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Michigan State Football Will Face 3 Year-One Head Coaches In 2024

This fall, Michigan State football will embark on a new era with head coach Jonathan Smith, who has rebuilt the program at his old mater, Oregon State. Historically, first-year head coaches at a new school frequently have some catching up to do with the majority of the programs on their schedule in Year 1. In modern times, the introduction of the transfer portal has accelerated this process. In Michigan State’s instance, Smith and the Spartans will not be as far behind as usual when the 2024 season begins.
That’s because MSU will face three programs, including a head coach in his first season at his new school and three other head coaches in their second seasons. Here’s a look at each of these new head coaches, beginning with the first-year hiring.
Boston collegiate hired Bill O’Brien as its next head coach last Friday, succeeding Jeff Hafley, who is leaving collegiate football to become the Green Bay Packers’ defensive coordinator. Ryan Day chose O’Brien to be Ohio State’s new offensive coordinator, but his time in Columbus was brief.
O’Brien has vast experience coaching in college and the NFL. He has already served as a head coach twice, first at Penn State, where he led the team to a 15-9 record over two years before moving on to the professional levels as head coach of the Houston Texans. Houston won four division titles under O’Brien, but he was sacked in his seventh year after going 0-4 in 2020. Throughout his career, the Texans went 52-48.
O’Brien is praised for what he accomplished at Penn State, when coach led the Nittany Lions to two winning seasons despite the program being heavily sanctioned following the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. O’Brien has substantial experience as an offensive playcaller, having worked as a coordinator at Georgia Tech (2001-02), Duke (2005-06), Alabama (2021-22), and the New England Patriots (2011; 2023).
Smith and his staff should have an advantage over O’Brien’s when they meet in Week 4 (September 21). For starters, Smith has spent his whole 23-year coaching career in college, whereas O’Brien has alternated between college football and the NFL. Second, Smith already has a two-month head start on rebuilding the Spartans’ program around O’Brien, whose revival at Boston College is in its early stages.
Moore faces the onerous chore of replacing Jim Harbaugh at Ann Arbor, which is made all the more difficult by the fact that Harbaugh brought nearly all of Michigan’s defensive coaches, as well as strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert, with him to Los Angeles. When you consider that the Wolverines are under two distinct NCAA investigations, Moore may have a difficult first year.

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