Answering Your Michigan State Football Questions & Emails Looking Ahead…

Hondo S. Carpenter

Hondo, what can you give us as Spartan fans that we can be encouraged about. Carl Lance

I think the Spartans have good players. I do not think the Spartans have a lack of talent. Are they as deep and talented as the past? No, but they do have the ability.  I also can tell you that I think Mark Dantonio and his staff are good men.  The current problems at MSU are IN NOW WAY personal, this is football.  Personally they are good people.

Hondo, what do you hear on the coaching changes front? Pam T.

First, let me say I AM NOT REPORTING THIS AS FACT. Mark Dantonio IS NOT TALKING to the media. However, in talking to MULTIPLE coaches who were at the college football coaches meetings and also talking to people inside Spartan athletics, here is what I am hearing. #1 They expect Jim Bollman to move to a senior analyst job. #2 They do not expect Terrence Samuel to return. Technically he would not be fired; it would be like Ted Gill and simply not retained. #3 They expect Harlon Barnett to return. Not as DC, but in a defensive coaching role. #4 While there have been some names heard, not one name was mentioned more than once, so I won’t name them. They all, however, agreed that the new offensive coach COULD either simply coach a position or be a Co-OC with Salem. None said that was determined.

On an interesting side note, one head coach I spoke to told me, “I know they are taking a long hard look for a QB as a transfer. Conventional wisdom would say if you are going to bring in a new OC or even a Co-OC wouldn’t you want your offensive staff intact while searching for and subsequently recruiting a new quarterback?”

Hondo, I watched the championship game. I saw enough from both teams to realize just how far behind the Spartans are now on the national level. The margin is HUGE! When faced with 3rd and long, the receivers would go far enough downfield for a first down if the pass was completed. How many times has State thrown short on 3rd, so even if completed, we are forced to punt? The second was the jet sweep, or “jet creep” as the Spartans run it. No.1, the backs/flankers for both LSU and Clemson are faster than are the Spartans. Of course, there was much more displaying how both offenses were quick and efficient. One other point is how the game is changing. The days of a dominant defense, as Dantonio favors, no longer seems to win championships. LSU is known for their offense.–Timothy Price

I do not disagree. I was told by a pro coach, “Go back and look at the play that got Rocky Lombardi benched against OSU last year (2018). Look at the play that Brian Lewerke this year didn’t get benched on, but it was the same bad play and result. Different QB’s, different RB’s, same play. Poorly executed and the same results. That is on your offensive staff. Two years, two different QB’s and RB’s and you are making the same mistakes. Part of being a good play-caller and coach is calling plays that you can run successfully. They aren’t doing that. It is all on coaching.”

Hondo, No surprise, Mark Dantonio announces he will return for 2020. Instead of getting his $4M bonus he should have to repay his salary from 2016, 2018 & 2019. Who will be the QB next year? Brian Schultz

I do not know. However, I can tell you this. It doesn’t matter who anyone thinks should. This will be a Coach D decision. I will tell you that people in the program do not believe it will be Rocky. That doesn’t mean Rocky doesn’t have support. One MSU administration member said to me before the Pinstripe Bowl that, “If he (Dantonio) believed in Rocky when Brian struggled several times this year, he would have played him. If Rocky lit it up next year, Coach would look bad for not playing him this year. Since the bowl, Rock’s been in here every day working with the guys and watching the film, but I don’t see it. Only really gave Theo one straight shot and thought Theo looked OK for the first real shot, and he got benched. If I had to guess, I would put my guess on Payton Thorne. I think that in the eyes of coach, it buys him time to say he is rebuilding and has a freshman QB. But if they get a transfer, he will be the guy.”

Hondo I learned something from the national title game that I wish Coach D knew. It is ok to outscore people. Clemson and LSU had great defenses, but check this out: LSU's defense was the 29th ranked. Just saying, Brian Hamilton

Hondo, Heard the question you asked coach D to which he responded retorting that it was a stupid a** Question...Well, it was an excellent question that strikes right to the heart of what's creating the sub performance of this Spartan football team. Lousy play calling.... not creative. Coaches own it. Players have talent which is not being adequately deployed. Just sad. Keep up the good solid, tough questions. Spartan Nation needs you. Thank you, PJ Kus, Class '78

Hondo, I am glad coach called you a dumb ass. You are. A fat, dumb ass. Rot in hell you self-absorbed liberal media (male genital). Mike B.

