It did not take long for Michigan State to act to fill its vacant defensive coordinator spot.
A day after defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was introduced as the new head coach at Pittsburgh, Michigan State announced it will promote Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel to co-defensive coordinators next season. Barnett also will be named assistant head coach.
"It's important to move the process forward, and I feel very comfortable in naming Harlon Barnett assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator and Mike Tressel co-defensive coordinator,” coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. " They both have had a ton of input and shared a lot of ideas with Pat Narduzzi over the years.
”The co-appointment ensures continuity in terms of player relationships, defensive concepts and terminology.”
Barnett and Tressel have been members of Dantonio’s staff for a total of 11 years – eight at Michigan State and three at Cincinnati. They are two of just four assistant coaches to be with Dantonio for all eight seasons in East Lansing and have been a part of building the Spartans’ defense, which was ranked among the Top 10 in the nation in each of the past four seasons under Narduzzi.
"I appreciate Coach D's belief in me and Mike that we can continue to have the success we've enjoyed on the defensive side of the ball for the last several years,” Barnett said. “Our success has been largely due to the fact that everyone on the defensive staff along with Coach D have input into what we're doing. There's no dictatorship; we're all brothers. Mike and I have spent the last 11 years working with Coach D and Pat Narduzzi, so we'll be connected for life. During the season, we spend more time with each other than we do with our families.
Barnett, who played at Michigan State from 1986-89, had been serving as the secondary coach for the first portion of his tenure at his alma mater.
"With Michigan State as my alma mater, this promotion means a great deal to me,” Barnett said. “As a player, I never dreamt about coaching here let alone being named co-defensive coordinator. It's truly a blessing and an honor.
In his time at Michigan State, Barnett has coached seven different players to first-team All-Big Ten selections, including 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner and NFL first-rounder Darqueze Dennard. He also has coached three All-Americans in Dennard, Kurtis Drummond and Trae Waynes.
Tressel has been the linebackers coach now for eight seasons at Michigan State, while also coaching special teams. He has seen three players earn All-American honors as well in Greg Jones, Denicos Allen and Max Bullough.
"I'm excited about the promotion and the opportunity to serve as co-defensive coordinator,” he said. “I love the way our guys play defense here and our focus is on continuing to do what we've been doing on the defensive side of the ball."
Michigan State also announced defensive line coach Ron Burton will be back for at third season next year. The Spartans will be looking to add an assistant to the defensive staff this offseason, but it is unclear which position the new staff member would work with. It will be a group decision, though, Dantonio said.
”I’ll empower our coaches to have a say in the hiring process, as we complete the defensive staff,” Dantonio said. “It will be a collective effort.”
But with the group moving forward without Narduzzi, the expectations remain the same.
"We intend to keep things rolling on defense,” Barnett said. “We all have our roles to play, and we will continue to play great defense at Michigan State. Having worked for Coach D and Pat, Mike and I have definitely benefitted from the trickle-down effect of knowledge."