The days of John L. Smith as head football coach at Michigan State were over.
The program had been on a wobbly base for Smith's entire tenure. It seemed like the Spartans were in a "win now" mode when they didn't have enough pieces to achieve that.
The program was going in all different directions, some pieces moved forward. Some moved backwards.
When it was announced that Smith would not be retained, it seemed as if all the moving pieces stopped.
The Spartan football program not only needed a stable force, but it wanted a stable force. Badly.
Enter Mark Dantonio.
Dantonio is a Big Ten bred, nothing flashy, get the job done type of coach. Instantly, he brought respect, responsibility, and character back to East Lansing.
All those moving pieces that moved in different directions? They began moving forward upon Dantonio's arrival.
The plan was implemented and the is continuing to progress.
In his first year, the Spartans went 7-6 and finished with a berth in the Champs Sports Bowl. They lost to Boston College 24-21.
Last year, Sparty moved forward to 9-4, good for 3rd in the Big Ten. Their season ended with a 24-12 loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.
There are questions surrounding Michigan State entering 2009, especially at quarterback where Brian Hoyer is no longer under center.
Back in the John L. Smith days, this would have been a crazy time in East Lansing.
But with Dantonio at the helm, no one is worrying. The confidence is there that things will work out.
From the fans, to the players, to the coaches, there is confidence in the program.
The program could lose a couple more games in 2009 than they did in 2008, but instead of panic, there will be belief that 2010 will be better.
Looking back, Dantonio was the fresh breath that Michigan State needed.
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