Trieu: New Michigan State coach Mel Tucker established as 'terrific recruiter'

Allen Trieu
Special to The Detroit News

It does not take long to see what Mel Tucker has done as a recruiter at Colorado.

Tucker signed the nation’s No. 35 recruiting class in 2020. The Buffaloes also finished 35th in the 2017 class, but prior to that, had not finished that highly since 2008.

It is a diverse class as far as where the recruits come from. Ten states are represented: Texas, Georgia, Colorado, Louisiana, Arizona, Massachusetts, California, Ohio for high school recruits and Kansas and Mississippi for junior colleges. The Buffaloes also signed a punter from Prokick in Australia, which is where Michigan State signed Jack Bouwmeester from in the 2019 class.

Tucker is originally from Ohio, a state the Spartans have heavily recruited. At one of his early coaching stops at Ohio State, he recruited the Cleveland area and signed future NFL Draft choices Ted Ginn Jr., Malcolm Jenkins and Anthony Gonzalez. He was also one of the recruiters for Vernon Gholston, who signed with the Buckeyes out of Detroit Cass Tech and developed into an NFL first-round draft choice in 2008.

Colorado head coach Mel Tucker put together the nation's 35th-ranked recruiting class in 2020.

Jim Tressel called him “a terrific recruiter.”

Colorado’s top-ranked signee in the 2020 class was New Orleans (La.) Warren Easton running back Ashaad Clayton, a four-star prospect who held offers from Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Texas A&M, Tennessee and many more. He took a late official visit to Florida following his verbal commitment to Colorado. A home visit with Tucker and running backs coach Darian Hagan helped keep him in the Buffaloes’ class.

"The coaching staff over there (at Colorado) is great, and Coach Mel Tucker is a great dude,” Clayton told 247Sports.

In addition to Gholston at Ohio State, Tucker also had success in recruiting the state of Michigan at Colorado. In his first class in Boulder, a shortened recruiting cycle, he retained running back Jaren Mangham from Cass Tech. Mangham was committed when he took the job, but nearly took a look around during the coaching change.

"Coach Tucker reaching out right after he got the job meant a lot and I have enjoyed building a relationship with him. He is a great guy,” Mangham said at the time.

The Buffaloes also flipped Belleville linebacker Marvin Ham, who was verbally committed to Boston College. They had to work quickly to get that one done as the early signing period was approaching.

“Tucker, running backs coach Darian Hagan and inside linebackers coach Ross Els all worked to convince Ham to take an official visit to Colorado the weekend prior to the early signing period,” BuffStampede’s Adam Munsterteiger said. “During his 48 hours in the Centennial State (Colorado), Ham fell in love.”

Tucker has a variety of connections to different parts of the country which will help him in recruiting. Georgia, a state that Michigan State has recruited with success in the last few cycles, is another. Tucker was a good recruiter during his stop at Georgia, securing commitments from top prospects like DeAngelo Gibbs and Lewis Cine.

His NFL resume, along with the many All-Americans he has coached at the college level, should catch the attention of recruits.

Included in this year’s class is wide receiver Brenden Rice, who had Arizona State and Michigan among his contenders.

Perhaps the best recruiting victory was defensive end Jason Harris, who is from Arizona and an Arizona legacy (his father played football and mother played basketball there) whose brother plays for the Wildcats, but chose Colorado anyway largely because of Tucker.

“In the state of Colorado, Tucker was known as a highly personable coach with energy and enthusiasm,” said 247Sports analyst Blair Angulo, who covers recruiting in the Mountain Region. “He quickly established relationships in and around the Denver area, knowing he needed to lock down as many of the top prospects he could.”

High on his priority list now will be putting together a staff of strong recruiters, but there is little doubt Tucker’s own resume as a recruiter should instill confidence that recruiting will be a point of emphasis for him as Spartan head coach.

Allen Trieu covers Midwest football recruiting for 247Sports. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at