Despite many reports around the country, I’m still not completely convinced that Kevin Sumlin will be fired after Texas A&M’s final game against LSU on November 25th. As I mentioned in my previous article, if he manages to get his team to beat Ole Miss on Saturday, and pull off an upset win over LSU in Death Valley, I think it would be extremely difficult for the A&M Administration to cut him loose.
But if reports are true, and Texas A&M has already made the decision to part ways with Kevin Sumlin at the end of the season, I’d like to make the case for a coach that not many pundits are considering right now: Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio. Dantonio is flying under the radar right now, but he should be in the discussion to be the coach to take A&M to an elite level in the SEC. Here’s why:
The Record Books:
Mark Dantonio is in his 11th season as the head coach of Michigan State. Over that span, he has compiled a 97-45 record with 5 double digit win seasons and 3 Big 10 Conference Titles. He has a 26-11 record in November (.702 win percentage), which has always been the knock on Kevin Sumlin – that he couldn’t win in November when it mattered. Dantonio has won Big 10 Coach of the Year twice in his 11 seasons, and finished ranked in the Top 25 six out of eleven seasons. If you’re looking for an accomplished and established coach instead of an up-and-comer, I’d say he fits the bill.
To give a little background on Mark Dantonio, he was born in El Paso, Texas, so that should please the “purists” at Texas A&M who might try to argue that he’s just a mid-westerner. He attended and played football at the University of South Carolina, so he knows what it means to play football in the south. He was an assistant coach under Nick Saban at Michigan State before returning to take over as Head Coach in 2007, and he was also an assistant under Jim Tressel at Youngstown State in the late 80’s, so he’s learned from some of the best in College Football.
Mark Dantonio has gained a reputation as a defensive-minded coach, which should appeal to Aggies longing for the glory days of the Wrecking Crew to return. Defense seems to be a lost art in college football these days, but as we’ve seen from Alabama, defense wins championships. Dantonio would likely bring his offensive scheme as well, which is more of a pro-style offense rather than the trendy, wide-open spread concepts that have permeated the football landscape. The NFL has yet to fully adopt spread schemes and read-option runs, so recruits looking to make a smooth transition to the NFL could be sold on that premise.
With regard to recruiting, Mark Dantonio is familiar with what it takes to recruit against powerhouse programs like Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State, so going toe-to-toe with the likes of Alabama, LSU, and Auburn wouldn’t be too big for Dantonio to handle. Kevin Sumlin hasn’t been able to beat his SEC West rivals on a consistent basis as well as Mark Dantonio has – Dantonio’s 8-3 vs rival Michigan is an example. Despite Michigan State’s highest recruiting ranking of 18th since 2013, Dantonio gets the right guys for his system, and does a great job of developing the talent he has. It would be exciting to see what he could do with the speed and athleticism of those Texas recruits.
In summary, Mark Dantonio would bring a sense of stability and consistency that has been lacking at A&M in recent years. He’s a proven winner with a solid coaching pedigree. Making the move to the SEC would be a big step-up for Dantonio and the chance to prove his worth as one of the top coaches in the country. Dantonio has been loyal to Michigan State and has built quite a legacy in East Lansing. The tallest task may be convincing him to make the trip down south to College Station to start a new legacy. But, if any school has pockets deep enough to do it, it’s Texas A&M.