East Lansing — Just a day into his new job as Michigan State’s football coach, Mel Tucker made a bold move by trying lure Vince Marrow away from Kentucky.
Reports said Tucker offered the Wildcats’ tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator in the neighborhood of $1 million. On Friday afternoon, however, after Kentucky reportedly upped Marrow’s salary, the longtime assistant coach credited with being one of college football’s best recruiters announced he was staying at Kentucky.
“I’m staying home!” Marrow said in a post on Twitter. “Thank you for all of the love and support. … This is a special place and we have #UnfinishedBusiness.”
In the post, Marrow also thanked Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, athletic director Mitch Barnhart and Kentucky president Eli Capilouto.
While Tucker and Marrow had never worked together, they reportedly have been close friends for years. It led Tucker to push hard to make Marrow his first hire after taking the job on Wednesday, replacing Mark Dantonio who stepped down after 13 seasons leading the Spartans.
Marrow is an Ohio native that is regarded as one of the best in the country when it comes to landing players. He’s helped Kentucky win recruiting battles for a handful of Midwestern players over the likes of Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State.
Kentucky plucked three Detroit News Blue Chip players out of Michigan and Michigan State’s backyard in the 2020 class — No. 1 Justin Rogers, a two-way lineman from Oak Park; No. 10 Deon Buford, an offensive lineman from Detroit King; and No. 21 Earnest Sanders, a receiver from Flint Beecher.
With an assistant salary pool of around $6 million, it gave Michigan State the flexibility to make a run at Marrow. And considering the lack of momentum in recruiting — Mark Dantonio’s final class was ranked No. 42 in the nation by 247Sports.com — it would have been one of Tucker’s most important hires.
Marrow has been at Kentucky since 2013, but has also had college coaching stops at Toledo (tight ends coach, 2008) and Nebraska (tight ends, 2011-12). He's also coached in NFL Europe with Berlin and Rhein, from 2005-07.
As for the rest of Tucker’s staff, there has been very little news relative to members of his Colorado staff who might join him in East Lansing as well as members of Dantonio’s staff that might be held over.
Of the 10 Michigan State assistants from last season, it appears three have already moved on. Assistant defensive backs coach Terrence Samuel, who excelled as wide receivers coach before the offseason coaching shuffle of 2019, has reportedly taken the wide receivers job at UNLV. Defensive tackles coach Ron Burton has also reportedly taken the defensive line job at Indiana while offensive line coach Jim Bollman changed his Twitter bio to “Retired college and NFL football coach.”
That leaves the status of seven more assistants up in the air. Included in that group is assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Mike Tressel, defensive ends coach Chuck Bullough, defensive backs coach Paul Haynes, wide receivers coach Don Treadwell, tight ends coach Mark Staten, quarterbacks coach Dave Warner and offensive coordinator Brad Salem.
In addition to on-field coaches, at least two others in the program are moving on. Longtime strength and conditioning coach Ken Mannie announced on Thursday he was retiring while assistant athletic director and director of football operations Tim Allen indicated his departure on Twitter, saying “It was a GREAT run with some wonderful people — Players/Coaches and Staff.”
Allen singled out Dantonio, Warner, Samuel, Salem, Staten, Burton and Tressel in the post.
After his introductory news conference on Wednesday, Tucker talked about the timeline for filling out his staff and the types of coaches he would target.
“The sooner the better,” Tucker said. “But we’re going to be thorough. We are going to be very intentional and make sure we dot all our I’s and cross all our T's. But there’s no shortage of qualified individuals, great teachers, coaches and mentors, developers, recruiters.
“I told the players, I can't guarantee that I'm going to bring in every guru or some football genius. We want to bring in, first and foremost, coaches with tremendous character that are great role models for our players, family guys that care about young men; that are going to treat our young men as their own children, their own family. That's a big part of what we'll be doing in the next few days and I can assure you, there's no shortage of great coaches out there who want to be here with me and these young men.”