Sports

MSU's Jonathan Smith and QB Aidan Chiles know each other well from Oregon State

Posted at 7:19 AM, Apr 19, 2024

Michigan State is breaking in a new football coach and quarterback this year.

The Spartans may benefit from how familiar the pivotal people in the program are with each other because they both were at Oregon State last season.

Jonathan Smith, who led the Beavers for six seasons, was hired in late November and quarterback Aidan Chiles joined him less than a month later.

Smith fully expects Chiles to start this fall.

“I’d describe it as an upset if he’s not," he said.

Smith was also able to bring with him an AP All-Pac 12 offensive lineman, Tanner Miller, and AP all-conference tight end Jack Velling, who set an Oregon State single-season record for tight ends with eight touchdown receptions.

The trio of former Beavers have helped coaches teach terminology and plays to teammates at Michigan State.

“We’re coaches for a reason, but those three guys on the offensive side have been beneficial for each group," Smith said.

The new-look Spartans will wrap up spring ball on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.

“We are trying to get some scrimmaging done,” Smith said. “The clock is going to run and we are going to try to create a game-like atmosphere for most of it.

“I am excited about it,” he added. “Really, for these guys, they are excited to run around and play in front of some people and kind of see what it looks like.”

Smith signed a seven-year deal that pays him $7.25 million in his first season, two months after the school fired Mel Tucker for having what he described as consensual phone sex with an activist and rape survivor.

The Spartans won their first two games with Tucker last year and after he was removed from the sideline, they never recovered. With interim coach Harlon Barnett in charge, the team lost eight of its last 10 games.

Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller seemed to point the program in the right direction by hiring Smith before another Power Five school did.

And if Smith can turn the Spartans around, it won't be the first time he's pulled off the feat.

Smith was 8-4 last season at Oregon State and won 10 games the previous year, when he shared Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors. The season before the former quarterback went back to his alma mater, the Beavers had only one non-conference victory and went winless in the Pac-12.

The 45-year-old Smith coached quarterbacks at Idaho, Montana and Boise State, where he coached with Chris Petersen and left with him to call plays as his offensive coordinator at Washington.

Smith brought much of his coaching staff from Oregon State to Michigan State, potentially helping him successfully install schemes on both sides of the ball.

The Spartans return their leading tackler, linebacker Cal Halady, and defensive back Jaden Mangham, who had a team-high four interceptions last season. They added 11 players from the transfer portal in January, including Jordan Turner from Wisconsin to bolster what appears to be the team's strength at linebacker.