Only hours after their seasons wrapped up, Michigan State officially announced that they had completed their head coaching search.
Following the dismissal of Mel Tucker, the Spartans were in search of a new voice in the locker room and appear to have just that in Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith. Fresh off an 8-4 campaign with the Beavers, Smith met with his players late Saturday morning to inform him of his decision to leave for Michigan State.
In a prepared statement the 44 year old noted “As I start this next chapter of my coaching career, I want to first thank all the players, coaches and colleagues I have worked with the last six years. I will cherish the memories and friendships. I also wanted to express my deepest gratitude to the people of OSU/Corvallis for your support. When I first arrived as a freshman college student, I had no idea the opportunities and relationships this community would provide for me and my family. The collective impact you have made makes it impossible for me to thank everyone individually, but I am forever grateful.”
Smith was a former QB at Oregon State from 1998-2001 appearing in 41 games and throwing for 9.680 yards along with 55 TDs. He returned to his alma mater in 2017, taking over the program from Gary Andersen six games into the season.
Across 6 seasons with the Beavers, Smith posted a 34-35 record. However he recently helped revitalize the program going 18-7 since 2022, and taking home co-coach of the year award honours in 2022 alongside Washington’s Kalen DeBoer.
“Jonathan has a proven track record of success, building the Oregon State program from the ground up by implementing a plan resulting in sustained historic success for the Beavers,” said MSU VP and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Alan Haller. “He’s been a part of championship staffs, coached in the College Football playoff, and understands what’s required to be successful at the highest level, learning from some of the game’s most successful coaches.”
“On the field, his teams are tough and physical, yet innovative. This year, Oregon State has controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, ranking among the nation’s leaders in both rushing offense and rushing defense. He’s shown not only the ability to recruit talented student-athletes who fit his system, but also to develop and maximize players once they’re in the program. At his core, he’s a quarterbacks coach, and throughout his career he’s been instrumental in the development of young quarterbacks, which is essential in today’s college football landscape.”
MSU was coming off an 11-2 season in 2021, which included a 31-21 victory over Pitt in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. That success had fans anticipating a big season in East Lansing in 2022, but the team ultimately fell flat, posting a 5-7 record the following year. This, coupled with former coach Mel Tucker’s alleged off field impropriety, meant that associate head coach Harlon Barnett would take over the squad on an interim basis.
While the long time assistant did his best to steady the ship amidst Tucker’s suspension, investigation, and subsequent termination, the Spartans would struggle to a 4-8 record in 2023, punctuated by a 42-0 thrashing at the hands of Penn State to close out their year.
Barnett was amongst the names considered by Michigan State’s hiring committee, but they ultimately opted for a fresh start and went with Smith. For Smith’s part, the timing works out well for him as Oregon State faces an uncertain future itself following the departure from the PAC 12 of nearly every other team save for Washington State.
Smith’s hire is currently pending approval by Michigan State’s board of trustees, with an official introduction and press conference expected to be set up next week.
Photo: Rhymeless. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
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