Michigan State football signs 20 on National Signing Day
Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Mike Tressel and quarterbacks coach Brad Salem spoke to the media Wednesday afternoon.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and Penn State head coach James Franklin and players discuss MSU-PSU game.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and players discuss MSU-Iowa game.
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
The consistent play of the Spartan linebackers under Tressel is one of the main reasons why Michigan State has been so successful on defense during his tenure. Under the guidance of Tressel, Spartan linebackers have earned All-Big Ten honors 19 times and All-America accolades on four occasions (Greg Jones: 2009-10; Denicos Allen: 2013; Max Bullough: 2013). Six Spartan linebackers have participated in postseason all-star games under Tressel, including Riley Bullough in the 2017 NFLPA Collegiate All-Star Game. In addition, MSU’s last four starting middle linebackers who have graduated (Jones, Max Bullough, Taiwan Jones, Riley Bullough) have all played in the NFL.
Stopping the run has been the main theme on defense, as the Spartans have finished in the top 11 of the NCAA FBS in rushing defense six of the past seven seasons, checking in at No. 2 in 2017 (95.3 ypg.). In Tressel’s three seasons (2015-17) sharing the coordinating duties with Harlon Barnett, Michigan State ranked in the FBS Top 25 in scoring defense and rushing defense during both the 2015 and 2017 seasons.
Michigan State’s school-record seven-game turnaround in 2017 that concluded with a 10-3 overall record, a victory in the Holiday Bowl and a No. 15 national ranking by The Associated Press was led by another strong defensive effort. MSU ranked among the FBS Top 20 leaders in rushing defense (second at 95.3 ypg), total defense (seventh at 297.6 ypg), first-downs defense (ninth with 206), team passing efficiency defense (17th with 113.5 rating), third-down defense (18th at .328) and scoring defense (19th at 20.0 ppg). For the fifth time in the past seven years, the Spartans led the Big Ten in rushing defense, as nine opponents were held to under 100 yards rushing. In addition, MSU led the nation in allowing the fewest rushes of more than 10 yards, giving up just 30 all season.
The trio of Joe Bachie, Chris Frey and Andrew Dowell started every game at linebacker in 2017. In his first season as the starting middle linebacker, Bachie led the team with 100 tackles to earn the Governor’s Award (team MVP), becoming the first Spartan sophomore to win the award since 2004. Frey, a senior captain, capped his career by winning Defensive MVP honors in the Holiday Bowl, while Dowell recorded a career-high 74 tackles in starting all 13 games at Star linebacker.
Tressel helped construct a defense that once again ranked among the nation's best in 2015 during MSU’s run to the Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff. The Spartans finished ranked in the FBS Top 25 in forced turnovers (ninth with 28), interceptions (23rd with 15), sacks (23rd at 2.64 pg.) and scoring defense (25th at 21.7 ppg.), and were 26th in total defense (349.9 ypg.). During MSU's last four games against Big Ten opponents, which included two top-five wins (No. 2 Ohio State, No. 4 Iowa), the Spartans only allowed 12.5 points per game and under 100 yards rushing per game (91.8 ypg.).
Although the Spartans lost preseason All-Big Ten linebacker Ed Davis to a season-ending knee injury in preseason camp and featured two new starters in 2015, the unit didn't miss a beat. MSU held six opponents under 100 yards rushing, including No. 2 Ohio State (86 yards), No. 4 Iowa (52) and No. 12 Michigan (62). In addition, the Spartans held No. 7 Oregon to 123 rushing yards, the Ducks' lowest rushing output since 2013.
Entering 2014, Tressel had the challenge of filling two starting positions left vacant by three-year starters and All-Americans Denicos Allen and Max Bullough, all while rotating veteran Taiwan Jones from the outside to middle linebacker. But the results remained the same, as Michigan State ranked No. 1 in the NCAA FBS in rushing defense, allowing just 88.5 yards per game. The Spartans became just the second program since the Big Ten began awarding stat champions for all games in 1985 to lead the league in rushing defense four years in a row. Michigan State, which also ranked No. 8 nationally in total defense (315.8 ypg.), was the only school in the NCAA FBS to rank in the Top 10 in total defense from 2011-14 (No. 6 in 2011, No. 4 in 2012, No. 2 in 2013, No. 8 in 2014).
Jones, a second-team All-Big Ten choice by the coaches, made the successful transition to the middle his senior season after starting two years at Star (weakside) linebacker. He posted career bests in tackles for loss (12.5) and sacks (4), and ranked second on the team in tackles (60). Jones was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and spent two seasons (2015-16) on the roster for the New York Jets.
In his first year as a starter at Sam (strongside) linebacker, Davis ranked tied for second on the team in tackles for loss (12), third in sacks (7) and fourth in tackles (58). The junior from Detroit, who led the team in production points during the regular season, was named honorable mention All-Big Ten.
