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CBS Sports includes Mel Tucker on list of “hot seat” coaches

Is this fair or foul?



Mel Tucker
© Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

CBS Sports ranked all head coaches on a “hot seat” scale and Michigan State’s Mel Tucker didn’t get a great review.

It wouldn’t be the offseason without “hot seat” lists.

CBS Sports recently released an article that included a list of college football coaches that may be on the “hot seat.” The article had a scale of 0-5.

5 Win or be fired
4 Start improving now
3 Pressure is mounting
2 All good … for now
1 Safe and secure
0 Untouchable

Mel Tucker was listed as a “3” which means “pressure is mounting.” The comments on Tucker’s tenure read:

“There might be only two people who can decide on Tucker’s future: boosters Mat Ishbia (owner of the Phoenix Suns) and Steve St. Andre. Nineteen months ago, their contributions made Tucker one of the highest-paid coaches in ball (10 years, $95 million). Is Tucker the portal king who went 11-2 in 2021 or the disappointment who dropped to 5-7 in 2022? For the money, he better be the former.”

So let’s examine these claims from CBS. Is pressure, in fact, mounting with Mel Tucker?

Mel’s tenure with Michigan State started out on rocky ground. After taking over the team from Mark Dantonio who quite frankly was in autopilot his last couple of years, Tucker inherited a roster in need of a near full revamp. You mix this in with a global pandemic and it’d be almost an impossible situation for any coach. College football recruiting is hard enough, but it’s especially tough when your only medium is Zoom.

In spite of this, Tucker was able to create some positives for the program.

Examples such as Connor Heyward preparing to leave Michigan State. Mel and Co. were able to not only convince him to return but also to switch roles on the team. Heyward would switch to tight end and eventually be selected in the NFL draft. Tucker’s staff deserves all the credit for developing Heyward into a pro.

This past NFL draft the Spartans watched as Jayden Reed was selected in the second round of the NFL draft. Tucker didn’t bring Reed into MSU but his staff put him in a position to produce well enough to boost his draft stock.

Lastly, of course, we have the transfer portal darling Kenneth Walker III. He was an incredible find by Tucker. The Doak Walker Award winner came in and quite literally from his first snap made Tucker look like a transfer portal wizard. He would go on the be drafted in the second round of the NFL draft himself and had an extremely productive rookie season.

We’ve seen Tucker not only be able to identify talent but also develop talent. This is exactly what you want in your head coach.

To the article’s point, going from 11-2 to 5-7 is a big step in the wrong direction.

Last season’s record left a bad taste in the mouths of fans but it’s not without explanation. Injuries are a part of football. However, they were a big storyline for the Spartans last year. Michigan State was forced to juggle its offensive line nearly weekly in part to injuries. The defense would sustain major injuries to key players such as Darius Snow and Xavier Henderson. The team’s starting quarterback injured his ankle in one of the first games of the season and it lingered all year long. Payton Thorne’s injury impacted his mobility which was a recipe for disaster behind an offensive line struggling to find continuity.

Make no mistake, Michigan State was bad last year. The point, however, is to not rush to judgment and lose sight of the positives, too.

Tucker had back-to-back recruiting classes that finished 26th or higher. The 2024 class is gaining momentum and could easily become the third straight class to finish that high. If that in fact happens, it would be the first time in program history with three consecutive classes ranked that high.

The Spartans are in the midst of a quarterback change and entering the season with one of the hardest schedules in college football. While records matter, fans should be paying more attention to player development and seeing young players morph into foundational centerpieces for the Spartans teams of the future. If the Spartans don’t finish with a record near 11-2 this season, it likely won’t come as a shock to anyone. The key, though, is seeing the program take a step forward in areas that will continue to translate beyond this year.

The reality for Tucker is, he wouldn’t be considered a part of lists like this if it wasn’t for his historic contract extension. A lot of people that didn’t contribute a dollar towards it have a lot to say about it. The university knew Mel had an uphill battle with a rebuild and they compensated him accordingly to keep him here long enough to see the job completed.

In my opinion, I believe fans need to wait until the conclusion of the 2024 season to begin making these types of claims about Mel’s seat and its temperature.