Chris Smeland begins his fourth season as defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Michigan State. Smeland has been a defensive coordinator for 23 years, including the last 11 seasons under head coach John L. Smith.
In 2005, strong safety Eric Smith earned team MVP honors after leading the Spartans in tackles (101) and production points (204). Smith, a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, was chosen in the third round of the 2006 National League Football Draft by the New York Jets. In addition, Smeland recruited Spartan defensive tackle Domata Peko, who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
In 2004, Smith and Jason Harmon combined to account for 220 tackles from their safety positions. Smith finished second on the team with 115 tackles, while Harmon ranked third with 105 stops. In 2003, Harmon led the team in tackles (108) and production points (159).
Under Smeland's leadership, the Spartan defense played a major role in the team's remarkable turnaround in 2003. Michigan State led the Big Ten in sacks (45 for 299 yards), takeaways (29) and interceptions (15). The Spartans also ranked among the Big Ten (sixth) and NCAA leaders (27th) in rushing defense, allowing only 124.8 yards per game. In 2003, Michigan State held four opponents under the 100-yard rushing mark while permitting just nine rushing touchdowns.
The Spartans displayed dramatic improvement on the defensive side of the football in 2003, especially when you consider Smeland inherited a unit that ranked ninth in the Big Ten and No. 110 nationally (out of 117) in rushing defense in 2002, surrendering 213.8 yards per game. The 2002 Spartans also finished ninth in the Big Ten in sacks (19 for 113 yards) and takeaways (19).
The 55-year-old Smeland played an integral part in helping Louisville to a combined record of 41-21 (.661), including five-straight bowl appearances and back-to-back Conference USA championships in 2000-01. He helped develop players who earned All-Conference USA honors 16 times, including seven first-team selections.
From 2000-02, Louisville's defense produced an NCAA-best 132 sacks to go along with 86 takeaways, including 54 interceptions.
In 2002, the Cardinals ranked among the NCAA leaders in rushing defense (No. 17 at 113.0 yards per game) and total defense (No. 22 at 319.9 ypg.).
In 2001, the Cardinals finished No. 10 nationally in scoring defense, permitting 17.8 points per game.
In 2000, Louisville ranked among the NCAA leaders in rushing defense (No. 4) and total defense (No. 15) while forcing a nation-best 37 turnovers. All-America safety Anthony Floyd led the NCAA with 10 interceptions (tied Akron's Dwight Smith).
During his three-year stint at Utah State (1995-97), the Aggies won consecutive Big West Conference crowns in 1996-97. Smeland tutored six first-team All-Big West selections.
In 1997, Utah State led the Big West in every defensive category and finished No. 25 nationally in rushing defense, allowing only 115.6 yards per game.
In 1995, the Aggies also ranked among the league leaders in every defensive category - finishing second in total defense, second in passing defense and third in rushing defense. Utah State allowed fewer than 16 points per game in conference play.
Smeland spent four years on the Hawaii coaching staff (1991-94), working with the inside and outside linebackers in 1991 before being elevated to defensive coordinator in 1992. The Rainbows won a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship in 1992 and finished 11-2 overall, including a 27-17 Holiday Bowl triumph over Illinois, thanks in part to a defensive unit which ranked second in the league in rushing defense (167.2 yards). Smeland tutored two first-team All-WAC selections during his tenure, including nose guard Maa Tanuvasa (1992) and linebacker Junior Faavae (1994).
He previously served as defensive coordinator at Kent State (1988-90) and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (1982-87). His coaching credits also include stops at Nevada (offensive line, 1979-81), Colorado (outside linebackers, 1978) and Southwestern Louisiana (inside linebackers, 1977).
A four-year letterman as a defensive back at Cal Poly SLO (1970-73), Smeland earned all-conference and All-Little Coast honors as a senior. He also served as team captain in 1973.
Smeland graduated from Cal Poly SLO in 1974 with a bachelor's degree in business administration. He received his MBA in finance from Colorado in 1976.
Married to the former Barbara Carlsen of Carson City, Nev., Smeland and his wife have three children - Jamie Christine (22), Kathleen Nicole (20) and Kristen Kelly (13).
THE SMELAND FILE
YEARS AT MICHIGAN STATE: Fourth. Joined staff on Dec. 28, 2002, from Louisville.
PREVIOUS COACHING EXPERIENCE: College -- Graduate assistant coach at Colorado (1974-75); inside linebackers coach at Southwestern Louisiana (1977); outside linebackers coach at Colorado (1978); offensive line coach at Nevada (1979-81); defensive coordinator at Cal Poly SLO (1982-87); defensive coordinator at Kent State (1988-90); defensive coordinator at Hawaii (1991-94); defensive coordinator at Utah State (1995-97); defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Louisville (1998-2002).
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in business administration from Cal Poly SLO in 1974; MBA in finance from Colorado in 1976.
PLAYING EXPERIENCE: College -- Four-year letterman as a defensive back at Cal Poly SLO (1970-73).
POSTSEASON EXPERIENCE: Coach -- 1975 Bluebonnet Bowl, 1992 Holiday Bowl, 1997 Humanitarian Bowl, 1998 Motor City Bowl, 1999 Humanitarian Bowl, 2000 Liberty Bowl, 2001 Liberty Bowl, 2002 GMAC Bowl, 2003 Alamo Bowl.