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Michigan State football 2021 recruiting class: Where are they now?

Where are the 2021 class recruits now?



Michigan State football
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Mel Tucker’s 2021 Michigan State football recruiting class was his first and here’s where the players are now.

With the recent departure of Hamp Fay, I wanted to do a deep dive into Mel Tucker’s first true recruiting class during his time with Michigan State football. Bear in mind that this class was assembled over Zoom, with no true ability to assess the recruits in person. I also will only be looking at high school and JUCO recruits.

With that said, let’s see what the 2021 class has accomplished thus far.

Ma’a Gaoteote (LB)

Ma’a Gaoteote’s journey at MSU has been an interesting one, to say the least. After originally pledging to USC, he flipped his commitment over to MSU. He wound up as the highest-rated recruit in the class (No. 163). Following a quiet freshman year with just seven tackles, he entered the transfer portal, only to withdraw his name before his sophomore season. He again had a quiet outing in 2022 with just eight tackles.

Most recently, Gaoteote sustained an injury in the spring game, and his health status will be up in the air going into 2023. Most projected him as second string, however, there is a very deep linebacker room around him so he will need to compete hard for snaps.

Keon Coleman (WR)

Two words: Neon. Keon. This is the crown jewel of the class, and Mel’s only other four-star in 2021. Keon had a relatively modest freshman year, posting seven receptions for 50 yards and a single touchdown in garbage time against Ohio State. However, his sophomore season he exploded onto the scene with 58 catches, 798 yards, and seven touchdowns. Even better yet, he called his own shot saying that any ball headed his way was a 100/0 ball.

He shows a swagger both on and off the field, basically daring you to stop him. Many expect him to depart for the NFL after a big junior season.

Geno VanDeMark (OL)

Redshirted his freshman year. Played in 10 games in 2022, with a total of 215 offensive snaps. Earned starts at the end of the season against Penn State and Indiana. Projects to start at right guard entering this season.

Charles Brantley (CB)

Brantley was one of the top cornerbacks in the class coming out of Florida, and an early sign that Tucker was starting to expand MSU’s geographical reach further south.

During his freshman season, Brantley netted one particularly memorable moment. I would vouch most Michigan State football fans can tell you where they were when he secured the game-sealing one-handed interception against top-10 Michigan in Spartan Stadium. Following the interception, Brantley earned his first career start against Purdue.

Unfortunately, he sustained an injury during that game and sat the remainder of the 2021 season. He followed up with a strong sophomore campaign, with 11 starts, 48 total tackles, one sack, and a pick-six on likely top-10 NFL pick CJ Stroud.

Brantley is almost assuredly one of the two starters at corner heading into 2023.

AJ Kirk (S)

Redshirted his freshman year and did not see the field in 2022. Not projected to crack the top two rotation in 2023.

Ethan Boyd (OL)

Redshirted his freshman year. Played in 10 games in 2022 for a total of 23 snaps. Projected to be in the third-string rotation at right tackle.

Tyson Watson (DE)

Redshirted his freshman year. Transferred to UMass in 2022 where he did not play any snaps.

Derrick Harmon (DT)

Redshirted his freshman year while appearing in four games. Appeared in all 12 games in 2022, netting 28 tackles, two sacks, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery. His 468 snaps were the second most among MSU defensive tackles, and he is poised for a big season. Projected starter going into 2023.

Alex Okelo (DE)

Joined MSU’s recruiting class as a bit of a project with some questionable fundamentals for a defensive end. Transferred out after just a month into the 2021 season. Did not land on another roster.

Michael Gravely (CB)

Did not play in the 2021 season and transferred at the conclusion of the season. Did not land on another roster.

Davion Primm (RB)

Redshirted his freshman year. Briefly moved to defensive back before returning to running back in 2022, only playing one game. He will contend with Jalen Berger, Nate Carter, and Jalen Mangham for snaps. Given the abundance of talent in the running back room, I would not expect to see much of him on the field in 2023.

Hamp Fay (QB)

Redshirted his freshman year. After an injury, he switched positions from quarterback to tight end in 2022. Recently entered the transfer portal this week.

