Point by Point Analysis of the Spartan Nation EXCLUSIVE Interview with MSU DC Pat Narduzzi

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Pat Narduzzi has crafted the Spartan defense into a masterpiece. The Michigan State defensive coordinator, in his sixth year, has helped to churn out wins and NFL draft picks. Known for his intensity, Narduzzi pushed the Spartans to be one of the best defenses in the Big Ten last year. Spartan Nation Radio talked with Narduzzi while he was on the recruiting trail.
The topics he discussed are summarized below:

  • Narduzzi coaches the defense of a team with two consecutive 11-win seasons. In the past, he
    would have said that such an accomplishment doesn’t help him in
    recruiting. But now, Narduzzi knows that it does make a difference. “I
    really feel like we’ve made strides in schools I’ve walked into.” Having
    numerous players drafted by the NFL doesn’t hurt, either: “People start to
    recognize all the guys you have drafted: the Worthy’s, the Gholston’s.
    What our kids have done is make Michigan State a great program and a
    destination for many.” Narduzzi also credits the coaches who, he said,
    have done a great job of evaluating recruits based on talent, not just
    pursuing those who are highly sought-after.
  • An avid recruiter, Narduzzi stayed on the topic for another few minutes. He talked
    about the program’s emergence as a destination for recruits, as more
    talented young men dream about being Spartans. He chalks up much of this
    to the head coach: “Coach Dantonio has done a tremendous job of building
    the program. We’ve just followed suit and done what we’re supposed to be
    doing.” As Dantonio stressed, the big name recruit is not always the best
    fit for the MSU football program. Narduzzi agreed wholeheartedly: “We
    don’t care if they’re big time guys or small time guys; we just want good
    players and good people to be part of our program.” He also went on to discuss
    scouting companies’ policy of assigning a certain number of stars to each
    player: “So many people go by those stars. Just remember who’s ranking
    those stars. All the players we take, they’re all four or five stars to
    us, that’s why we’ve got them ranked.”
  • Hondo asked Narduzzi what concerns him about the defense at this point. Narduzzi
    responded with his outlook: “Going into spring ball, we wanted to replace
    Jerel Worthy and Trenton Robinson. Everybody talks about having all these returning
    guys and being a good defense... I’ll tell you after the fact, we were a
    great defense and we played as good football as anyone in the country. But
    this is 2012, [we are] going into a new season, with new chemistry.” With
    spring ball over, the position that concerns him the most is free safety.
    Narduzzi feels confident in either Tyler Hoover or James Kittredge
    claiming Worthy’s old spot, but still feels uncertain about the vacancy
    Robinson left. The coordinator believes the free safety competition will
    last into the fall camp. But the spot will not fall into anyone’s lap: “We’re
    not going to just give it to somebody, someone is going to have to take
    that and want it real bad.”
  • Offensive coordinator Dan Roushar and Narduzzi have a long-standing relationship: the
    two have been on four coaching staffs together. Since Roushar coaches the offense
    and Narduzzi helms the defense, they often face off in practice. Narduzzi
    is thankful for that experience: “Dan makes you coach every single day.
    Because if you go into spring ball doing the same things you did on day
    one on day fifteen, he’s going to find a way to out-technique you and
    out-scheme you offensively,” Narduzzi explained. “And that’s what he does,
    week in and week out, during the season to put points on the board and be
    so productive offensively. He’s been good to me just because of the things
    he makes me counter as a coach.” The leader of defense believes that
    Roushar’s unpredictability, especially in spring practice, makes both
    sides better. “We go through spring ball and he changes stuff up every
    day. He’ll put in a new play we don’t know anything about, and the next
    day you’re working on it defensively, you don’t even see it and he’s got a
    new one for you,” Narduzzi said. “He keeps you off-balance. But it helps a lot.”
  • Narduzzi is pleased with how the defense looks after spring practice. He especially
    likes the lack of injuries: “First and foremost, I’m happy that we’re
    healthy.” Narduzzi is also satisfied with how the players are coming along
    in the mental aspect of the game. “With what we did schematically, and how
    our kids were taking the defense mentally and adapted some new guys
    inside, I’m certainly happy with where we are after fifteen days of spring ball.”
  • The coordinator spent a significant amount of time talking about the three
    assistant coaches under his command. He started off with linebacker coach
    Mike Tressel. “Mike does a great job with the linebackers…Poor Mike has to
    put up with me because I’m a linebacker guy, so I’m always on him as far
    as techniques and fundamentals.” He also sees Tressel’s position as one
    blessed with lots of talent: “If there’s a position on defense where I
    feel there’s a lot of depth that maybe Spartan Nation has never seen
    before, it’s at the linebacker position.”
  • Narduzzi then talked about the man in charge of the defensive backfield, Harlon
    Barnett. “Harlon is unbelievable, I don’t know what else I can say about him. He’s a great person, a super
    football coach. He’s had I don’t know how many all-conference players
    since he’s been at Michigan State,” Narduzzi said. “That, as a football
    coach, is your gauge: if you have a lot of all-conference players, you’re
    coaching the heck out of them and putting them in position and doing all
    the right things fundamentally to give those guys an opportunity to make
    plays. That speaks for itself when people around the conference think that
    you have some of the best defensive backs in the country.”
  • Narduzzi finished talking about the coaches with his thoughts on defensive line
    coach Ted Gill. Narduzzi had much praise for the man who is the “resident
    dad” for the staff and players. “I think that the coaches lean on Ted as
    well as his knowledge and where he’s been. Especially graduate assistants
    looking for a job because Ted Gill knows about every coach in the country [and can help] them get on somewhere. Ted does a tremendous job of development
    of players on the field…Everybody loves to be around Coach Gill.”
  • The sixth year MSU coach finished the interview by answering Hondo’s question as to
    whether Narduzzi is sleeping better now that he is “top dog”. He didn’t
    know, but he did know that he is hungry. “You’re never comfortable. You
    never feel like you have enough. If we started getting complacent, we’d be
    out on the road fishing. But we’re not fishing, because you’re always
    worried about where your next player is going to come from, that’s what
    keeps you hungry.”