For the second time in three seasons, MSU will have a new offensive coordinator. The school confirmed that Dan Roushar has agreed to become the new running backs coach for the New Orleans Saints.
Roushar leaves the Spartans after serving two seasons as offensive coordinator, following four years running the offensive line under head coach Mark Dantonio.
MSU regressed offensively in Roushar’s second season after taking over for Don Treadwell, in major part due to the graduation losses of Kirk Cousins, B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, Brian Lithicum and Keith Nichol from the 2011 team. First-year quarterback Andrew Maxwell struggled all season, his new receivers dropped plenty of passes early and the Spartans’ offensive line suffered through a glut of injuries that affected continuity.
In 2012, MSU finished 10th in the Big Ten in scoring offense (20 ppg), ninth in total offense (359.3 yards a game) and eighth in rushing offense (149.4 ypg). The Spartans were last in passing efficiency despite finishing fourth in passing yards per game.
Internally, running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Brad Salem and quarterbacks coach Dave Warner seem to be the best candidates.
Salem helped turn 2-star recruit Le’Veon Bell into an All-Big Ten running back who left a year early for the NFL after leading the conference in yards per game. Salem been part of Dantonio’s staff since 2010, when he was hired away from his head coaching job at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. He led the Vikings to a 31-26 record, including back-to-back 8-4 seasons in his final two years at the private college – a Division II school that battled limited scholarships and expensive tuition in trying to land top players from the upper Midwest. That experience, plus serving as offensive coordinator there and passing game coordinator at South Dakota, put him to the forefront.
Warner came with Dantonio from Cincinnati and has been MSU’s quarterbacks coach since, tutoring Brian Hoyer, Cousins and Maxwell. He’s spent 24 of his 29 years as a college coach responsible for QBs, passing game or as offensive coordinator. However, his only two seasons as an OC came during 1999 and 2000 at Connecticut – the Huskies’ first years after starting their program. The first season, in I-AA, UConn went 4-7. The next, as a I-A independent, the Huskies were 3-8.
Of course, Dantonio could choose to look outside the program – especially if AD Mark Hollis permits him to give the type of salary ($500K range) that defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi makes. That would attract a long list of qualified, proven candidates from other major schools.
However, with that comes the concern of whether that external coach can mesh with the current staff and players. Dantonio has said continually that staff continuity has been a major factor in MSU’s success – the Spartans are 51-28 in his first six seasons.
Either way, expect Dantonio to move quickly to fill the vacancy. Spring practice is only a month away, starting March 19.