Antoine Booth (CB)

Redshirted his freshman year. Transferred to James Madison after one season.

Kameron Allen (TE)

Redshirted his freshman year. Transferred to SMU after one season.

Brandon Baldwin (OL)

High-level JUCO recruit who did not play his sophomore year. As a redshirt sophomore he played in nine games, logging 405 snaps. Was a starter at left tackle in five games in 2022 and is projected at starter heading into his redshirt junior year.

Kevin Wigenton (OL)

Redshirted his freshman year. Played in four games in 2022 and logged a total of 26 snaps between offense and special teams. Projected as the backup RG behind J.D. Duplain in 2023.

Carson Casteel (LB)

Redshirted his freshman year. Played in eight games his second year on special teams, and then transferred to Vanderbilt after the season.

Hank Pepper (LS)

The heir apparent to Taybor Pepper (no relation). Started all 13 games as a true freshman, proving to be a reliable asset early on. Played the first five games of 2022, then sat out the remainder of the season with an injury. MSU’s special teams suffered as a result, showing his true value on the field. Projects to be the starter going into 2023.

In summary

Of Mel Tucker’s 18 commits in the 2021 class, eight of them have now transferred out. Of the 10 who remain, six of them are projected starters. Three are in the 2-deep or 3-deep rotation. And only one is likely to not see the field.

In the age of the transfer portal, it’s not surprising to see heavy attrition from classes where situations did not work out. For the large majority of Michigan State football transfers, they either went to a lesser FBS school or down to the FCS. This is a sign that the players leaving were likely never a fit in the first place, and that the cream is rising to the top.

Tucker’s 2022 and 2023 classes are trending in a much better direction, with a combined 14 four-stars between them. But those who have stayed from 2021 are poised to contribute in a significant way. And Mel has plugged the holes with transfers until he gets his guys a season or two in the weight room. This season we will start to see some of the fruits of this staff’s development, and I am very much looking forward to it.


Michigan State football: Washington game time, channel announced

Fans won’t be too thrilled about the channel.



Michigan State football
© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington vs. Michigan State football rematch is on Sept. 16, and the Spartans have revenge on their minds.

The game time for the Washington vs. Michigan State football game was just announced and is one I think most Michigan State fans will be happy with. The game will kick off at 5 p.m. ET on Sept. 16.

This is a great start time for Michigan State fans. That will give fans plenty of time to travel to East Lansing, enjoy a tailgate and get into the stadium. On top of that, the game will get down around 8 p.m. ET which is good for the crowd that does not like to be out late.

However, I think a lot of fans were hoping for a noon start time in this game. A noon start would have been a 9 a.m. local time for Washington, likely giving the Spartans a slight advantage. It’s no surprise seeing this big of a game scheduled in the evening to avoid that.

On top of the game time announcement, where the game will be aired on TV was also announced. This is where the good news ends. The Spartans game against Washington will only be available for streaming on Peacock. That means Spartan fans at home will have to pay to watch this game. However, a simple Google search showed me that Peacock currently only costs $20 for the entire year. A lot of Big Ten football and basketball games will only be available on Peacock this season, so that may not be a bad investment to make right now if you can.

What would a win mean for Michigan State football?

Michigan State will have revenge on its mind in this game. Washington beat the Spartans last season in Seattle 39-28. The game however did not feel that close. Michigan State made a late comeback to make the final score look respectable, but a lot of fans will tell you we never really stood a chance.

Washington will likely be a top 10 heading into this matchup, so Michigan State has a great opportunity in front of it. A win would would help spring the Spartans into the conference season with a lot of positive momentum.

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Jordan Hall hosts second annual free youth football camp (Video)

Jordan Hall is a legend already.



Jordan Hall
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Michigan State freshman linebacker Jordan Hall continues to show just why he’s one of the best out there.

Jordan Hall is already showing signs of being the next great Spartan on and off the field.

The Michigan State freshman linebacker was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Va. However, he most recently moved to Bradenton, Fla., to play football at IMG Academy.

This past weekend, Hall returned home to Fredericksburg to host his second annual free Jordan Hall Youth Football Camp.

