Michigan State’s third-year defensive line coach Ron Burton previously spent 10 seasons in the same position at Air Force.
Unbeaten Air Force ranks second in the nation in rushing (411.0 yards per game) and eighth in scoring offense (50.0 points per game).
Michigan State returns seven of nine starters along the offensive and defensive lines.
The Bednarik Award has been presented to college football’s defensive player of the year since 1995.
Offensive lineman Brian Allen contributed at three different positions as a true freshman, while first-year defensive lineman Malik McDowell recorded 15 tackles, including 4.5 for losses.
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 his first two seasons 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.
The defensive line has been one of the main reasons why Michigan State ranked No. 1 in rushing defense in the NCAA FBS in 2014 and No. 2 in 2013, allowing just 88.5 ypg. and 86.6 ypg., respectively, figures which also led the Big Ten Conference.
Burton has mentored two of the most productive defensive ends in the Big Ten the last two years in Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush.
Calhoun garnered second-team All-America honors for the second year in a row in 2014 after leading the team in sacks (eight for 91 yards) and tying for the team lead in tackles for loss (12.5 for 109 yards). The Middletown, New Jersey, product became one of just three defensive ends in school history to be named first-team All-Big Ten in back-to-back seasons (2013 and 2014). Calhoun, who was named the 2013 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, ranks among MSU's all-time leaders in sacks (tied for eighth with 16.5) and tackles for loss (tied for 14th with 29) entering his senior season in 2015.
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. Rush ranks seventh in MSU history in both sacks (18.5) and tackles for loss (37.5).
In addition to All-Big Ten standouts Calhoun and Rush, Burton broke in two new starters last season along the interior of the line in Joel Heath and Lawrence Thomas. Both Heath and Thomas collected career bests in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks (Heath: 29 tackles, five TFLs, 2.5 sacks; Thomas: 30 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, three sacks). Malik McDowell also saw significant playing time at defensive tackle and earned Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors from ESPN.com and BTN.com.
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 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, Va., Burton and his wife, Andrea, have four children: Ronald, Ryan, Roya and Reid.
THE BURTON FILE
YEARS AT MICHIGAN STATE: Third. 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.