Who is Harlon Barnett? Get to Know Michigan State’s Interim Head Coach

    Get to know Michigan State interim head coach Harlon Barnett and the ties he has to legendary head coaches Nick Saban and Mark Dantonio.

    Following the news of Mel Tucker’s removal, Michigan State is set to appoint secondary coach Harlon Barnett as their interim head coach. The Spartans may or may not move on from Tucker in the long term, and Barnett will lead the way in 2023.

    Michigan State fans, get to know your new head coach.

    Who is Harlon Barnett?

    A longtime fixture on the sidelines of Michigan State, Barnett first came to East Lansing in 2007. Pegged to coach the defensive backs, Barnett served as the Michigan State DB coach from 2007 to 2014 under legendary head coach Mark Dantonio.

    He was promoted to assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator for the 2015 season, a position he held until Dantonio announced his retirement following the 2017 season.

    With his mentor gone from the sidelines, Barnett joined forces with Willie Taggart in Tallahassee, coaching the defensive backs and serving as the Florida State defensive coordinator during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

    Barnett returned to Michigan State during the 2020 season, being brought over by Tucker to coach the secondary.

    Before starting at Michigan State, Barnett had coached defensive backs at his high school alma mater in Cincinnati (Princeton) and was a grad assistant at LSU in 2003. He served as the defensive backs coach at Cincinnati before joining MSU in 2007.

    Barnett’s Life After Playing Began As a Reporter

    After four letters at Michigan State and seven years in the NFL, it was clear that Barnett’s life would revolve around football. But, had it not been for legendary coach Nick Saban, Barnett may have never made it to the sidelines the way he did.

    It was in 1997 that Saban recruited Barnett to be the sideline reporter for the Spartans, a position he kept for two seasons, Saban’s final years with the program.

    Saban also appointed Barnett to his staff as a grad assistant during the team’s 2003-04 National Championship-winning team at LSU.

    Friend and future mentor Dantonio then hired Barnett to join his staff at Cincinnati, and Barnett followed Dantonio even more north following that.

    Saban and Dantonio have molded Barnett’s coaching style as everywhere he’s traveled, and every unit he’s coached has been among the nation’s best. At Cincinnati, Barnett had four different defensive backs earn all-conference awards.

    During his first 11 seasons with the Spartans, Barnett coached multiple game-changing defensive backs, including 10 NFL Draft picks. While at Florida State, under his tutelage, the Seminoles had five NFL Draft picks and earned five All-ACC honors.

    With his player development skills in tow, Barnett takes over following the removal of Mel Tucker from the Michigan State sidelines. An interim head coach, for now, Barnett’s path has always been paved for this role, however.

    It shouldn’t be surprising if Barnett removes the interim tag following the 2023 season.

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