East Lansing — After 11 seasons at Michigan State, Harlon Barnett is leaving to become defensive coordinator at Florida State.
Michigan State’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach will join the staff of Willie Taggart, who recently became Florida State’s coach.
Barnett’s salary is listed at $452,570, according to the USA Today database of coach’s salaries. Charles Kelly made $858,000 last year as Florida State's defensive coordinator.
Barnett, who became co-defensive coordinator along with Mike Tressel at the end of the 2014 season when Pat Narduzzi landed the head coaching job at Pittsburgh, has also been Michigan State’s associate head coach the past year.
Barnett, 51, was a member of Mark Dantonio’s staff for 14 seasons, including three at Cincinnati before most of the staff came to Michigan State with Dantonio in 2007. He is also just the fifth assistant under Dantonio to leave for another job. Dan Enos left to become the head coach at Central Michigan, Don Treadwell to become the head coach at Miami (Ohio), Dan Roushar to coach the offensive line with the NFL's New Orleans Saints, and Narduzzi.
“I would like to thank Harlon Barnett for his 14 years working on our staff, including all 11 years at Michigan State," Dantonio said in a statement. "He did an outstanding job and is a great football coach. He’s an extraordinary person with tremendous values and was an integral part of the 100 victories we reached at the Holiday Bowl, which I consider to be a staff achievement. He helped our program win multiple championships and bowl games while also developing All-Big Ten players, All-Americans and NFL Draft picks."
An All-American defensive back at Michigan State (1986-89), Barnett played seven seasons in the NFL. He was a graduate assistant at LSU in 2003 before joining Dantonio’s staff at Cincinnati as the defensive backs coach in 2004.
Following its victory in the Holiday Bowl, Michigan State is No. 7 in the nation in total defense, allowing 297.6 yards a game while coming in at No. 17 in pass-efficiency defense. It was the fifth time in the last seven seasons the Spartans have been in the top 25 in the nation in pass-efficiency defense.
Under Barnett, the Spartans have produced their share of top defensive backs, including three All-Americans and two first-round draft picks in the NFL. Darqueze Dennard went No. 24 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014, and Trae Waynes was taken No. 11 overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2015. They were both All-Americans, as was safety Kurtis Drummond. Dennard and Waynes were finalists for the Thorpe Award, given to the top defensive back in the nation, while Otis Wiley was a semifinalist. Dennard won the award in 2014.
Michigan State will now have two assistant openings to fill as teams are allowed to add a 10th assistant this month. Odds are Tressel takes over as the full-time defensive coordinator and the Spartans look to hire a defensive backs coach.
There will be plenty of names on the list of potential replacements, including those with ties to Michigan State. Among them are Archie Collins, the current defensive backs coach at Central Michigan and former MSU graduate assistant; Renaldo Hill, a former MSU and NFL defensive back who is the secondary coach at Pittsburgh, Demetrice Martin, the former MSU defensive back who was the UCLA secondary coach, but was not retained by new coach Chip Kelly; and Amp Campbell, another former MSU defensive back who is the defensive backs coach at Alabama State.