Hall has already been making a name for himself on the field for the Spartans this spring. His play and effort has been praised by fellow players and coaches alike. IMG Academy has a long history of producing high-quality athletes. This makes Hall’s tenure in the program even more noteworthy. He became the first three-time captain in IMG Academy history.

When coaches are recruiting players, they are hoping to find the perfect mix of talent and character. You don’t become a three-time captain of a storied school like IMG Academy without having both.

In a recent interview with Spartan Shadows, Cryeeta Hall said of her son, “One of his favorite things he loves to do is teach the game of football to kids. He loves to coach.”

Michigan State fans are excited to see what Jordan Hall can contribute on the field, but his character off the field so far is creating just as much excitement. When you see a young man with the heart and determination to give back to his hometown, it lets fans know this is the sort of player you can to rally around and support. Mel Tucker has shown intentionality in his recruiting. He has a specific type of player that he’s looking for. Jordan Hall epitomizes a Tucker type of player.

Hall has the potential to earn immediate playing time this year as a true freshman. I’m not a betting man but if I were, I’d wager that we’ll see him as a team captain for the green and white sooner than later.

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Mel Tucker is best coach in the Big Ten when it comes to one stat

This may surprise you.



Mel Tucker

Mel Tucker is the best coach in the conference when it comes to this one surprising stat.

Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker is one of the best coaches in the Big Ten when it comes to close games.

This may surprise some considering two of Tucker’s three years at Michigan State have resulted in losing seasons. But the data shows that Tucker knows how to come out on top when the game is close.

He has been at Michigan State since 2020. During that three year timeframe he boasts a 10-1 record in games decided by 10 points or less which is the best record in the conference during that span.

Here is a list of all 11 of those games:


  • at Michigan (W 27-24)
  • vs. Northwestern (W 29-20)


  • vs. Nebraska (W 23-20)
  • at Indiana (W 20-15)
  • vs. Michigan (W 37-33)
  • vs. Penn State (W 30-27)
  • vs. Pittsburgh (W 31-21)


  • vs. Wisconsin (W 34-28)
  • at Illinois (W 23-15)
  • vs. Rutgers (W 27-21)
  • vs. Indiana (L 39-31)

How impressive is this really?

A 10-1 record when games are within 10 points is extremely impressive. The only loss on this list is Indiana from last season, a game Michigan State likely should have one. The Spartans ended up losing in overtime to the Hoosiers, but were a chip shot field goal away from winning in regulation. That is a field goal college kickers make almost every time, so Tucker’s one loss on this list could easily have been another win.

Regardless, 10-1 is the best winning percentage in games decided by 10 points or less in the Big Ten during that three-year span.

This is how the rest of the Big Ten teams fared during this same timeframe:

  1. Michigan State: 10-1 (.909)
  2. Maryland: 8-3 (.727)
  3. Iowa: 11-5 (.688)
  4. Indiana: 7-4 (.636)
  5. Purdue: 12-7 (.632)
  6. Ohio State: 3-2 (.600)
  7. Michigan: 6-4 (.600)
  8. Minnesota: 9-7 (.563)
  9. Rutgers: 7-6 (.538)
  10. Wisconsin: 6-7 (.462)
  11. Penn State: 5-7 (.417)
  12. Northwestern: 5-9 (.357)
  13. Illinois: 6-11 (.353)
  14. Nebraska: 5-16 (.238)

What does this tell us about Mel Tucker?

One thing this tells us is the Tuck is a great in game coach in tight situations. No coach goes 10-1 in close games by accident. Sometimes there is a lot of luck involved with winning close games, but that’s not necessarily the case when you win them this efficiently. Anyone can close a game out when you are up by 20, but not everyone can win a close game in the closing seconds.

This statistic is not all good though. Michigan State has won 18 games during the past three seasons. This means that over half of the games Mel Tucker has won at Michigan State have been within 10 points. For a program with extremely high goals, that fact is a little scary.

As I mentioned before, sometimes luck has to be on your side to win these close games. So relying on winning a lot of close games to have a great season is not a recipe for success.

One things for sure though, as long as Mel Tucker is the coach at Michigan State, we stand a very good chance at winning any close game.

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