UPDATED: Burton not coming to IU as d-line coach

UPDATE, FEB. 15, 9:53 A.M.: The Herald-Times has confirmed Ron Burton is no longer coming to IU as defensive line coach. There was a change of heart. He intends to stay at Michigan State. IU’s search for a d-line coach restarts.

Indiana will hire former Michigan State defensive line coach Ron Burton to the same position, according to a source.

Burton, who coached linebackers at IU from 1997-2001, will replace Mark Hagen, who was recently hired to be the defensive line coach at Texas. Burton has been at Michigan State since 2013.

In the years between his Bloomington stops, Burton has built quite the resume. The North Carolina grad coached the defensive line at Air Force from 2003-12, a period when the Falcons made a school-record six consecutive bowl games. One of his proteges was Jake Paulson, who became the first-ever defensive lineman from Air Force to earn first-team All-Mountain West recognition.

With the Spartans, Burton has mentored All-Big Ten talents such as Shilique Calhoun, Malik McDowell, and Raequan Williams. Calhoun (third round, 2016) and McDowell (second round, 2017) were both NFL draft picks, and Williams could be drafted in April.

The front line has frequently been regarded as the strength of Michigan State’s defenses, and those units led the Big Ten in fewest rushing yards allowed in 2013, 2014, 2017, and ’18. The Spartans also led the conference in scoring defense in ’13 and ’18.

Burton has focused on coaching the Spartans’ defensive tackles since 2017.

But there have been changes in East Lansing. Mark Dantonio resigned as Michigan State’s head coach last week, and Colorado’s Mel Tucker was just hired to replace him.

Burton worked under Cam Cameron while at IU. During that time, he mentored two Butkus Award nominees, Jabar Robinson and Justin Smith. Robinson led the Hoosiers in tackles two years in a row, while Smith went on to play one year in the NFL (Buccaneers/Rams).

Burton should have plenty of young talent to work with in his second stint at IU. The Hoosiers have an emerging defensive tackle corps in rising junior Demarcus Elliott and rising sophomore Sio Nofoagatoto’a, along with senior-to-be Jerome Johnson. On the edge, IU has two rising juniors with promise as pass-rushers, James Head and Lance Bryant, along with rising senior Michael Ziemba.

IU also has an intriguing midyear enrollee in defensive tackle Damarjhe Lewis, who had offers from top programs like Penn State and Florida State. Burton will hope to build on the recruiting momentum Hagen helped spur, which most recently included the first commit for IU’s 2021 recruiting class, Elkhart defensive end Rodney McGraw.

Burton is Tom Allen’s third assistant coach hire of the offseason, following tight ends coach Kevin Wright and safeties coach Jason Jones. Those first two moves were necessitated by offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer’s hire as Fresno State’s head coach and special teams coordinator William Inge following DeBoer to become his defensive coordinator. Former tight ends coach Nick Sheridan moved to offensive coordinator, while safeties coach Kasey Teegardin moved into Inge’s special teams role.

Along with Burton’s 27-year resume as a coach, Burton was a four-year letterman at North Carolina. He played linebacker for four seasons in the NFL, including with the Cowboys (1987-89), Cardinals (1989), and Raiders (1990).


  1. This is the kind of hire I wanted to see for the DL position. For anyone wondering about hiring an MSU coach, he was reported to be the only MSU coach against bringing in the Ft Wayne sexual predator to MSU.

    Burton is a big improvement I think for the DL and anyone questioning coach Allen in the past can see how he is building a very good coaching staff. I hope coach Sheridan is as good an OC as coach DeBoer thinks he can be and maybe he will improve the offense even more.

    There are many things to look forward for the 2020 and I hope they get more wins in 2020. If Penix can stay healthy and keep gaining strength and size the 2020 could be a great year for IU with a young defense improving and Coach Burton taking over the DL. He will develop the DL better than coach Hagen and bring in very good DL to go with the very good ones we have. Tuttle will get more reps and challenge for the QB job along with being a very good QB to step in if Penix is injured.

      1. This is one of the big advantages of a big, for IU football, long term contract. Coach Allen is in his position for the long term; the team has good young talent and a mission to become a top 25 program. This staff is a good reflection of the head coach.

    1. I’ve known RB since his days on Cam’s staff. Those weren’t good defenses but I don’t think he was the reason for that. Dysfunction reigned during that time.

      Better than Mark? We’ll see, of course, but that’s a tall and unsupported statement that Tom Allen wouldn’t agree with.

