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Meet MSU Football's new head coach Jonathan Smith

November 25, 2023
Photo from Oregon State University Athletics
Photo from Oregon State University Athletics —

Following a rough ending to Michigan State Football’s season on Friday night, rumors began to circulate around the uncertainty of the coaching staff heading into next season. Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith emerged as the top candidate that evening and was expected to advance in talks with MSU quickly, according to a report by Nicole Auerbach of NBC Sports.

Interim head coach Harlon Barnett finished the season with a 2-8 coaching record that included a 42-0 loss against No. 11 ranked Penn State to conclude the year. 

About 12 short hours later, MSU worked fast as expected and announced its new head coach. Smith finalized a deal with the Spartans to become the new head coach of Michigan State, the program announced Saturday afternoon.

Smith just concluded his sixth season in Corvallis after successfully turning the program around. He leaves the program with a 34-35 overall record, including going 1-1 in two bowl game appearances in back-to-back seasons. Smith was named the Pac-12 Co-Coach of the year in 2022, and has built up a resume as one of the more underrated coaches in all of college football. 

Here is a look a timeline of each of those seasons:

Nov. 30, 2017

Jonathan Smith is introduced as the head coach of Oregon State following the conclusion of the 2017 college football season. 

Smith made it known he was happy to be home and knows how to bring the program up. He acknowledged his emphasis on recruiting and how excited he was for his opportunity, according to a broadcast by Oregon State Athletics.

The Beavers were coming off a 1-11 season in 2017, and bringing in Smith was a clear message that the program was ready to turn it around.

November 2018

Smith’s first full season as head coach for the Beavers concludes as the team finishes just 2-10. While the record doesn’t show much visible improvement, there were multiple signs of success for the program.

Oregon State’s offense showed its potential putting up 313 total points on the year in many shootouts. The problems came on the other side of the ball though, as OSU gave up 548 total points on defense. It was obvious that recruiting and talent would have to be addressed on the defensive side of the ball moving forward.

There wasn’t much pressure on Smith though in his first season, and he would look to propel his team to improvement in 2019.

 December 2020

With two more seasons under Smith’s belt, winning hasn’t quite found its way yet to Oregon State’s culture. Through three seasons since the hire, the Beavers had a 9-22 record while showing many signs of inconsistency.

The shortened COVID-19 season limited the production that could be displayed for OSU, but it seems that Smith could have some pressure with normality returning in 2021.

Dec. 18, 2021

On the third Saturday of December, Oregon State found itself competing in a bowl game, its first since 2013.

Jonathan Smith coached the Beavers to a 7-5 record with significant wins against Washington and Utah, some of the more consistent PAC-12 teams. 

The Beavers would face Utah State in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, but would ultimately fall to the Aggies 24-13. Nevertheless, this was finally a sign of the next step for the program, something Oregon State has been waiting for throughout the years. 

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June 9, 2022

During the summer before the 2022 season, Jonathan Smith landed his highest ranked recruit during his tenure in Corvallis. Aidan Chiles, who was ranked as the nations 27th ranked quarterback at the time of his commitment, decided to come to Oregon State to be their leader for the next few seasons.

Smith was starting to live up to his word with the recruits he was bringing in, and the talent that was being developed from previous seasons when he first started were on track to line up perfectly to make a winning product. 

Dec. 17, 2022

For the first time since 2012-13, Oregon State clinched a bowl game appearance in back-to-back seasons. 

Smith’s Beavers improved once again in 2022 with a 10-3 record. Not only did the stat sheet show piles of wins, but there were many significant performances. After losing to No. 7 USC and No. 12 Utah in back-to-back weeks early in the season, OSU finished their regular season knocking off rival No. 9 Oregon 38-34 in a statement win.

Oregon State got the privilege of taking on Florida in the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl. The Gators, who are known for being one of College Football’s most historic programs, were not enough for the new look Beavers. OSU ran Florida out of Las Vegas, winning 30-3 and showing that the program is ready to compete in years beyond. 

Nov. 14, 2023

The third edition of the 2023 College Football Playoff Rankings were announced on Nov. 14. Coming into the selection, Oregon State held a 8-2 record with wins over No. 10 Utah and No. 18 UCLA.

It was announced that the Beavers held the 11th ranked spot during the announcement show, which is the highest ranking in the Playoff Rankings for the program to date. With just two weeks left in the season, Smith had a chance to make a true push for the College Football Playoff at OSU.

Nov. 25, 2023

Shortly after Oregon State concluded its 2023 regular season against No. 6 ranked Oregon with a 31-7 loss, rumors started to circulate that Smith was gaining traction towards Michigan State’s head coaching job.

On Saturday afternoon the next day, the announcement became official, and Smith will embrace his next chapter in East Lansing as he will attempt to recover MSU and rebuild the program back up, similarly to what he did at Oregon State upon arriving in Corvallis. 

There is lots of confusion going forward surrounding OSU as the program moves forward from the decision. The Beavers finished their regular season 8-4, and will still have a bowl game to play despite the decision.

However, those choices will be made, and to the least of Michigan State’s concern. The Spartans have got their new head coach and will look to return back to their winning ways, and fast, preferably so.

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