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“Football has given me everything I have," said Mel Tucker, after being introduced as Michigan State's next football coach The Detroit News

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East Lansing — Michigan State University students said Wednesday they hoped new coach Mel Tucker can turn around the football team, even though some preferred other candidates for the job or knew little about him.

Neil Weaver, a freshman, said he preferred other football coaches considered for the job. He predicted a few years of "struggling" ahead for the football program under Tucker, who was 5-7 in his first year at the University of Colorado and finished fifth out of six teams in the PAC-12's South division.

Michigan State has tapped Tucker to fill the shoes of Mark Dantonio, who led the team for 13 years before announcing his retirement on Feb. 4.

"You've got to start recruiting," Weaver said, referring to Michigan State's declining recruiting ranking by national experts during the past three years. 

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Tucker, an Ohio native who has assistant coaching experience in the National Football League, is known as a strong recruiter at Colorado and previous assistant coaching jobs at Ohio State and Alabama. Dantonio went 7-6 with the Spartans in 2019, a record that frustrated many fans.

"Our season was a little disappointing," freshman Nicholas Taylor said.

But Taylor said he didn't know enough about Tucker to judge his hire.

A change in the football program would be nice, sophomore Ben Brott said.

"Just looking forward to a new direction," Brott added.

Fellow sophomore Noah Kendra said he was excited about Tucker's hiring.

Dantonio was an "awesome" coach, Kendra said, but it's time to the turn the team around.

Multiple students said they would have preferred Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, who decided against leaving his team for Michigan State after a visit from MSU Athletic Director Bill Beekman.

"If I had to pick between Tucker and Fickell, I would have picked Fickell," sophomore Ben Alexander said. "I don't think it's the biggest loss in the world."

Alexander added that Tucker seemed like the type of coach who wouldn't "take any crap from anyone."

Tucker initially indicated he wasn't interested in the MSU job, but reconsidered after Michigan State officials came calling again after getting rejected by Fickell. The hiring process was "a mess," Weaver said. 

cmauger@detroitnews.com

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