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Mel Tucker could take a page out of Tom Izzo’s book

Mel Tucker could take a page out of Tom Izzo’s book.

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Mel Tucker
© Nick King / USA TODAY NETWORK

Believe it or not, Mel Tucker is currently in a similar position to the one Tom Izzo was in before the 2022-23 season.

Coming off another ho-hum 23-13 season following a seventh-place finish in Big Ten play and second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament, Tom Izzo was facing a ton of criticism. It was his second straight mediocre season and he lost Marcus Bingham Jr. to graduation and Julius Marble to the transfer portal.

Not only did he lose two big men, but he also lost Max Christie to the NBA draft after his freshman campaign and Gabe Brown to graduation.

The team lost four guys who played meaningful minutes and two of them were expected to return in 2022-23 as potential starters.

All Tom Izzo did to replace them was bring in freshmen big men Jaxon Kohler and Carson Cooper. He placed all of his trust in third-year Mady Sissoko to handle the starting duties. Criticism rained down from a portion in the fanbase, saying that “the game has passed him by” or “Izzo is having a Mark Dantonio-like end to his career.” No one trusted his vision for the roster.

Izzo did target a couple of transfers in Jalen Bridges and Micah Parrish, but neither picked MSU.

How did he respond? All he did was lead Michigan State to a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten, earning a double-bye in the conference tournament, and the Spartans made the Sweet 16 and were one wild Markquis Nowell bucket away from an Elite Eight.

Now, the outlook of the program is at an all-time high and it’s because Izzo bet on himself.

You might be wondering what that has to do with Mel Tucker. The Spartans’ football coach is not a Hall of Famer like Izzo and doesn’t get the same benefit of the doubt, but the overall lesson is similar: don’t count a team or coach out before he gets a chance to prove himself.

Heading into the 2023 season, Tucker is fresh off a heavily-criticized campaign in which the Spartans went 5-7 and missed a bowl. Like Izzo, this came shortly after an incredibly successful season (Izzo’s was two years prior and Tucker’s was the year before). Tucker lost his quarterback and top receiver to the transfer portal and Jayden Reed headed off to the NFL.

Tucker, like Izzo, targeted a couple of transfers to help replace the departing talent in Tyler Harrell and Jahdae Walker, but neither picked MSU.

Like Izzo, Tucker seems to be rolling with his guys. And just like we saw with Izzo, the fanbase is criticizing him and calling for his job (many called for Izzo to retire).

I get it, Michigan State has had a rough offseason and Mel Tucker has been relatively quiet. The losses that this team has had have been tough, but there’s a reason Mel isn’t panicking: he trusts his guys and his staff.

It’s fair to be worried heading into the season with a brand new quarterback, an unproven receiving corps, and a defense that hasn’t exactly set the world on fire under Scottie Hazelton, but Tucker is bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in school history, a solid transfer class, and only really lost two main contributors from last year to the portal.

Being worried is one thing, but calling for Tucker’s job is just not it. He was hired and extended because the school believes he can win here. Mel himself believes he can win here. Let him try to win here.

Tucker has shown once already that he can win big and the worst thing that he could have done was win 11 games in his first real season because it caused fans to expect that every year. It caused everyone to become spoiled.

If he loses 7-8 games again in 2023, sure, you can say he’s not the right guy for the job and criticize him all you want, but give the guy some time to prove himself. He’s coached two real seasons of MSU football and one ended with 11 wins and a New Year’s Six bowl.

I’m hoping we all look back on this and laugh at the fact that people wanted Mel Tucker gone.

Not too long ago, Izzo was in a similar spot and look how that turned out.

Writer, co-owner of Spartan Shadows. Michigan State and college football expert at FanSided and formerly of The Detroit News. Expert on all things Michigan State. Connor Muldowney has written about Michigan State since graduating from the university with a degree in journalism back in 2013. Ten years of experience as a Michigan State writer/reporter.

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