Hey Hondo! Answering Your Michigan State Football Questions: Smith, Tucker, Cousins

Sports Illustrated’s Hondo Carpenter answers the emails and questions of Spartan Nation regarding Michigan State Football
Oct 22, 2011; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates after throwing a hail mary pass as the clock expired to defeat the Wisconsin Badgers 37-31 at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber- USA TODAY Sports
Oct 22, 2011; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates after throwing a hail mary pass as the clock expired to defeat the Wisconsin Badgers 37-31 at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber- USA TODAY Sports / Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Spartan Nation is fortunate to have one of the most storied college football programs.

With multiple national titles and single-handedly breaking the color barrier, along with a lineage of players who are genuinely the who’s who of the sport, the heritage is fantastic.

So today, I set out to answer some of your questions regarding the football program.

Hondo, I remember watching the Michigan State basketball game (I think it was Indiana), and shortly after, you broke that the Spartans had hired Mel Tucker.  You said he was at least the fifth choice. Can you tell us what happened?  Cory B.  Mason, Mi

Michigan State's then-AD Bill Beekman essentially hired a search firm to help select the next coach. I can understand a firm doing background checks since that is private, but to hand the process over the way they did was a joke, in my opinion. If an AD needs that much assistance at one of his most important jobs, get a new one. 

By the way, I am not blaming Beekman; I am squarely blaming the MSU leadership above him.  Beekman was put in an impossible position.

Pat Narduzzi, former DC at Michigan State and now Pittsburgh Panthers coach, was offered the job twice—yes, twice, before and after signing day. He turned it down twice; additionally, others were considered and could have had the job. 

Michigan State was woefully unprepared for the lack of interest in the job and overpaid to finally get a yes; from what I saw, it was an unprepared candidate. 

Additionally, it was an Illinois game in Champaign, and I was in the press room when I broke it.

Hondo, I'm glad you're answering MSU questions now.  I know you broke the Mel Tucker story, but you said it was a bad hire at the time.  What did you see?  Sam W.  Detroit, MI

He had a losing record as only a one-year coach. Certain schools, MSU being one, are not where guys go to learn how to be a head coach.  He moved around consistently, and what I heard when making calls was far from impressive.  What I learned in a few phone calls was certainly what a prepared Michigan State should have gotten.

Hondo, my man, can’t say enough to have you answering the q and a of Spartan Nation.  Mad props dog.  Great to see your career skyrocket, and when you Tweeted out your love for Jonathan Smith and all the repping you did on Twitter, I knew he was our guy.  Tell me what you think of the new guy so far.  Jesse T.

Jonathan Smith was not the most prominent name available, but he was, in my opinion, and I said before they hired him, the best coach.  He is a great man, teacher, coach, leader, and guy.  MSU hit a homerun by hiring him, and he is the best hire since Nick Saban.  Unfortunately, college football is not the same game it was then, and other things hamper and foster winning than just that.  Coaching in college and Michigan State at this time is significantly more complicated than it was for Nick, and I believe he would tell you that.

Are you buying or selling on MSU football and Smith using the Las Vegas term Hondo?  Larry N.

I'm buying for sure, but as mentioned above, college football is dramatically different now.  As one head coach told me, “It used to matter that you were a good coach, had good facilities, and could recruit.  Now, bad coaches, bad facilities, and the ability to recruit don’t matter as much.”  I want Smith to succeed, and he is good enough.  The biggest question is if Spartan Nation wants to be a dominant program.

Hondo, I know you have been an outspoken supporter of Jonathan Smith; what will be the biggest key to his success in East Lansing?  Shawn B.  Grand Rapids, MI

Money for NIL.  Great man with excellent facilities and a terrific staff.  He has already proven he can get and develop players.  Once they emerge, keeping them will hinge on NIL paying them.  He can do all the right things, but he has to have the NIL to keep them here; if not, he becomes the minor leagues for teams with money to let him develop them, and then they swoop in and buy them.

Hondo, what do you think of the Spartans' new QB?  Is he the real deal?  Samantha K.  Midland, MI

Aidan Chiles is the absolute real deal.  He can do it all, and most importantly, he can run it Smith’s way.  MSU is fortunate to have him, a terrific player and a better young man.

Hondo, my friends, and I have argued this for years, and you are just the man to settle it. In your opinion, would MSU have done better with Kirk Cousins at quarterback with the Connor Cook teams? Like winning a national title?  Kenny L.

No.  I respect and love Kirk.  Connor had the personality and mental makeup that was needed.  I do not think Kirk would have done some of the intangibles that made Cook great for that team. 

If I had been an NFL team selecting either, I would have taken Kirk every time, but on those teams no.  In my opinion, the Spartans won despite their offensive coaching leadership, not because of it.  Cook overcame them. Kirk, more talented, wouldn’t have taken some risks like Cook and would have adhered more.

Hondo, I love listening to you on the Radio. Now that you are taking MSU football questions, this one is about the Big Ten. Because of NIL or other issues, what team is not being talked about in the Big Ten?  Jan A.

No doubt, Nebraska.  Great coaching, and they will be an NIL giant in the coming years.

If you have a question regarding Michigan State football, basketball, or the athletic program in general, please send it to, and when you do, put in the subject line MSU Q & A

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Hondo Carpenter