For the past few years, Michigan State football has looked completely different than the team that we saw in the final two years under Mark Dantonio.
Unlike those 2018 and 2019 teams, the program under Mel Tucker hasn’t been quite as offensively inept — although some would argue that in 2022 — and the defense hasn’t been nearly as dominant. Those 2018 and 2019 teams under Dantonio had some of the best defenses in the country.
The secondary may not have been as effective as the run defense, but the Spartans’ defensive backfield was still really solid.
But then a lot of that talent departed after 2019 and Tucker took over a team that was filled with Group of Five and FCS talent and it showed right away with a 2-5 record in a COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. The next year, the secondary was arguably the only visible weakness on the team, giving up boatloads of passing yards week in and week out, forcing Payton Thorne to have a record-breaking passing touchdown season and Kenneth Walker III to win the Doak Walker Award.
Everyone was expecting improvement in 2022 in that secondary, but it was more of the same although it did improve later in the year. The inconsistency of some newcomers and familiar faces really hurt this unit.
In the 2022, 2023, and 2024 recruiting classes, however, it’s clear that Tucker is addressing that secondary rebuild that desperately needed to happen.
Michigan State football’s defensive backfield is loading up
Let’s just take a look at how the most recent recruiting classes have looked in terms of adding to the secondary.
- Dillon Tatum, 4-star S
- Jaden Mangham, 4-star S
- Caleb Coley, 3-star CB
- Malik Spencer, 3-star S
- Quavian Carter, 3-star S
- Ade Willie, 3-star CB
- Malcolm Jones, 3-star S
- Ameer Speed, Georgia transfer CB
- Chance Rucker, 4-star CB
- Eddie Pleasant, 3-star CB
- Sean Brown, 3-star CB
- Philipp Davis, 3-star S
- Semar Melvin, Wisconsin transfer CB
- Armorion Smith, Cincinnati transfer S
- Jaylen Thompson, 4-star CB
- Reggie Powers, 3-star S
- Syair Torrence, 3-star CB
- Camren Campbell, Currently unranked CB
As you can see, Jim Salgado, Harlon Barnett, and Tucker have been stockpiling talent in the secondary and, pretty soon, the staff won’t need to hit the transfer portal for as many depth pieces or even starting-caliber defensive backs — unless, of course, a big-time name enters the portal and shows MSU interest.
The secondary continues to get better under Tucker and it looks like he’s been really focusing on this unit over the past few classes.
Could we soon see a return of the ‘No Fly Zone’ in East Lansing?