During Michigan State's Big Ten and Rose Bowl Championship season in 2013, the linebackers led the way for the only defense in the FBS to rank among the top three in rushing defense (No. 2 at 86.6 ypg.), total defense (No. 2 at 252.2 ypg.), scoring defense (No. 3 at 13.2 ppg.) and passing defense (No. 3 at 165.6 ypg.).
Bullough, a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, was the quarterback of the league's top-ranked defense in 2013. A third-team All-America honoree by The Associated Press, Bullough ranked third on the team in both tackles (76) and tackles for loss (9.5). He closed his career with 40 starts at middle linebacker and ranked 11th in school history in tackles for loss (30.5) and 18th in tackles (299). Bullough spent three seasons (2014-16) in the NFL playing for the Houston Texans.
Allen picked up second-team All-America accolades from SI.com. He led the team with a career-high 98 tackles as a senior and also led the team with 16.5 tackles for loss, good for seventh most in an MSU single-season. Allen finished his career ranked third in the school record book with 46 career tackles for loss. He capped his illustrious career with seven tackles, including 1.5 for losses, in the 100th Rose Bowl Game against No. 5 Stanford, and was named to the SI.com All-Bowl Team and ESPN.com Big Ten All-Bowl Team.
The Spartans finished the 2012 season ranked fourth in the FBS in total defense (273.3 ypg.) and eighth in rushing defense (98.6 ypg.). Bullough, a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches in 2012, led the Spartans in tackles for the second year in a row with a career-high 111 stops as a junior.
In 2011, Michigan State led the Big Ten in rushing defense (100.5 yards per game) and total defense (277.4 ypg.) en route to winning the Big Ten Legends Division title. For the first time since 1990, all three of MSU's starting linebackers garnered All-Big Ten honors. Allen, who ranked second in the Big Ten in sacks with 11 and fourth in tackles for loss with 18.5, was named second-team all-conference by the media. Bullough picked up second-team accolades from the coaches after leading the Spartans with 89 tackles and junior Chris Norman was named honorable mention after recording career highs in tackles (76) and tackles for loss (6.5).
Tressel mentored Greg Jones and Eric Gordon from 2007-10, two of the top linebackers in the nation who combined for 796 tackles in their careers.
A back-to-back first-team consensus All-American, Jones led the Spartans in tackles (106), forced fumbles (3) and quarterback hurries (6) and ranked tied for first in tackles for loss (10 for 20 yards) during MSU's Big Ten Championship season in 2010. He became just the seventh player in program history to receive first-team All-Big Ten honors three times. A model of consistency, Jones became only the second player in MSU history to lead the Spartans in tackles for four straight seasons (linebacker Dan Bass, 1976-79). The Cincinnati, Ohio, native became the first Spartan to win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year accolades after collecting 154 tackles in 2009, the most in the conference and third nationally.
Jones was selected in the sixth round (No. 185 overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New York Giants and was a member of the Super Bowl Champion team that defeated New England in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. He spent two seasons in the NFL (2011-12) and three seasons in the CFL (2014-16).
Gordon started 49 games, including 40 consecutive starting assignments, and finished his career ranked among MSU's all-time leaders in tackles for loss (10th with 29) and tackles (12th with 331).
Tressel also oversaw a successful special teams unit from 2007-14 that was one of the best in the Big Ten under his direction. During his time as special teams coach, MSU had two first-team All-Big Ten placekickers (Dan Conroy and Brett Swenson), two first-team All-Big Ten punters (Mike Sadler and Aaron Bates), and featured conference leaders in kick returns (Devin Thomas), punt returns (Keshawn Martin), field goals (Swenson) and field-goal percentage (Swenson, Michael Geiger).
Sadler, who was selected a first-team All-American by CBSSports.com and ESPN.com in 2013, finished his career ranked among MSU's all-time leaders in punts (second with 268), punting yards (second with 11,307) and punting average (sixth at 42.2), and became the first four-time Academic All-American in school history. Geiger, a first-team Freshman All-America selection by the Football Writers Association of America, set the MSU single-season field-goal percentage record (.938; 15 of 16) in 2013.
In 2010, Bates ranked first in the Big Ten and 13th in the nation with his 45.0-yard punting average to earn first-team All-Big Ten accolades and second-team All-America honors by SI.com. In addition, Martin ranked first in the conference and 11th nationally in punt returns (14.2 avg.), and Conroy was a first-team All-Big Ten selection after going 14-for-15 in field goals during his first year as the starting placekicker.
Not only did the unit rank among the national leaders statistically in 2010, but it also delivered in the clutch. Four of the biggest plays during Michigan State's Big Ten Championship season arrived on special teams, including: Bates' 29-yard completion to Charlie Gantt on a fake field goal in overtime that won the game against Notre Dame; Martin's 72-yard punt return for a touchdown that gave MSU the lead for good in the win over Wisconsin; Bates' 21-yard pass to Bennie Fowler on a fake punt in the fourth quarter that sparked MSU's comeback at Northwestern; and Denicos Allen's blocked punt late in the fourth quarter against Purdue that led to the game-winning touchdown.