      As for Robertson, it’s been widely reported that RB was not a fan of MSU taking him after his second high school violation. Don’t know if that’s true or not, but I know IU pursued him heavily until that last incident, then backed away.

      RB did recruit and land Josh King, one of the other players involved in the sexual assault case at MSU. I say that not to criticize RB but instead to show that every coach brings in a kid or two that turns out bad, and IU has had a few of those. Acting like we’re on some moral high ground on that stuff isn’t always true. Several IU staff were at Ole Miss when cheating there was rampant, and we manage to look past that while pointing out the flaws of others. Glad to have RB back and hope his addition to the staff proves to be a good one.

      1. Beardown, I agree with you about the high horse because when dealing with young people anything can happen despite your best efforts. Still all coaches weren’t involved in bad decisions just because they were at a school involved in a scandal. Not every coach at Mississippi was involved in the problems and not every MSU coach was involved with the poor decisions about dealing with sexual predators or bringing them in.

        We will have to wait and see how good a job coach Burton can do with our DL and recruiting but his time at MSU says he can do a very good job.

  2. V13,
    You answered my only concern about this hire right out the gate. If correct, there is something to be said about being at the right place at the right time for this hire. Kudos to TA for jumping on the opportunity quickly.

  3. Coach Allen wouldn’t have hired him so I know it was true. He is a great hire for IU and I hope he creates the same results he had at MSU. I am glad coach Allen pulled him to IU and IUFB will benefit from having him on the staff. I also hope coach Wommack listens to him and quits putting DEs in coverage and lining them up to rush the passer which is part of the problem with pass rushing the QB. I am tired of seeing our DEs being caved down due to the stunts on the DL which cause big plays in the running game. Listen to an experienced DL coach and not do what coach Wommack is doing with the DL.

      1. Thanks for the compliment. I hope coach Burton can make some changes in the approach coach Wommack takes.

  4. At the least the 2nd best higher by Coach Allen. As to whether RB is better than Hagen is hard to determine since Coach Burton in EL always had good talent and MH largely had smoke and mirrors to work with at IUFB. He’ll find his cupboard well stocked in Austin. Still damn happy to have Coach Burton.

  5. I don’t know Burton from the man on the moon and the only things I know about him are the things I read in two recent news articles. However, based just on that limited information, I am optimistic that Burton represents an upgrade to IU’s coaching staff. He has excellent experience and a proven track record at winning programs. He appears to have been successful in both recruiting and developing players. He’s worked for IUFB in the past, so it’s reasonable to assume he’s comfortable living in Bloomington. But I am especially excited that Burton will help IU improve recruiting. I imagine he has a lot of solid relationships with HS coaches throughout Michigan and the entire Midwest.

    Where did Mel Tucker rank on the list of candidates MSU created to replace Dantonio? I wonder how many candidates rejected MSU’s advances before they got to Tucker? He must have been the 7th or 8th candidate considered. That’s a huge red flag and suggests there are serious problems in East Lancing. Given the almost $5 million per year MSU was paying Dantonio, you’d think MSU would have the money to hire a more accomplished coach than Tucker, whose Colorado teams were mediocre at best in the PAC 12. IU should take advantage of this and be all over MSU’s targeted 2021 recruits as long as they meet TA’s criteria. With Burton leading the way, IU’s recruiting net could land some bigger fish.

    1. He was their third choice after Narduzzi and Fickell. Shurmur was rumored but I was told he was more an advisor than anything. He was one of several who recommended Tucker.

  6. PO, young people are very short sighted in most cases and Tucker is known as very good recruiter so getting top recruits MSU goes after will be tough for IU. I hope you are right about players wondering about the coaching staff at MSU and IU can benefit with Burton talking to those kids. I know players that value the culture IUFB is building will not trust Tucker to look out for them; we will have to wait and see how it works out.

    I called/hoped for this development 5 days ago, on this site, and I’m glad TA secured this guy. My original O/U before the coaching changes was 5. With this last hire, 7. This is a very good coaching staff both in recruiting and teaching.

  8. According to USA Today’s College FB Assistant Coaching Salary database, Burton’s salary from MSU in 2019 was $462,000, about $50,000 more than IU paid Hagen. I wonder if IU matched Burton’s MSU’s salary or if he took the IU job for a decrease in pay? Perhaps it is one of those comp packages that provides big bonuses if IU is successful?

