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Harlon Barnett introduced as MSU Football acting head coach during Tuesday press conference

September 12, 2023
<p>Then-secondary coach Harlon Barnett leads a practice drill Aug. 3, 2013, at the practice field outside Duffy Daugherty Football Building. Julia Nagy/The State News</p>

Then-secondary coach Harlon Barnett leads a practice drill Aug. 3, 2013, at the practice field outside Duffy Daugherty Football Building. Julia Nagy/The State News

It has been a significant past couple of days for Michigan State Football following their 45-14 victory over Richmond on Saturday night

Just a few hours after the conclusion of the game against Richmond, Head Coach Mel Tucker was the subject of a USA Today report where Tucker was accused of sexually harassing, Brenda Tracy, who works as a sexual violence advocator and is a former rape survivor.

In a press conference on Sunday, MSU Athletic Director Alan Haller announced the immediate suspension of Tucker without pay. Tucker is scheduled for a Title IX hearing, which will take place Oct. 5-6.

During the Sunday press conference, Haller also announced that Secondary Coach Harlon Barnett will serve as the acting head coach

The Spartans will take on No. 8 Washington this Saturday in their first game under their new acting head coach. Barnett will look to lead the charge in a very impactful game early in the season in his new role.

“I am really very very very excited about this upcoming week and this opportunity to show what I got,” Barnett said

A big reason Washington has been successful to begin their season is their electricity on offense. Senior Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has come out firing to begin his campaign, throwing for 859 yards and eight touchdowns in just two starts

MSU’s defense has learned to counter a heavier rushing style from opponent quarterbacks in their first two matchups against Central Michigan and Richmond. Penix Jr.’s threat in the air will be a true test, as he got the best of the Spartans in their week 3 matchup in 2022, throwing for 397 yards and four touchdowns in a victory for the Huskies.

“He’s (Penix Jr.) a really good football player,” Barnett said. “Really good football player. Tough, to keep bouncing back from injury like he does, go out there and play like he’s been playing. Dude’s a player. And so, we know what the challenge is before us. We’re looking forward to the challenge and can’t wait for Saturday.”

Another choice that Haller decided to make was to bring back former MSU Football head coach Mark Dantonio. Haller announced at the press conference on Sunday that he would be hiring Dantonio as an Associate Head Coach and that he will have a coaching headset on during games

Dantonio is the winningest head coach in Michigan State Football History, with a career record of 114-57 as a Spartan. Dantonio coached MSU to three Big Ten Championships, including wins in the 2014 Rose Bowl and 2015 Cotton Bowl and an appearance in the 2015 College Football Playoff the following season that ended in a loss to Alabama

When the news of the hire broke to Barnett, he said he was excited because he knows what Dantonio can bring to the program

“Coach D brings the calming presence, the wisdom, the knowledge of being a head coach—a very successful coach at that,” Barnett said. “And so, he’s bringing all that as our associate head coach. And so, any and always, he’s willing to help with us and that’s what he’s going to do. So, he’s helping in all aspects of the operation.”

In light of a dramatic change, it can be hard to shift one’s focus so quickly after. Barnett knows he has a significant game on Saturday against the Huskies, which is why he made it his priority to meet with all players and staff as soon as possible

“I’m meeting with all the players,” Barnett said. “All of them. Yesterday I got 27 in. I’m going for another 20-plus today because I told them on Sunday that I want to meet with everybody, everybody in the room. I started with the players. Individually, I would go to the coaches, the support staff, training, everybody, just so everybody is on the same page.”

The meetings with all members of the team were not an easy task. However, Barnett exclaimed how pleased he was with their reaction. He thought it was good, and their answers would confirm that based on how he saw them already respond on the practice field

There is a lot of uncertainty going forward for Barnett and the program following the outcome of the coaching situation, but Barnett is excited for the opportunity and will look to give all he has to the Spartan community.

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