Mel Tucker can recruit and he’s a likable coach, but what must he do in order to turn Michigan State football back into a contender?
Joey Galloway was slightly bullish on Mel Tucker on Monday night when talking about his potential to turn the Spartans around.
The former Ohio State receiver turned ESPN analyst spoke during halftime of the BYU vs. Navy game on Monday night after he was asked which first-year coaches could turn things around. He spoke about Tucker and the fact that he’s taking over a program that has been at the top before and somehow lost its way for a few years.
Galloway called Michigan State a “program that’s used to winning” which is high praise and goes to show that even national media members believe the Spartans can contend with the right coach in place. He went on to say that he’s interested to see if Tucker can recruit well and get MSU back to the top of the Big Ten East.
So that begs the question, what must Tucker do in order to turn this team around (besides the obvious answer of “win”)?
- Recruit the state of Michigan well. This has been a department that’s been lacking for the past few years. Losing top recruits from Michigan to the Wolverines, Penn State, Notre Dame, the SEC and Ohio State needs to stop. If MSU recruits Michigan well, that’s a huge first step.
- Get the defense back to the top. Michigan State’s defense has been elite for years but took a step back in 2019. It was elite in 2018, solid in 2017 and decent in 2016. From 2012-15 it was top-tier. If the Spartans can get back to fielding top-10 defenses, the rest will take care of itself.
- Field top-60 offenses. Let’s just say Dantonio wasn’t able to do this over his final two years which led to a couple of disappointing seasons. Have a competent offense and elite defense and you have a Big Ten title contender again.
- Don’t play favorites. Whether it’s the coaching staff of veteran players, Tucker must avoid playing favorites. Just because a coach is a friend doesn’t mean he’s immune to the hot seat. No assistant’s job is 100 percent secure and if someone is falling short of expectations, they need to be addressed (Dantonio didn’t do this enough). The same goes with veteran players who probably aren’t as good as some younger guys but still get the starting nod. This can’t happen.
- Reel in top 25 recruiting classes. If you look at all the programs contending in the Big Ten East, all are consistently drawing in top 15-20 recruiting classes every year. While that would be nice, I’d say somewhere in the top 25 every cycle would be more than enough to compete, especially with the right coaching — and MSU has a great staff.
Galloway talked about some of this and it’s clear that all of it is possible, but won’t happen overnight. But if Michigan State wants to get back to contending in the East, these five things are musts.