Two weeks after announcing Ted Gill wouldn’t be returning as the Spartans’ defensive line coach, the MSU football team has found its man.
Former Air Force defensive line coach Ron Burton will take over the same position in East Lansing, after working at Air Force for the past decade.
Burton, a former NFL defensive lineman, has worked as a football coach for more than 20 years and has experience working in Michigan, coaching at Grand Valley State when the team won the NCAA Division II National Championship in 2002.
His work in the state — he also coached linebackers at Eastern Michigan for two seasons — as well as at the Big Ten level, serving as the linebackers coach at Indiana from 1997-2001, was cited by MSU head coach Mark Dantonio as part of Burton’s appeal.
“We are very excited about Ron Burton joining our coaching staff at Michigan State,” MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement.
“Ron played four years in the NFL and has been around some of the game’s top coaches at both the professional and collegiate levels. In the pros, he played for Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson and Gene Stallings, and he started his tenure at Air Force under Fisher DeBerry, one of college football’s great coaches.”
Burton, who also served as an NFL Liaison while at Air Force, wowed Dantonio and MSU’s defensive coaching staff throughout the interview process with his energy and understanding of defensive concepts.
“He was simply dynamic during the entire interview process,” Dantonio said. “We had an opportunity to share some ideas last year in a professional development setting, and we believe Ron is a natural fit in terms of defensive terminology and concepts. He also brings great energy and management skills to the coaching staff. We look forward to seeing Ron interact with our players and watching our defensive linemen thrive under his teaching.”
The interaction at the professional development setting one year ago also left a lasting impression on Burton, who said he began to see for himself the attributes that helped MSU’s coaching staff reach success.
“We sat and talked football, and I was simply amazed at how the staff handled things,” Burton said in a statement.
“I also had heard so many positives about Coach Dantonio from my peers — they all talked about his leadership and how he promoted a family atmosphere. Well, I got a first-hand glimpse at how the defensive staff did interact like a family.”
Burton will take over a defensive line that loses junior defensive end William Gholston and senior defensive tackle Anthony Rashad White among its starters, but returns sophomore defensive end Marcus Rush.
Much of Burton’s early success likely will lie in his ability to develop defensive ends, such as Lawrence Thomas, Shilique Calhoun and Joel Heath, high-level prospects who are expected to compete for playing time next season.
“Coaching is really about teaching and developing relationships with the student-athletes both on and off the field,” Burton said. “I want to help them pursue excellence in everything they do, develop character and integrity while growing into becoming a great player over time. I can’t wait to begin the hands-on teaching process with the defensive linemen, as the program continues its pursuit of winning championships.
“I’m excited about working with a Spartan defensive unit that has really established itself as one of the nation’s elite over the last three seasons. I’m looking forward to working for coach Dantonio and alongside (defensive coordinator) Pat Narduzzi, (linebackers and special teams coach) Mike Tressel and (secondary coach) Harlon Barnett. Being presented with the opportunity to help grow and develop a great defensive front is really the icing on the cake for me.”