This Is The Biggest Moment Yet For Mel Tucker At Michigan State
In his first two seasons at Michigan State, Mel Tucker has beaten his arch-rival twice, won a New Year's Six bowl game, and been in the Big Ten title race into November this past year.
Those are all big moments for a coach and program not far removed from a 2-5 campaign in 2020. But despite that, the biggest moment Tucker has faced as Michigan State's coach is the one that's transpiring right now.
In June, Tucker will host some 40-plus recruits on official visits at Michigan State. They include 35 Top 500 prospects, 29 of whom are rated as 4-stars or better. They come from 15 different states.
That kind of recruiting spate is unheard of at Michigan State. In recent years, the NCAA has allowed official visits to commence in June. But Tucker is taking that to the extreme this month, because he realizes the magnitude of the moment.
After the Spartans were humiliated by Ohio State (56-7) in Columbus last season, Tucker was asked in his postgame press conference what he and his program had to do to be able to compete and eventually win games like that. He delivered a blunt, pithy response encapsulating the issue that will likely define his legacy at Michigan State.
"Recruiting is where we're gonna close the gap," he said. "We need more depth. We need more guys who can win one-on-one...and I don't think that's news.
"We're gonna recruit like crazy. We're gonna be relentless in doing that. We're built to recruit at a high level. Big picture, that's what we need to do — we need to recruit like crazy."
Fast-forward seven months from that game, when his Spartans didn't look like they belonged on the same field as Ohio State, let alone like they measured up — the score was 49-0 in the second quarter — Tucker is making good on those designs.
MSU is going head-to-head with the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, and Notre Dame, among others, for many of the 40-plus players taking their OVs to East Lansing in June. Tucker is swinging for the fences in his first recruiting season not limited by the pandemic.
By some recruiting publications' measures, Michigan State has more 4-star prospects on OVs in June than any other college football program. If Michigan State is going to challenge the Buckeyes in the Big Ten and make noise on the national level, Tucker will need many of those kinds of players in order to increase the talent profile of this program.
After going 2-5 in his first year, Tucker produced Michigan State's first Top 25-ranked recruiting class since 2017. He leveraged the transfer portal to remake the team from a 2-5 dud to an 11-2 success over the course of one offseason.
If he was able to make those strides while just selling hope, will he be able to recruit the Spartans' way to the big-boy table now that he can sell results?
We're about to find out.