MSU's Big Ten Championship season in 2010 was not the first year Tressel's special teams unit achieved success. Swenson, a first-team All-Big Ten placekicker, became MSU's all-time leader in field goals (71), points scored (377) and extra points (164) during the 2009 season. Swenson, who was named a Lou Groza Award semifinalist, finished his career tied for third in Big Ten history with his 71 field goals. Swenson tied a then-school record in 2008 with 22 field goals en route to being named second-team All-Big Ten.
Martin anchored the kick return team in 2009, which ranked eighth nationally, averaging 25.9 yards per return. Martin was the 11th-ranked return man in the nation (28.9-yard avg.). He ran back the opening kickoff of the second half at Minnesota 93 yards for a touchdown, MSU's first kick return for a TD since 2005, and accumulated 176 kick return yards in the game, the third-highest single-game figure in MSU history. Martin also recorded an 85-yard return at Purdue in compiling 166 kick return yards against the Boilermakers for the seventh-best total in school history. In 2007, Devin Thomas established a Big Ten record with 1,135 kick return yards.
Tressel arrived at Michigan State following the 2006 regular season, as he was one of eight assistants to follow Dantonio to MSU from Cincinnati.
Tressel played a key role in Cincinnati's success over his three seasons, as the Bearcats earned two bowl invitations. During the 2006 regular season, UC ranked among the national leaders in rushing defense (No. 27 at 107.5 yards per game), total defense (No. 31 at 304.3 ypg.) and scoring defense (No. 34 at 19.3 points per game). In addition, the Bearcats held seven of its 12 regular-season opponents to less than 100 yards rushing. In 2006, Tressel coached linebacker Kevin McCullough, who received first-team All-BIG EAST honors after leading the team in tackles (72) and tackles for losses (14.5 for 36 yards).
In 2005, he helped develop Corey Smith into a third-team Freshman All-American and second-team All-BIG EAST selection. In his first season at Cincinnati, Tressel's starting linebackers ranked first, third and fifth on the team in tackles, with both Jamar Enzor (second team) and Tyjuan Hagler (third team) garnering All-Conference USA honors. Hagler was taken by the Indianapolis Colts in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
Prior to joining Dantonio's staff at Cincinnati, Tressel spent two seasons as a graduate assistant coach at Ohio State (2002-03), where he contributed to the Buckeyes' National Championship team in 2002.
Tressel previously coached at Wartburg (Iowa) College for four seasons (1998-01), helping the school to a combined record of 36-4 including one conference title. At Wartburg, he served as offensive line coach for three years before assuming the role of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the 2001 season.
A four-year starter in the secondary at Cornell (Iowa) College, Tressel became a two-time Academic All-American in football and a five-time Academic All-America selection overall (1994 football, second team; 1994 wrestling, second team; 1995 football, first team; 1995 wrestling, second team; 1996 wrestling, first team). Following graduation in 1996, he launched his coaching career at South Dakota as a graduate assistant for two seasons (1996-97), working on the offensive side of the football.
He earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Cornell (Iowa) College in 1996 and received a master's degree in sports administration from South Dakota in 1998.
Tressel comes from a bloodline of successful coaches, as his uncle Jim Tressel won four NCAA I-AA championships at Youngstown State before leading Ohio State to the 2002 National Championship. His grandfather, Lee Tressel, ranked as one of the winningest coaches in Division III history and won a National Championship at Baldwin-Wallace College. His father Richard, who spent 23 seasons as head coach at Hamline, coached 11 seasons at Ohio State.
He and his wife Megan have two children: Logan and Quincy.
THE TRESSEL FILE
YEARS AT MICHIGAN STATE: 12th. Joined staff on Dec. 1, 2006, from Cincinnati.
PREVIOUS COACHING EXPERIENCE: College - Graduate assistant coach at South Dakota (1996-97); offensive line coach (1998-2000) and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (2001) at Wartburg (Iowa) College; graduate assistant linebackers coach at Ohio State (2002-03); linebackers and special teams coach at Cincinnati (2004-06).
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in mathematics from Cornell (Iowa) College in 1996; master's degree in sports administration at South Dakota in 1998.
PLAYING EXPERIENCE: College - Four-year starter in the secondary at Cornell (Iowa) College (1992-95).
POSTSEASON EXPERIENCE: Coach - 1999 NCAA Division III Playoffs, 2003 Fiesta Bowl, 2004 Fiesta Bowl, 2004 Fort Worth Bowl, 2007 Champs Sports Bowl, 2009 Capital One Bowl, 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl, 2011 Capital One Bowl, 2012 Outback Bowl, 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, 2014 Rose Bowl, 2015 Cotton Bowl, 2015 College Football Playoff (Cotton Bowl), 2017 Holiday Bowl.