    Coaching compensation has a lot to do with a College FB program’s performance. And while it’s obvious that IU is now doing a lot more than it ever has and is doing everything it can, if the Hoosier Nation wants to compete with (i.e., beat) the Big Boys like OSU, MI and PSU, we have to provide the support, in the form of attendance at home games and donations, that allows IU’s administration to pay the best coaching talent competitive salaries. Hat’s off to Glass for finally increasing IU FB’s coaching compensation budget. It was late, but he deserves credit for getting that done before he retires.

  9. Po, I agree IU is now doing some of what it takes to build a football team that will improve each year. Now the athletic department need to do more to attract fans from around the state that don’t like the drive or can’t make the drive to Bloomington. We have talked about all IU can do to enhance the game atmosphere which needs to be done but it is more important with the travel issues to make efforts to create an all day football experience IE buses with food and drink along with football on TVs leading up to the game; after all, HS put together fan buses to get their fans to big games away from home. I hope the new AD is well versed in building a football base that brings in new ideas on attracting fans to home games and away games.

  10. Glad to find out now rather than later; IU needs a coach that values being at IU and help building a much better team. Someone posited getting Temple’s AD and their DL coach which would be a good move in both jobs.

    It is hard to know if Burton is staying due to family or more money. There are other very good DL coaches out there and we will have to see who IU ends up with.

  11. That’s an unpleasant surprise. I can pick’em, just can’t make ’em sign. I look for one of these 2 to fill the slot. Sean Cronin at USF or Brad McCaslin at Buffalo.

    1. Brad which one would be the best recruiter for IUFB? I take it both have the qualifications to move up in the football world as IU needs a guy that can really coach DL and recruit DL prospects.

      1. V13: Cronin just took job at Colorado State. I think the job is wide open at this point. Too bad Burton went back. I’m confident, especially after what happened, the next one, whoever it is, won’t get away. I also suspect it will be done very quietly. Personally, I’d like to get a guy with proven results within the Big 10 footprint. Like another poster pointed out, $ isn’t always the primary consideration. As a side, Fickel is waiting for Kelly to leave or be fired in South Bend. That’s the main reason he didn’t take the MSU gig + all of the drama going on in E. Lansing.

        1. Fickell will be waiting awhile if that’s truly his mindset. Kelly will retire from ND and won’t ever be fired. He dodged that bullet a few years ago.

          1. Maybe, but coaches holding out for their dream job sometimes spend a lifetime waiting for it. Passing on MSU May make sense for him, but Kelly is secure there for as long as he wants to coach, and that’s probably at least five more years or until he can contend for a national championship.

  12. Disappointing news. I really liked this hire and thought it made sense. I suspect money was a big issue. IU probably could not match what Burton was getting paid. So if the new head coach comes in and tells Burton, “I want you on my staff and here’s another $10K per year (or whatever sweetener he offered), then why make a move? Also, there’s the issue of working for a man who is far less experienced and younger. Our D Coordinator is a very young an inexperienced man, and many veteran (Burton’s been coaching for 24 years) position coaches may not be comfortable with that.

    I wonder if IU is going to go with a younger D-line coach and someone coming up from a mid-major program, or if they’re still looking for a veteran like Burton?

  13. Podunker – you hit on the major issue here, Indiana offensive and defensive cord are young in age and are fairly young in experience. How are they going to do against the more experience (s) coordinators and coaching staff (s) in the BIG 10? Also you are going to have a hard time finding a veteran staff willing to work with such young coordinators. This could also affect recruiting in that most recruits (athletics) have visions of going on to the next level and to go on to next level you either have to have more talent or learn how to play your profession/position (this is why I think Coy Cronk left for Iowa). A veteran coach can teach a player lots of things….that is why the Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, etc have veteran coaching staffs…players can learn and expect to go on to the NFL. This is why (one reason) you see more 4* and 5* recruits, commit to those programs. By not having a experience coaching staff could affect future recruiting.

  14. 79,
    I’m not so sure the young coordinators are as big a problem on the defensive side as possibly the offense. You have two things going for you on the D, the Wommack name and TA as the HC. They had no problem bringing in one of the best safeties coaches in the country with Jones. Wouldn’t surprise me if they dug into the Wommack tree coaching tree to pull out a line coach. The more position coaches you can get into place who immediately understand that system, the faster you will be up to speed.

    Not saying the young coordinators don’t present the challenges you mention, but their youth can also work to your advantage. It just depends on what they bring to the table in terms of character and creativeness to offset the apparent lack of track record. Do have some concerns about Sheridan at the OC, but how the offense performs this fall will answer that question.

