Picked to finish last in Big Ten East, Mel Tucker, MSU ready to get to work
Indianapolis — Mel Tucker isn’t looking for a free pass.
He’d likely be given one considering his first season as Michigan State’s coach was a difficult one.
Getting hired after national signing day, having off-season workouts and spring football shut down because of COVID-19 while preseason practice was cut short by the pandemic was difficult, to be sure. It all led to a 2-5 mark in Tucker’s first year after replacing Mark Dantonio.
But entering 2021, Tucker doesn’t want anyone making excuses.
“People tell me, ‘Coach, for you this is really like year one,’” Tucker said Friday during Big Ten Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium. “No, it’s not year one. It’s year two, and we've got to get this thing moving. There's a sense of urgency in our program and our building, and I’m excited about that.”
While that excitement might not exist far outside of East Lansing — the Spartans were picked to finish last in the Big Ten East in a recent media poll — there’s no chance of Tucker buying into the belief the Spartans won’t compete this fall.
He admits there’s plenty of work to be done.
“We're playing catch up,” Tucker said, “And the competitiveness on our roster, that has increased tremendously because of recruiting. Guys know they’re going to have to bring it each and every day in order to get on the field and that's what we want, and guys are embracing that. They know they're getting better, they know they're going to have to compete. We're just going to keep our head down and continue to go to work.
“We do have a chip on our shoulder, we really do, but we've got a lot to prove.”
And it won’t be done with much flash, according to Tucker.
“When you think about Michigan State football, you think of tough, hard-nosed, physical, meat and potatoes,” Tucker said. “Not a lot of French pastry. That’s what Michigan State football is all about — rugged, rust belt, it's a working program. … There's a certain brand of football that is expected at Michigan State. We recruit to it, we coach to it, that’s our culture.”
Fresh Spartan faces
Michigan State released its 2021 roster on Friday, and as expected, there were plenty of new names.
All 18 players from the 2021 recruiting class were listed, as were the 19 players brought in from the transfer portal. Included in that group is wide receiver Keon Coleman, who intends to play basketball, as well. He is wearing No. 0, along with freshman cornerback Charles Brantley. They represent the first Spartan players to wear the number.
Other roster items of note include Purdue transfer Maliq Carr, another player with intentions to play basketball, being listed as a tight end. He was a wide receiver at Purdue but at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, he has the athleticism to be a matchup problem for opponents at tight end.
Michigan State also added a pair of walk-ons: freshman safety Khalil Majeed and junior kicker Evan Johnson, an Okemos native who played at Division III Hope.