Position-by-position breakdown of the Spartans entering preseason camp.
Defensive end Shilique Calhoun became the first Michigan State defensive lineman in school history to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors three times.
Malik McDowell returns to anchor the defensive line following a breakthrough sophomore season.
Over the last three seasons, Mark Dantonio has compiled a 36-5 record (.878), including two Big Ten Championships and three Top 10 finishes in the national polls.
Center Jack Allen, wide receiver Aaron Burbridge and defensive lineman Lawrence Thomas are scheduled to participate in the 67th annual Senior Bowl.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio likes his team's resilience.
Now it's time to develop a knockout punch.
Connor Cook threw three touchdown passes and Nick Hill ran for two scores Saturday, but No. 8 Michigan State still needed a late interception return for a touchdown to hold on 45-31 at Purdue
Burton has made an immediate impact on the defensive line during his tenure in East Lansing. Michigan State has seen its sack total increase under his tutelage, rising from 20 before his arrival in 2012 to 32 in 2013 to a Big Ten-best 42 in 2014, which also ranked eighth most in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. Last season, the Spartans were once again ranked among the nation’s leaders (tied for 13th) with 37 sacks.
The defensive line is one of the main reasons why Michigan State continues to rank among the national leaders in rushing defense. Since Burton’s first year in 2013, the Spartans have led the Big Ten in rushing defense twice (2013, 2014) and have ranked in the NCAA FBS top 11 all three seasons (No. 2 in 2013 at 86.6 ypg.; No. 1 in 2014 at 88.5 ypg.; No. 11 in 2015 at 116.0 ypg.).
During his three seasons on the Michigan State staff, Spartan defensive linemen have earned All-Big Ten recognition eight times, including three-time first-team selection Shilique Calhoun, who became the first defensive end in program history to be named first-team All-Big Ten three times.
All four starters on the defensive line picked up Big Ten accolades in 2015: Calhoun (first team), sophomore Malik McDowell (second team), senior Joel Heath (honorable mention) and senior Lawrence Thomas (honorable mention). Calhoun, who posted career highs his senior season in tackles for loss (15 for 82 yards) and sacks (10.5 for 74 yards), was also named a second-team All-American for the third year in a row. One of the most productive defensive ends to ever play at Michigan State, Calhoun finished his career ranked among MSU’s all-time leaders in sacks (second with 27) and tackles for loss (fourth with 44).
McDowell had a breakout season at nose tackle, ranking second on the team in tackles for loss (13 for 54 yards).and third in sacks (4.5 for 38 yards). He was named to the ESPN.com Big Ten All-Bowl Team after recording two tackles, including a 1-yard loss, and two quarterback hurries in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl Classic against No. 2 Alabama. McDowell also saw significant playing time as a true freshman at defensive tackle in 2014 and earned FWAA Freshman All-America honors as well as Big Ten All-Freshman Team accolades from ESPN.com and BTN.com.
Burton played a key role in the development of two-year starters Heath and Thomas, who both recorded a career high in tackles during their last season in 2015. Thomas also recorded career bests in tackles for loss (5.0 for 31 yards) and pass break-ups (six) while matching his career best with three sacks (27 yards), and used his productive senior season to land a spot in the Senior Bowl.
Calhoun, Heath and Thomas all earned invitations to the NFL Scouting Combine, as Michigan State was one of just four schools (Alabama, Clemson, Penn State) to send three defensive lineman to the NFL Combine in 2016.
Burton coached the final two years of Marcus Rush’s career in East Lansing in 2013 and 2014. Rush was a model of consistency, finishing his career in 2014 with the most starts (53) of any player in MSU history. The honorable mention All-Big Ten selection ranked second on the team with a career-high 7.5 sacks and was fourth with 10.5 tackles for loss in 2014. Rush, who finished his career ranked seventh in MSU history in both sacks (18.5) and tackles for loss (37.5), played on the practice squad for the San Francisco 49ers in 2015.