    1. How did you make your assessment regarding Jones? I think he’ll help and that a shake up back there was needed, but your “one of the best in the country” sounds like you’ve seen him in action and know a lot about him. Thanks.

      As for Ron, IU jumped on someone who’s job was in jeopardy, he said yes because he wanted some security, and MT offered him a chance to stay. They and most other schools pay more, and this will be an issue unless IU brings the assistant pool up into the middle of the BiG. It’s the price of poker and IU must pay it or risk having trouble keeping the guys they want.

      1. BD,
        Yes, I have seen the results he produced and I know what stock Jones comes from which includes TA. Most of the guys coming out of the Wommack coaching tree are solid defensive minds. Unfortunately for Jones, he got caught up by the shenanigans of his former head coach which is unfortunate whether he was part of it or not, but that does not diminish what he was able to accomplish on the field. Lane Kiffen gave him a chance at FIU in the aftermath of the Ole Miss fiasco. Jones’ defensive backs acquitted themselves quite well in his time there, albeit against lessor competition.

        What speaks volumes about Jones is that Wommack had set him up as assistant DC in his last years there which tells us what he was grooming him for. Dave Wommack was one of the most respected DC’s in the SEC and that speaks for itself.

        1. Not knocking Jones, just haven’t seen or heard anyone make such a hyperbolic statement about him, which hasn’t been borne out by his results. Lots of people around the Ole Miss mess who conveniently pretended to not know what was going on.

          1. BD,
            No fan of Ole Miss or any other SEC program for that matter. Only thing different from Ole Miss than any other program is they were not good enough at it to avoid getting caught.

            As for the Wommack credentials, anyone who can field a defense good enough to beat Saban and Alabama 2 out of 3 years, and nearly the 3rd, is quite a DC.

          2. No dispute on his bonafides but those defenses had some players who shouldn’t have been there, and every coach there either knew that or should have.

          3. BD,
            No doubt about that, but that can be said of a great number of schools out there. It is just some schools are better at getting away with it than others. Anyone who thinks ncaa football is any less dirty than basketball is seriously naive.

  15. It’s not always just about money. The new MSU coach offered the Kentucky TE coach/recruiting coordinator one million plus, reportedly $250,000/$300,000 more than his current contract and he turned it down. MSU now has the sixth highest assistant budget in college football at $6.4 million. IU’s assistant compensation is 3 or 4 million less, making it difficult to retain staff members.

    What are the chances of keeping Wommack, Hart, Sheridan, or any other assistant if another program with deep pockets come calling?

    1. SOSD,

      You probably won’t keep successful assistants for long. The idea is to not have them leaving for a lateral transfer, in other words, you want them moving up the coaching ladder. Position coach to coordinator, coordinator to HC. Having successful movement of assistants through IUFB is not necessarily a bad thing if the guys are moving up to bigger and better things. The larger the TA coaching tree gets, the better. Main thing is keeping the HC position stable and the assistants at IUFB long enough to maintain continuity of success. Makes it easy when TA comes a calling to get the coaching talent he is looking for. Do need to keep the compensation competitive though.

  16. thinkaboutit,

    In theory that is how it is supposed to work, but if you’re an assistant coach in charge of running backs at IU making $400k, and a program like Clemson, Alabama, LSU, Georgia comes a calling and offers the exact same position with $700k in compensation I can’t see a coach passing that kind of increase up. The coaching profession is fickle and coaches they need to make the best financial decision for themselves and their family.

    Remember the BSU head coach who resigned to take an assistant position with Maryland after Durkin was hired. Was that a step down? I guess if you consider going from head coach to an assistant a demotion that is what it was, but if you look at the financial compensation he came out ahead.

    Don’t mean to hijack this thread so I will attempt to bring it back to the topic of who are the other DL coaches IU is possibly considering? Burton would truly have been a homerun hire. The guy won the top award for DL coach twice within the last five years. Is there anyone else out there close to Burton’s resume who would consider IU, and not break IU’s limited budget.

  17. I hope who coach Allen picks is a very good or great hire that wants to come to IUFB and build a great DL. I am sick of Coach Wommack moving DEs into coverage or rushing them inside the TEs to get caved down or rushing from inside positions thinking their ability to rush QBs or Husky in the DE position to rush the QB. He needs to leave players in their positions let then do their jobs instead of learning too many positions. Let them perfect their craft so they become very good at their positions. Coach Allen needs to reign him in although he used DE in coverage of the TE, leave the players in their positions. They can do what they want it is self defeating.

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