New Michigan State coach Jonathan Smith is finalizing a key addition to his new staff, as sources told ESPN that Minnesota defensive coordinator Joe Rossi is in line to be Smith's first defensive coordinator in East Lansing.
A source told ESPN that Rossi is expected to receive a three-year contract.
Rossi's expected hire brings an influx of Big Ten experience, as he's worked at Minnesota since 2017 and spent two years as Rutgers' defensive coordinator in the Big Ten in 2014 and 2015.
Three times in five full seasons as Minnesota's defensive coordinator Rossi's defenses have finished in the top 10 nationally in total defense.
He put together his best season as Minnesota's defensive coordinator back in 2021 when the Gophers finished No. 3 nationally in total defense. In 2022, they finished No. 8. That number dipped to No. 58 this year, as Minnesota battled a spate of injuries.
Rossi began his stint at Minnesota in quality control and coached the defensive line in 2018 for a season before moving up to defensive coordinator. His first full season as Minnesota's defensive coordinator in 2019 ended up being one of the best seasons in school history, as the Gophers went 11-2 and beat Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
That 2019 season marked the first of the three times that one of Rossi's defenses finished in the top 10 nationally in total defense. His defenses are primarily four-down fronts and have tended to put a premium on stopping the run. Since 2019, he's coached eight NFL draft picks, including unanimous All-American safety Antoine Winfield Jr. in 2019.
Smith comes from Oregon State having spent his entire season on the West Coast, as he's worked at Oregon State, Idaho, Montana, Boise State and Washington. He's brought a strong staff with him from Corvallis.
Smith's background is on offense, which made the defensive coordinator spot the logical place to include some Midwest experience.
Rossi has coached in the Big Ten since 2014 and is a Pittsburgh native and a graduate of Allegheny College.