Michigan State’s defensive line showed significant improvement in its productivity in Burton’s first year on the Spartan staff in 2013, increasing its totals in sacks (+12) and tackles for loss (+10) from 2012. In his first year as a starter, Calhoun garnered second-team All-America honors from numerous organizations and was named the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year as well as the National Defensive Performer of the Year by the College Football Performance Awards. Rush garnered honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades for the third year in a row, while senior defensive tackles Micajah Reynolds and Tyler Hoover both delivered their most productive seasons wearing the Green and White. For his efforts in 2013, Burton was named the National Defensive Line Coach of the Year by FootballScoop.
During his 10 seasons at Air Force, Burton helped the Falcons to a combined record of 67-57 (.540), including a school-record six consecutive postseason bowl appearances (2007-12), while developing some of the top defensive linemen in school history. Burton also served as the program’s NFL liaison.
In 2008, Jake Paulson became the first-ever defensive lineman at Air Force to earn first-team All-Mountain West honors after recording 14.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. One year later, nose guard Ben Garland was a second-team All-MWC selection and signed a free agent contract with the Denver Broncos. In the Falcons’ 2010 Independence Bowl victory over Georgia Tech, defensive lineman Rick Ricketts, a second-team All-MWC choice, was named the defensive most valuable player of the game. Burton also coached two-time Academic All-American (defensive end) Ryan Carter.
Before arriving at Air Force, Burton spent one season (2002) at Grand Valley State and helped lead the Lakers to a perfect 14-0 record and the 2002 NCAA Division II National Championship, the first in school history.
Burton has previous Big Ten coaching experience, as he spent five seasons as the linebackers coach at Indiana from 1997-2001. Burton mentored two Butkus Award nominees, Jabar Robinson and Justin Smith, during his time with the Hoosiers. Robinson led the team in tackles two-straight years and is eighth in school history with 339 career tackles, while Smith played one season (2003) in the NFL and ranks ninth in IU history with 326 tackles.
Burton also coached linebackers at Eastern Michigan for two seasons (1995-96) and landed his first full-time coaching position as the defensive backs coach at Morehead State (1994).
A four-year letterman (1982-86) at North Carolina, Burton helped the Tar Heels to three bowl appearances during his career and was named team captain and best defensive lineman as a senior. He graduated from UNC with a bachelor's degree in industrial relations in 1987.
Following graduation, Burton spent four seasons playing linebacker in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys (1987-89), Phoenix Cardinals (1989) and Los Angeles Raiders (1990). Burton started 15 games for the Cowboys in 1988 and recorded two sacks, and played on the 1990 Raiders team that advanced to the 1990 AFC Championship Game.
After his NFL career, Burton returned to North Carolina and spent two years as a graduate assistant (1992-93) for the Tar Heels.
Burton was an all-state selection as a linebacker at Highland Springs (Va.) High School.
A native of Highland Springs, Virginia, Burton and his wife, Andrea, have four children: Ronald, Ryan, Roya and Reid.
THE BURTON FILE
YEARS AT MICHIGAN STATE: Fourth. Hired Feb. 8, 2013, from Air Force.
PREVIOUS COACHING EXPERIENCE: College - Graduate assistant coach (1992-93) at North Carolina; defensive backs at Morehead State (1994); linebackers at Eastern Michigan (1995-96); linebackers at Indiana (1997-2001); defensive line at Grand Valley State (2002); defensive line at Air Force (2003-12).
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in industrial relations from North Carolina in 1987.
PLAYING EXPERIENCE: College - Four-year letterman as a defensive lineman at North Carolina (1982-86). Professional - Spent four seasons in the National Football Leauge, with the Dallas Cowboys (1987-89), Phoenix Cardinals (1989) and Los Angeles Raiders (1990).
POSTSEASON EXPERIENCE: Player - 1982 Sun Bowl, 1983 Peach Bowl, 1986 Aloha Bowl; Coach - 1993 Peach Bowl, 1993 Gator Bowl, 2002 NCAA Division II Playoffs, 2007 Armed Forces Bowl, 2008 Armed Forces Bowl, 2009 Armed Forces Bowl, 2010 Independence Bowl, 2011 Military Bowl, 2012 Armed Forces Bowl, 2014 Rose Bowl, 2015 Cotton Bowl, 2015 College Football Playoff (Cotton Bowl).