Don’t eve say I don’t provide both sides of views. Not sure he called me a dumb a**, but he did my question for sure. Watch the video below:

Hondo, what do you think about the football Transfer Portal, given the new rules about 4-games-and-take-a-redshirt rule, so you can transfer away if you are unhappy about your current playing time? Seems to me all this has done is made the players more focused on themselves and their careers and less on the team. Signed, Randy S. in Okemos

Let me say that IN THEORY, I hate the portal, but it is necessary. Let me explain. Over 13 months that ended January 15, one week ago, Mark Dantonio was paid nearly 9 million dollars to coach Michigan State. Now, I am NOT a person who thinks coaches are overpaid. Tom Izzo is WAY underpaid. But this is a business. LSU QB Joe Burrow worked out fine. Justin Fields was terrific. Many coaches bemoan the portal, but then scour it for players. Many coaches bemoan the portal, but then quietly encourage players they have a relation with to enter it so they can come to play with them. I hate it, but it is necessary. If you can’t trust the adults in the room, then so be it. Hate it, but necessary. Amazing how fans and coaches act like every player that leaves they didn’t want, but then you are admitting to being a failure in recruiting because they wouldn’t have been there if you didn’t want them.

Hondo, I have a piecemeal question. I have heard you remind listeners to your podcast, essentially that the MSU offensive coordinators have a boss: Dantonio. From my limited vantage point, that seems to be spot-on; different people, mostly same offense. While I completely understand Dantonio’s reasons for doubling down on “his” staff, I wonder, do you think any high-level offensive coordinators would have been interested in the job or would (history of) being forced to play within Dantonio’s system be a deterrent? This more of a hypothetical question, but I would appreciate your thoughts. Pete M.

Great question. I was talking with a very successful coach recently. He said to me, “Dantonio needs to take more of a CEO role like Ed (Orgeron at LSU) and PJ (Fleck) at Minnesota. That is where the game is going. Dantonio isn’t going to be able to throw top money at a guy and get him if he can’t run his scheme. They are top guys for a reason. He can get a buddy or a friend, or an up and comer. But a proven guy? No. Guys have careers and aspirations. Harlon (Barnett) took FSU and didn’t run his scheme, and he got canned. Now the only job he can get is back at MSU. Only a desperate man takes a job as a coordinator without the ability to do his thing.”

Hondo, please do not use my name. I love this place. I bleed for my green and white. But man, we older Dawgs that played before Dantonio are shut out. We love the place, but if you aren’t from Coach D time, it’s like we don’t exist. So many of us former players have a private Spartan Dawgs chat. Do you know how many players we coach, are related to or know that are high-level guys? I mean four and five stars. Guys we can help send there, and they don’t return calls or decide they want their two stars. You know enough, former players. I give you some names, make some calls. You will see it. (Spartan Football Alum)

In response to this email, I did talk to three former players. This seems to be a very glaring weakness on a staff that is struggling to recruit. All three players named the names of players that they have tried to send to MSU. All three of those players that they tried to get MSU to recruit were four or five stars, and all three went to top power five schools or will be.

Hondo, earlier this year, not sure when, you asked Mark Dantonio if he thought the Curtis Blackwell lawsuit would become a distraction. He was rather rude and said, “No.” Do you think he feels that way now? What a cluster. Clint F.

Not sure, but when he does surface, I am going to ask him. For the record, I didn’t think he was rude.

Hondo, coach Dantonio said last year that he wasn’t going to bring in a new offensive coordinator that he didn’t know. Change a system. It wouldn’t work. His way failed, and LSU brought in a guy that they didn’t know, gave him the job and let him run it. They won the title. Please advise him. Rachel Edwards

Hondo, who at MSU can get in Dantonio’s face and talk business. I want to like him, I want him to do well, but as a fan and season ticket holder (I won’t be next year, not wasting my money) he has lost me. B.V.

Mark Dantonio is in no jeopardy of losing his job. There is no one at the school that tells him what to do. Since Mark Hollis has left, he is as one administrator described it, “On his own island.”

Hondo, as a donor, I am not happy. I am only a small donor. How do you think this has hurt donations? D.H.

A Spartan fund worker told me when I read him your email, “Him (Dantonio) not making changes last year made our jobs very difficult. If he doesn’t make big and significant changes, he has made our jobs nearly impossible. If that happens, we are (screwed).”

Hondo, Mark Dantonio, owes you nothing. You are a fool. I think I hate you more than anyone on this rock. Cory Holland

Cory, you are right. He owes me nothing. Nothing at all. But he does owe the fans. He has done a great job over the entirety of his career, but he wasn’t a volunteer. He was made a multi-millionaire, and the fans that made him that way deserve better.

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Comments (5)
No. 1-4
B1G Ball Buster1
B1G Ball Buster1

Great work Hondo, but so many things in that article disturbed me greatly.


Dantonio's most obvious character flaw is his stubbornness. Second is his unapproachable nature. The wall is always up. There is no way I'd take Barnett back after what he said when he left. Something like "It will be nice to work with real talent for a change". Coach D will never surrender control to any coach. Hopefully we'll find a can't miss QB in the portal and have a few studs surprise us on signing day.


A crazy HELMET idea: on the left side of our helmet, put a stylized graphic of Michigan (upper and lower peninsulas) with a star where East Lansing is. The state graphic would appear similar to the traditional Sparty on the right side. Try it. It works. (I wish I could draw....)

Hons Opal
Hons Opal

Great work Hondo. You have the patience of Job with some of these folks.