Michigan State Football: Mel Tucker deserves Spartan fans’ patience

Mel Tucker, Michigan State football (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Mel Tucker, Michigan State football (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Mel Tucker didn’t exactly stumble into the ideal situation with Michigan State football which is precisely why he deserves patience from fans.

National Signing Day had come and passed and Mark Dantonio signed yet another group of lower-ranked guys with no true composite four-star. It seemed like he was trying to nail home another “chip on shoulder” class with the fanbase, but no one was all that pleased.

That’s not to say there wasn’t talent in the class led by former four-star (yes, he was dropped to a three-star) Darius Snow.

Shortly after, Dantonio decided it was time to hang up the whistle and retire from coaching which rubbed some fans the wrong way. He got a retainer bonus and then decided to retire shortly after signing day, leaving the Spartans in a tough spot with no coach and spring ball approaching.

Not many coaches were willing to take the leap after signing day and Bill Beekman found that out the hard way when it looked like he had Luke Fickell locked up only to have him turn down an offer.

And then he re-reached out to Mel Tucker who stated that he was going to stay at Colorado a few days earlier and Beekman and Michigan State made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, much to Buffaloes fans dismay. He accepted the offer and was introduced as the team’s next head coach a few days later.

When Tucker was hired, he was touted as an elite recruiter after spending some time coaching under Nick Saban at Alabama and MSU and Kirby Smart at Georgia. He was also an assistant at LSU and Ohio State after leaving East Lansing back in the late-1990s. He’s been around the block, knows the Midwest and has been known to recruit at a high level.

But a few weeks after accepting the Michigan State job and moving across the country, the pandemic hit. In-person recruiting was suspended and he was unable to develop serious relationships with recruits with face-to-face interactions, making his recruiting efforts even more difficult.

Tucker landed 10 commitments in about a month after Dantonio left him with a class of zero pledges. He had a red-hot spring, but they weren’t exactly blue-chip guys. He landed guys who Dantonio would have reeled in over the last couple of cycles, but he was putting in the work with his new staff to develop new relationships and scout brand new prospects.

But there has constantly been a knock on him from rival fans and even some Michigan State fans, “I thought he was supposed to be an elite recruiter.”

And this isn’t a fair statement for Tucker. He took over after National Signing Day with a 2021 class that had zero (!) commitments and he only had three weeks to recruit face-to-face before the pandemic hit. Not to mention, Michigan State was coming off back-to-back seven-win seasons and Dantonio had neglected some important in-state prospects.

That didn’t stop the doubters and naysayers from slamming him over “losing” out on Andrel Anthony, a three-star receiver from East Lansing who grew up a Michigan fan and a prospect who the Spartans made a strong push for only to fall just short. Tucker almost swayed the kid away from his favorite childhood team after just a few months of developing the relationship.

The same goes for Jamari Buddin, Damon Payne and Jaylen Reed. All three are elite 2021 prospects from Michigan who Dantonio neglected and Tucker got the Spartans back in the conversation.

That’s just the start.

Mel is making Michigan prospects a priority and they realized that and almost got convinced to join the Spartans after previously counting them out.

Now that he’s just landed his first four-star prospect in New Jersey-native Geno VanDeMark, fans are starting to realize that good things take time. It wasn’t fair to judge Tucker on just a few months of recruiting in which he wasn’t able to host recruits or take trips to see them. Patience pays off as he has one four-star committed and is trending for another.

This first class can’t be judged too harshly given the extreme circumstances that have hindered him every step of the way.

If you want to be harsh on Tucker, at least wait until year two or three of recruiting. And if he’s still landing 2020 Dantonio-esque classes, then you can be tough on the guy. But if he’s winning, all will be forgiven.

For now, let him at least prove himself before crucifying him and doubting his ability to recruit.

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