Get to know new Michigan State coach Mel Tucker, recruiting guru and seasoned speed dater
Mel Tucker is set to be named the 25th head football coach in Michigan State's history, and the first new one in more than a decade following Mark Dantonio's 13-year run.
Tucker arrives in East Lansing from Boulder, Colo., where he was head coach at Colorado for one season.
Here's a quick primer as Spartans fans get to know Tucker.
Tucker only has one year of head-coaching experience at the college level, and a brief stint at the NFL level, when he was interim coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But Tucker has a long list of healthy references on his resume.
Tucker has worked with the legendary Nick Saban at three levels, including in Tucker's first stop, as a Michigan State graduate assistant in 1997-98. Tucker then joined Saban at LSU for a year in 2000, as the defensive backs coach, and then they reunited again at Alabama, in 2015, as the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach.
"I've known Mel for well over 20 years and he is one of the brightest coaches in our profession," Saban said last year. "A guy with a great personality, who knows college football, works hard each and every day, and does it with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and positive energy."
Tucker also has worked under Jim Tressel at Ohio State (where he was the defensive backs coach, under a defensive coordinator named Dantonio), Romeo Crennel with the Cleveland Browns, Jack Del Rio with the Jaguars, and Kirby Smart with Georgia. Tucker was on national championship staffs at Ohio State and Alabama.
One of Tucker's top qualities is his ability to recruit, and make no mistake, that trait was at the top of the list as Michigan State brass went searching for a new coach.
During his tenure at Georgia, 247Sports ranked Tucker the No. 14 recruiter in the nation. At Colorado, he had the nation's 44th-best class, per 247Sports, in 2019, and had the 35th-best for 2020. That's a stark improvement over the year before he arrived, when it was 53rd.
Among those he has recruited include first-round NFL Draft picks Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez, Vernon Gholston and Malcolm Jenkins.
MSU's recruiting ranks have been on a step decline since being ranked No. 17 in the nation in 2016.
Tucker's college football ties start with the Big Ten, as the former defensive back (safety and cornerback) was part of the first recruiting coach of Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez.
Tucker played three seasons at Wisconsin, 1991-92 and 1994. He missed the 1994 season with a broken leg, and thus missed Wisconsin's trip to the Rose Bowl.
For his career, he had 47 tackles and four pass deflections.
He graduated in 1995 with a degree in agricultural business management and tried to break in with the Canadian Football League, but a bout of chicken pox derailed that and he transitioned into coaching.
Michigan State had to come back to Tucker a second time to seal a deal. He turned them down the first time.
Get this: He had a faster courtship with his eventual wife. Set up on a blind date by a Wisconsin teammate, Tucker proposed to JoEllyn Haynesworth on their first date.
“She was in law school, she was nice looking. I got to know her before we met. She never told me what I wanted to hear. I respect a person who tells you straight,″ he told Jacksonville.com.
The Tuckers have two sons who were born on the same day, but aren't twins. Joseph turns 18 and Christian turns 16 on Feb. 18.
Tucker is one of 13 black head coaches out of 130 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision. He is MSU's second black head coach, after Bobby Williams, who had the job from 1999-2002. Tucker and Williams crossed paths on staff at Michigan State in the 1990s and again at Alabama in 2015.
Tucker has another tie to Williams, in that he has the least amount of head-coaching experience for a Michigan State football coach since Williams, who had none.
Tucker is the first MSU head coach to have previous ties to the NFL since Saban, who came to East Lansing in 1995 after a run as Browns defensive coordinator. Most recently, Tucker was defensive coordinator for two seasons with the Chicago Bears.
The Mel Tucker file
Age: 48 (Jan. 4 1972)
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
High school: Cleveland Heights
Coaching resume: 1997-98, Michigan State (grad assistant); 1999, Miami (Ohio) (defensive backs); 2000, LSU (defensive backs); 2001-04, Ohio State (defensive backs, co-defensive coordinator); 2005-08, Cleveland Browns (defensive backs, defensive coordinator); 2009-12, Jacksonville Jaguars (defensive coordinator, interim head coach, assistant head coach/defensive coordinator); 2013-14, Chicago Bears (defensive coordinator); 2015, Alabama (assistant head coach/defensive backs); 2016-18, Georgia (defensvie coordinator/defensive backs); 2019, Colorado (head coach)
Family: Wife JoEllyn, sons Joseph (17) and Christian (15)