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USA Today Sports Media Group
Cory Linsner

Ten Potential candidates to be the next defensive coordinator of Michigan State football

With the hiring of Jonathan Smith as Michigan State’s next head football coach, it also means that there will be a new staff coming to East Lansing. While Smith has already gotten a huge jump on hiring his staff, click here to view who has been hired by Smith so far, he has yet to announce who will be serving as the defensive coordinator for his staff.

Smith had two defensive coordinators throughout his tenure at Oregon State, so there are several options and possibilities for Smith to explore.

Let’s take a look at some of the potential candidates that could potentially be in the mix for MSU’s defensive coordinator position:

Mike Tressel (Wisconsin DC)

Journal Sentinel

A name familiar to all Spartan fans, Mike Tressel is a very interesting candidate, and one that makes a lot of sense. The former MSU DC, Tressel has had a lot of successes coaching defenses in his career and with his familiarity to the school and the Midwest, he would be a great addition to Smith’s staff.

Jim Leonhard (Illinois Senior Analyst)

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Leonhard was one of the hottest names on the market just a couple of years ago. After not getting promoted to the full time head coaching position at Wisconsin, Leonhard has taken an analyst role at Illinois. A young guy, who has been a good college coach in his career, with Midwest ties and a hunger to get back to a high level would be the perfect addition to Smith’s staff.

Jimmy Lake (Los Angeles Rams Assistant Head Coach)

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

While his head coaching tenure at Washington did not go well, Lake had a very good tenure as a defensive coordinator and recruiter at Washington. The two, Smith and Lake, had worked together for six seasons between their tenures at Boise State and Washington.

Demetrice Martin (Oregon DBs/Passing Game Coordinator)

The Register Guard

Demetrice Martin is the first MSU alum on this list, and is an outside the box thought for Smith. Martin is currently with Oregon, helping coach cornerbacks and their defensive passing game coordinator. The former Spartan is known as a bright mind in the industry, as well as being an ace on the recruiting trail. His one negative is that he has no experience as a defensive play caller.

D'Anton Lynn (UCLA DC)

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Former Penn State star, and son of longtime NFL coach Anthony Lynn, D’Anton Lynn is one of the hottest young names on the market right now. Lynn has done an exceptional job at UCLA in his first season there and is raising a lot of eyebrows.

Vince Kehres (Toledo DC)

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The son of legendary Mount Union head coach Larry Kehres, Kehres has done a remarkable job turning around the defense at Toledo. The up and coming coach has a great knowledge of the landscape that would be needed to succeed at MSU.

Scottie Hazelton (Michigan State DC)

Lansing State Journal

This is one that Michigan State fans may not be happy about, but he knows the landscape of MSU football and has done a decent job leading the Spartans defense, with little help from his offense.

Lou Esposito (Western Michigan DC)

Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Lou Esposito has been the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Western Michigan since 2017. He is someone who knows the landscape of the state and could be ready for the next step.

Robb Akey (Central Michigan DC)

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Robb Akey has been at Central Michigan with Jim McElwain since 2019, with an NFL background. Akey and Smith have familiarity when Smith was the QB coach at Idaho for three seasons when Akey was the head coach.

UPDATED: Trent Bray (Oregon State HC)

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

After this post was written, Trent Bray was promoted to be the new head coach at Oregon State, taking over for Smith.

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