Michigan State Football: Antjuan Simmons could be first “great” of Mel Tucker era

Antjuan Simmons, Michigan State football (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Antjuan Simmons, Michigan State football (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Mel Tucker era may get off to a slow start but 2020 will yield the first Michigan State football great under the new head coach.

Every era under a coaching staff yields “greats” and all you have to do is look back at the Mark Dantonio era for proof.

When he took over, the program was in a bad place, but he made a bowl in every season with the exception of 2016 and he couldn’t have done that without the building blocks from his early teams. Javon Ringer was his first “great” on the offensive side of the ball and Greg Jones was just that on defense for the Spartans.

In fact, when you look back at the Dantonio era, those guys are sometimes forgotten because they were in East Lansing in the first couple of years under the then-new head coach and fans often suffer recency bias.

With Mel Tucker taking over in 2020, he’ll be looking for his first offensive and defensive “greats” and he might just get the latter immediately in Antjuan Simmons.

What makes Simmons “great”

Through his first two seasons at Michigan State, Simmons was relatively quiet. He had a total of 65 tackles, two tackles for loss and an interception but he truly broke out in 2019. He finally got his chance to start and finished first on the team with 90 total tackles to go along with 15 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two pass deflections.

In just one year, he went from solid backup to star defender. It only took him one season to go from a role player to a household name in East Lansing.

On top of all that, he’s a tremendous leader. He’s vocal, his teammates love him and he’s already earned the respect of his new head coach. As the new leader of the defense with Joe Bachie, Raequan Williams, Josiah Scott and Kenny Willekes gone, Simmons will see his numbers balloon.

Simmons always had that potential to be great, but we finally saw it when he got a real chance in 2019 and he’s only going to get better.

When we look back at the Tucker era — or at least the start of it — we will be able to pinpoint Simmons as one of the best defenders the head coach ever had.

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