Mel Tucker, staff still working 'around the clock' as MSU's recruiting efforts continue

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — As Mel Tucker has said many times, recruiting never stops.

That was obvious on Wednesday when the first day of the early signing period saw Michigan State sign 22 high school players to the 2022 class while adding four players from the transfer portal.

And while that group will make up the majority of the class, the work is hardly complete.

Mel Tucker

“This is really the lion's share of the group, that's the bulk of the group,” Tucker said this week. “There may be a little bit of a drip, drip kind of as we go, all the way up into our summer program.”

At that moment, Tucker was still waiting on word from at least two more players — five-star offensive lineman Kiyaunta Goodwin and four-star wide receiver Armani Winfield. Neither fell in Michigan State’s favor as Goodwin eventually chose to stick with his commitment to Kentucky and Winfield opted to sign with Baylor.

But even with most of the work on the class done, there is still another signing period in February along with the constant monitoring of the transfer portal.

“It's around the clock and actually is still ongoing as we speak,” Tucker said. “The hay is not in the barn yet.”

With 26 players already part of the class, Michigan State would technically have room to add up to six more since teams were allowed seven extra initial counters in this cycle to make up for losses in the transfer portal. Initial counters are any players signed out of high school or the transfer portal.

In the past, teams have been limited to 25 initial counters but the NCAA allowed for a one-year exception, giving teams up to another seven slots. Since Michigan State has already lost 11 players to the portal, it would be allowed all seven additional spots.

Whether Tucker and the Spartans use all the remaining openings remains to be seen.

“It’s fluid," Tucker said. "I’m not sure about the exact number but we are looking to add a few more pieces at a couple more positions so we will have to see who becomes available.”

More: How Kenneth Walker III went from second-stringer to MSU All-American, NFL prospect

When it comes to uncommitted high school prospects, the names still left on the board haven’t exactly been leaning toward Michigan State. But with the way Tucker and his staff pulled guys just before the early signing period like defensive back Malcolm Jones and defensive end Zion Young, it’s probably unfair to rule the Spartans out.

Still, it would take some work to get back in the mix with some prospects like five-star linebacker Harold Perkins, who took a visit to Michigan State but recently narrowed his finalists to Texas, LSU and Texas A&M. Others like running back Andrew Paul out of Dallas, Belleville cornerback Jeremiah Caldwell or Dearborn Fordson offensive lineman Ka’Marii Landers could fall in that group as well, but the focus for Tucker and his staff is likely turning to the transfer portal and 2023.

The portal proved fruitful for Michigan State last offseason as it landed running back Kenneth Walker III, who helped turn the offense, and the team, around on his way to winning the Walter Camp Award.

The portal proved fruitful for Michigan State last offseason as it landed running back Kenneth Walker III, who helped turn the offense, and the team, around on his way to winning the Walter Camp Award. The Spartans also added other key contributors like tackle Jarrett Horst, linebacker Quavaris Crouch and cornerbacks Ronald Williams, Chester Kimbrough and Marqui Lowery.

They’re off to a good start there with the signing Wednesday of running back Jalen Berger (Wisconsin), linebackers Jacoby Windmon (UNLV) and Aaron Brule (Mississippi State) and defensive end Khris Bogle (Florida).

It’s probably a safe bet to say the Spartans aren’t done with the portal.

“We know a lot more about our team,” Tucker said. “We know what our needs are, where we have immediate needs, where we need more depth, where we can afford to develop some guys. … We've been through it before. So it's just a matter of making sure that we just don't collect players, but that we're building a team.

“There's a lot of players that want to come here. Right now, we only have so many spots, and we have to be very judicious in who we add to the mix, because we have to make sure that our roster is balanced and that we have enough players, enough difference-makers, at each position.”

More: Wojo: Amid recruiting chaos, Michigan, Michigan State steady and strong

And coming off a 10-win season with a chance for 11 when No. 10 Michigan State takes on No. 12 Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 30, the momentum is already in full swing for the 2023 class. It’s something MSU’s coaches have already been working on and currently four-star tight end Brennan Parachek of Dexter is the only player committed.

“We believe the 2023 class, for us, is going to be a very strong class,” Tucker said. “We already have pretty strong name recognition with the prospects and their families and their coaches and we are going to be able to get in on more of the very, very top players in the country than before. We will not only be able to get in, but we will be able to stay in it. So the top of our board will be more robust and that should bode well for the 2023 class in terms of it strength and probably, at the end of the day, its ranking.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau