Waited until it became a little more official, but the Jim Bollman hire makes plenty of sense for Michigan State’s football team.
Purdue made it a little closer to concrete today by confirming that Bollman was heading back to East Lansing to become the Spartans’ offensive coordinator. He was with the Boilermakers for a month after a year at Boston College, and Bollman was part of the clean sweep of Ohio State’s staff when Urban Meyer took over for fired Jim Tressel and interim coach Luke Fickell in late 2011.
First, it seemed absurd that Mark Dantonio would reach outside his inner sanctum for a position of importance like offensive coordinator. That’s partially why both Brad Salem and Dave Warner’s names were strongly mentioned as internal candidates.
In this respect, Bollman makes plenty of sense. He was offensive line coach under Nick Saban from 1995-97, while Dantonio was Saban’s defensive backs coach. Then the two worked together again at Ohio State, when Dantonio was Jim Tressel’s defensive coordinator and Bollman held similar responsibilities on offense (though Tressel served as the primary play-caller).
Second, with Bollman’s extensive work orchestrating blocking schemes, he’ll bring a wealth of knowledge to MSU about how to operate with a more of a running quarterback system – something Dantonio alluded to since prior to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The Buckeyes had such mobile QBs as Troy Smith, Craig Krenzel and Terrelle Pryor during Bollman’s tenure from 2001-11.
The Spartans have Andrew Maxwell returning under center, more of a true pocket passing presence, but Tyler O’Connor, Connor Cook and incoming recruit Damion Terry all possess more running ability than Dantonio’s had to work with under center. Bollman’s ability to build offensive line schemes around their abilities could become critical to moving MSU into its next era.
And third, Bollman’s recruiting ties and familiarity with high school coaches in MSU’s bread-and-butter areas – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania – will be an asset. Bringing in someone who didn’t have those connections wasn’t going to happen, regardless of how hot-shot or up-and-coming any other outside candidate for the OC job might have been.
My first interaction with Bollman came in 1995, during Saban’s first year in East Lansing. I’ll never forget interviewing him outside the Duffy Daugherty practice facility one fall afternoon and him talking about how he wanted his offensive linemen to “strap on their war bonnets” and become road-graters for Tony Banks that year.
Knowing the landscape of MSU politics and the program’s history will be invaluable for Bollman’s return. A thick skin will be needed to handle the pressure that his predecessors, both Dan Roushar and Don Treadwell, endured during their time. Bollman survived that pressure-cooker in Columbus and helped the Buckeyes – and Dantonio – get their national championship rings in 2003. That pedigree will bring even more scrutiny and expectations in his return to the Spartans.