Dantonio, 52, spent five years (1986-90) as Jim Tressel's secondary coach at Youngstown State and five more (1995-99) as Nick Saban's secondary coach at Michigan State. In between he spent four years coaching defensive backs for Glen Mason at Kansas.
When Saban left to become head man at LSU, Dantonio stayed at East Lansing to serve as associate head coach under Bobby Williams for one season. Dantonio then spent three years (2001-03) as Tressel's defensive coordinator at Ohio State. Dantonio's 2002 stop unit ranked No. 2 among all NCAA programs in scoring defense and No. 3 against the run, helping the Buckeyes claim the national title. His 2003 unit was just as stout, ranking No. 1 against the run and No. 10 in total defense.
Dantonio got his first head-coaching job at the University of Cincinnati in 2004. Although the Bearcats were adjusting to life in the Big East, he guided them to a three-year record of 18-17, including a stunning 30-11 upset of seventh-ranked Rutgers in 2006.
Assuming the reins at Michigan State in 2007, he led the Spartans to a 7-6 record that fall, with all six losses coming by a touchdown or less. Although Dantonio is known as a defensive specialist, his '07 team averaged a whopping 33.1 points and 416.8 yards per game.
This fall he has Michigan State cruising along at 9-2 overall (6-1 Big Ten). Dantonio is showing a knack for winning close games, since his '08 Spartans are averaging 26.9 points per game and allowing 19.5.
Unlike most of the coaching candidates Tennessee reportedly is considering, Dantonio is no stranger to The South. Born in El Paso, Texas, he attended high school in Zanesville, Ohio, then played college football under Jim Carlen at the University of South Carolina.
If Tennessee officials are looking for a coach with a great lineage and a reputation as a defensive mastermind, Dantonio just might be their man.