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5 new football staff members display their positions online, but MSU has yet to confirm

December 2, 2023
<p>Freshly minted Head Football Coach Jonathan Smith speaks at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center during a timeout of Michigan State's bout against Georgia Southern on Nov. 28, 2023. This was Coach Smith's first public appearance as Head Coach following his hire and press conference earlier that day.</p>

Freshly minted Head Football Coach Jonathan Smith speaks at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center during a timeout of Michigan State's bout against Georgia Southern on Nov. 28, 2023. This was Coach Smith's first public appearance as Head Coach following his hire and press conference earlier that day.

Photo by Henry Szymecko | The State News

A new era for Michigan State football has begun and is moving with haste. 

MSU announced the hiring of head coach Jonathan Smith on Saturday, Nov. 25, and formally introduced him in a Tuesday press conference. Although it has not yet been formally announced by the university, it appears that the former Oregon State is bringing along a sizeable chunk of his staff from Corvallis, Oregon to East Lansing. 

Running backs coach Keith Bhonapha, tight ends coach Brian Wozniak and offensive line coach Jim Michalczik all changed their X, formerly known as Twitter, bios and header images to reflect their new statuses as MSU football staff. All three held the same positions at Oregon State. 

Also displaying their moves on X to join Smith in East Lansing are former Oregon State director of football operations Dan Van De Riet and director of player personnel Cole Moore

At the time of publication, The MSU athletic department has not yet responded when asked if these additions are confirmed.

MSU athletic director Alan Haller made the decision to clean house following the conclusion of the season for MSU and a 42-0 loss to No. 11 ranked Penn State Friday night. All members of MSU’s coaching staff have also been relieved of their duties on Saturday afternoon, as reported by the Detroit Free Press, although the opportunity for Smith to retain some staff is not entirely out of the question.

Doing all he could to salvage what’s left of MSU’s recruiting class and retain its rostered players, Haller acted quickly, hiring Smith less than 24 hours after the Spartans’ drubbing to the Nittany Lions. 

The potential new names and faces on MSU’s football staff bring a wide range of both playing and coaching experience. 

The potential new running backs coach in Bhonapha is currently in his 14th season as a collegiate coach. He played defensive back at Hawaii and served just one year on staff at Oregon State. Bhonapha has sent multiple running backs to the NFL, most notably Myles Gaskin, Doug Martin, and Jay Ajayi. 

The additions of Wozniak and Michalczik could bring even more experience to the Spartans’ new-look offense. Wozniak won three Big Ten Championships as tight end for Wisconsin and was Oregon State’s tight ends coach during Luke Musgrave’s breakout 2022 campaign, while Michalczik was on staff during the golden ages of Miami Hurricanes football from 1990-1991 and helped Smith transform the offense at Oregon State. 

At Oregon State, Smith led the Beavers, who were ranked as high as 11th in the College Football Playoff rankings this season, to an 8-4 record in the regular season and their third straight bowl appearance, a first for the program since 2006-09. OSU has gone 25-13 the past three seasons under Smith, including a No. 17 ranking in 2022 and a win over Florida in the Las Vegas Bowl. 

If it wasn’t already clear enough, the potential hiring of Van De Riet, Moore and McDonald proves that Smith wants to transplant the Oregon State culture he spent six years building to East Lansing. 

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