Mel Tucker is changing the culture of Michigan State football and it has the program building some momentum.
Ah, it’s that time of year again. November. The lovely time of the year when Michigan State football and basketball seasons overlap. As an avid college sports lover, it’s a fantastic time of the year.
Michigan State football is pushing for bowl eligibility after battling back through a rough stretch of the season. Michigan State basketball is off to a strong start after just falling short to the No. 2-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs and stunning No. 4 Kentucky with a win in double overtime in the Champions Classic.
And although Spartan football has not reached the level of success many fans anticipated this season, there is reason to remain optimistic about the health of the program moving forward.
The Spartans sit at 5-5 on the season, which has come as a shock to many fans after going 11-2 last year. There is no hiding the fact that this season has been a disappointment. With the success of the last 15 years, Spartan fans’ expectations of the program have only grown, and for good reason. Although this season has not fulfilled the expectations of the fan base, there is still plenty of reason to believe we are headed in the right direction.
The main and obvious reason that Spartan fans can remain optimistic about the program is because of head coach Mel Tucker.
Tucker is an excellent leader of young men and is building a very strong culture within the four walls of the Scandalaris Center. A culture that is building a brotherhood of accountability, effort, and toughness. Building a culture as the CEO of a big-time football program is not easy. One thing that is imminent about the culture Tucker is building is that the players are buying in. Veteran players like Xavier Henderson and Payton Thorne exemplify the characteristics of Tucker’s culture each time we hear them speak.
The essence of the “keep choppin'” culture is permeating throughout the program at a high rate. The culture is proving to be strong by the way the Spartans have responded to adversity this season.
After embarrassing losses to Minnesota and Maryland, two matchups that the Spartans would usually dominate, the program was slapped across the face with adversity. When adversity hits, the response is usually very telling.
After losing four straight games after an optimistic start to the season, the Spartans’ season was on the brink of disaster. Sitting at 2-4 and looking ahead to a matchup with Wisconsin, there was not much to be excited about. Many believed the Spartans would win one, maybe two more games the rest of the season. Those doubts were warranted with the way the season was heading. Tucker and his players had different thoughts.
The players and the staff doubled down on the “keep choppin” mindset and did just that. They kept choppin’.
They did not lose focus or fold by any stretch of the imagination. The Spartans responded with a shocking win against Wisconsin, and it was obvious that they had found their footing again. This type of response is a true testament to the culture that is being built in East Lansing. Although they have not had the turnout they expected, the team shows up every Saturday and plays with energy, focus, and a relentless mindset. Through the unwavering effort to improve each week, the Spartans have massively improved the product on the field and have the chance to end the season with a winning record and play in a bowl game.
The other main reason to believe that our program is on the rise is the level of recruiting Tucker is executing, and the development of the younger players on the current roster. He has gotten the attention of high-level recruits that the program could not reach in the past. Mark Dantonio, Tucker’s predecessor, was solid on the recruiting trail as well, but not to the heights that Tucker is at. Week in and week out, the Spartans’ sideline is flowing with high-level recruits. He is building true momentum on the recruiting trail and that is a staple to a good program.
Watch for Michigan State to land more and more high-level players as Tucker’s tenure continues.
The latter to recruiting the right players to your program is developing them. Tucker and his staff have done a fantastic job of developing the underclassmen in the program. Several true freshmen have made an impact this season, especially lately. With the Spartans losing starters this season due to injury or suspension, younger players have had a chance to get their feet wet with in-game reps. A few names to keep an eye on moving forward are Germie Bernard, Zion Young, Malik Spencer, Dillon Tatum, and Jaden Mangham, among others.
Despite the adversity that the program has faced this season, there are concrete reasons to believe Michigan State football will be back.