holds the key to victory on Saturday. If Michigan State’s offense can keep up with Maryland, I like its chances. We know Maryland is going to score and move the ball, but the offense needs to prove it can do the same.

With that said, Payton Thorne needs to rebound after a horrid Week 4 performance.

Two picks, no touchdowns, and under 150 yards. That’s not a stat line that’s going to win you any games in the Big Ten — unless you’re Iowa. Thorne needs to figure things out and turn it around on Saturday with his best game of the season. It’s time he has a short-term memory and plays as well as we know he can.

This is the perfect defense to get back on track against.

2. Win the turnover battle

In the first two games, Michigan State dominated the turnover battle. Sure, Thorne threw some questionable picks, but they never really killed the Spartans. They found a way to get the ball back via the turnover and if they can force some key fumbles or pick off Taulia Tagovailoa a time or two, the Spartans will be in good shape.

Winning the turnover battle is what this defense has to rely on since it hasn’t forced many punts this year.

3. Rush for at least 150 yards

Through the first two weeks, Michigan State averaged over 220 yards per game on the ground. Over the past two weeks, Michigan State has had 80 total rushing yards. That’s quite the contrast of rushing success.

Maryland doesn’t have a very good run defense (as we saw last week) and I think the Spartans need to assert dominance in the trenches and establish a run game. If Michigan State’s offense wants to prove effectiveness, it needs to establish the run in order to set up the pass. Rush for at least 150 yards and a ton of pressure will. be taken off Thorne’s shoulders and MSU will reap the benefits.

4. Receive the ball to start the game

Kicking off to start the game when you know your defense is an absolute liability to surrender a quick 75-yard drive is foolish. Michigan State needs to opt to receive the ball to start the game, assuming it wins the toss.

No more trailing 7-0 before the offense even gets the ball. That’s why this team has been pressing so much; it’s been playing from behind for 99 percent of the past two weeks. The one percent has been the time during those first drives.

Mel Tucker needs to hope to win the toss and receive the ball. Get an early lead and see how much confidence it builds in the team — you’d be surprised.

5. Blitz

Please. I’m actually begging at this point. I feel like it’s a lost cause to beg for the abandonment of the 4-2-5 scheme, but at least give me some blitzes. Get pressure on Taulia Tagovailoa so he doesn’t sit back there and pick apart the defense. Or at least make him decide where to go with the ball within a second of the snap. Getting him uncomfortable will be so important because that’s when he makes mistakes.

Scottie Hazelton, if you do one thing before you leave East Lansing, let it be this.

I could name about 100 more things that Michigan State football must do in order to beat Maryland, but if the Spartans can drill these five things, they’ll come away with a big road win.

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Scottie Hazelton’s post-Minnesota quotes are disappointing

Listening to Scottie Hazelton speak to the media on Tuesday afternoon was actually way more disappointing than I had expected.

Scottie Hazelton has come under some fire this season, and for good reason.

The Michigan State defensive coordinator has just allowed 500-plus yards of total offense for the second straight game. Also for the second straight game, he allowed a quarterback to have a career game.

While this may happen to defensive coordinators on occasion, it’s been a running theme for Hazelton as he had the nation’s worst pass defense last year and it’s somehow worse this year.

His defense did not force a single punt against Minnesota last week, and that’s flat-out unacceptable.

It’s been time for him to answer questions about his poor coaching through two seasons and lack of adjustments made after the Washington loss.

Luckily for us, he was put in front of the media to answer questions on Tuesday.

Unlucky for us, he didn’t give anyone the answers they wanted to hear.

Obviously the questions being brought up were about how poorly the defense has looked and what kind of fixes can be made. And Hazelton made kind of a head-scratching statement:

This defense isn’t super far away? Does he actually believe that or is this coachspeak? I honestly don’t know what I’d prefer. Maybe he does see the fixes that need to be made but why are the results to these issues so drastically awful? If this is just coachspeak, that’s concerning because how dumb does he think we are as a fanbase?

We watched as a veteran quarterback who hasn’t had a good season in 2-3 years had a career day against the Spartans with as many touchdown passes as incompletions. Before that, we saw as a quarterback who hadn’t started in two years because of an injury torched MSU’s secondary for nearly 400 yards. Oh, and they had film of Michael Penix against this defense already.

No changes were made from one debacle to the next.

That quote was as confusing as it was disappointing to hear.

And here’s the second quote that spiked my blood pressure this afternoon:

If you watched the Washington tape and noticed what you needed to do better, why didn’t the necessary fixes happen? Why did nothing change?

Oh, and the “death by inches” quote would make sense if the Spartans were losing games in heartbreaking fashion. They’re not. This is what you call demoralizing fashion.

Hazelton’s poor job over the past two seasons have placed added pressure on the offense and we’ve seen what the result of that is — it’s not good.

If you’re like me, you see these quotes and are left shaking your head. Maybe he does have the fixes in mind. Maybe he’s close to figuring it out.

My question is this: why hasn’t it happened after the previous dozen defensive debacles?