“Football has given me everything I have," said Mel Tucker, after being introduced as Michigan State's next football coach The Detroit News
Former Canton standout defensive lineman Darius Robinson had a big decision to make on the Early Signing Day in December 2018. He had multiple offers, including Colorado and Missouri, with Michigan State also coming on late in the process.
Robinson took an official visit with Detroit Cass Tech running back Jaren Mangham and Belleville linebacker Marvin Ham II to Colorado to visit with the coaching staff, which included newly hired head coach Mel Tucker, in mid-December 2018.
And while Mangham and Ham opted to play for Tucker at Colorado, Robinson decided to play at Missouri, not because he didn’t like Tucker, but because he wanted to enroll early and compete in the SEC.
Robinson struggled with his decision since he built a relationship with Tucker while he was defensive coordinator at Georgia, and also after Tucker made a house call to Canton to visit with Robinson and his family after he got the head coaching job at Colorado.
“Coach Tucker was at Georgia for a long time and had a history in the SEC and that’s where I originally had built my relationship with him,” Robinson told The Detroit News on Wednesday, after Tucker was named head coach at Michigan State. “He was a real good guy, and then he came to my house when he was first announced as the coach at Colorado, and had a good relationship with my family.
“I actually took a visit out in Colorado, but just wanted to play in the SEC. Coach Tucker knew how to communicate with people. He’s a real good guy, genuine. He was honest with me. It’s crazy really, especially since he recruited me at Colorado and I had an offer from Michigan State, and now he’s at Michigan State.”
Robinson thought he landed in a secure spot at Missouri. When he signed, Missouri was 8-4, ranked No. 23 and set to play Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl.
It seemed Barry Odom had done a solid job of building Missouri’s program, going from 4-8 in his first season in 2016 to 7-6 in 2017 and then 8-5 after losing to Oklahoma State. The Tigers got off to a 5-1 start this past season but struggled to a 6-6 finish and Odom was fired and replaced by Eliah Drinkwitz.
“We just had a coaching change too – it’s just really showing you how it’s a business,” Robinson said. “I was just talking to a few people about it back at home, how a year ago you would have never thought this would happen, but it is what it is in college football.”
Robinson is not certain he will finish his college career at Missouri.
“I plan on it but everything is just day to day,” Robinson said. “It was sad when Coach Odom left – he recruited me – and he’s at Arkansas now (defensive coordinator), but my position coach (Brick Haley) stayed so I’m getting ready for spring ball.”
Mangham and Ham were upset with Tucker’s departure, with Mangham saying on Twitter: “I stopped believing in a man’s words a long time ago … not (going to) change my goals and aspirations.”
Mangham then added a few hours later: “I really feel bad for the 2020 kids that put they destiny in another man’s hands. @NCAA needs to fix this BS.”
Mangham didn’t immediately respond to messages left by The Detroit News on Wednesday.
Mangham rushed for 441 yards (107 carries) as a true freshman, including 77 yards in his first start against UCLA and 44 yards and two TDs against Nebraska.
“He’s a great guy, very personable,” said Marvin Ham, Marvin II’s father, of Tucker. “We’re the same exact age and we’re both from Ohio and Coach (Darian) Hagan played with a guy I played in college with, so it was just a good fit for my son.”
Marvin Ham said he was surprised Tucker left Colorado so suddenly.
“Still in shock right now,” he said. “They have a great recruiting class (No. 35 nationally, per 247Sports), probably one of the best they’ve ever had, and we were looking for big things. Marvin was with the twos (second string) all last year learning the system, so he’s going to be a big part of the defense this year.”
Shock also has to be what Colorado receiver Brenden Rice feels. Brenden Rice, the son of Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, signed with Colorado in December.
Brenden Rice played high school football at Chandler Hamilton in Arizona for former Walled Lake Western veteran coach Mike Zdebski.
Zdebski, too, was impressed with Tucker.
“He presents a great program and a great vision because he had Rice sold on how Colorado was the place to go,” Zdebski said Wednesday. “He’s a very personable guy. He’s been in the building (Chandler Hamilton) a few times and he’s energetic, he’s very positive and very approachable.”