Opinion Roundtable: Analyzing The Hiring Of Mel Tucker At Michigan State
After being turned down by No. 1 target Luke Fickell and a couple of other candidates including the guy who ended up taking the job, Michigan State has its next football coach. Former Colorado head coach Mel Tucker reportedly turned down the Spartans the first time around but arrived in East Lansing a little earlier today as MSU's next coach. Tucker went just 5-7 last year during his first and only season as a college head coach, but he does check a lot of boxes for the Spartans. As we await his introductory press conference, what should Michigan and Michigan State fans, as well as the rest of the Big Ten, make of the hire?
I would call this hire "decent" — not great, not bad. I don't think the 5-7 record last year in his first year at Colorado is the big issue, I think it's more about him having just one year of head coaching experience. His resumé is pretty short in terms of being a head coach in college and that comes with inherent risks.
He's been billed as a really good recruiter and position coach at schools like Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ohio State. There are two ways to look at his success at those places. One, anyone would be successful at those places but two, he's got the job at those places for a reason. Big time, successful head coaches have trusted him at several stops and he's been able to succeed.
I'm surprised that Michigan State paid him so much but they were in a tough spot and wanted a change. He was on the initial short list and now he's the coach, so that needs to be looked at as a win. I actually think that MSU's willingness to give him such a big pool of money to hire assistants from might end up being a bigger deal than landing Tucker as the head coach.
All in all, it's a positive for the Spartans. The program was dying under Mark Dantonio and he wasn't making any of the tough decisions to stop the bleeding or improve things. I don't know if Tucker is going to be the guy to turn things around but he's got a better chance of doing it that Dantonio or Mike Tressel would've.
I wouldn't look so much at Tucker's record at Colorado last year. It's a program that has had losing records 13 of the last 14 years. However, I do think how poorly the Buffaloes played on defense is germane. That is Tucker's calling card, and Colorado slumped from 72nd in total defense all the way down to 95th. His first full recruiting class was about where Michigan State's much-panned 2020 haul was as well, and he only signed two high school players in the top 400 of the 247 Composite.
I don't care how someone recruited at Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, and Georgia, where Tucker previously coached in college, because those are perennially the top four recruiting programs in the sport. That doesn't tell me anything about how you'd do at a Michigan State.
Even his NFL record is mixed. He was a terrific DC for Jacksonville, but got ran out of Chicago.
It's a 'meh' hire, but Sparty could use some 'meh' right now instead of all the self-inflicted drama. But I think we have no idea what to expect until the full brunt of the Blackwell trial is known. There's already been NCAA violations alleged under oath, and attorney Tom Mars, now with the NCAA Enforcement, is representing Blackwell. Obviously a potential NCAA investigation would stymie Tucker's early recruiting efforts all the more.
Based on the salary numbers that came out - reportedly Tucker getting north of $5 million and a pool of over $6 million for his assistants - Michigan State realized its desperate situation and threw money at the problem. A lot of money. I think it's incredibly shortsighted to judge Tucker based off one season as the head coach at Colorado, for which he went 5-7 at a program that was 30-44 in the previous six years under Mike McIntyre. Tucker has a ton of experience as a defensive coordinator, played at Wisconsin and is from the Midwest originally. Those are all strong qualifications to, potentially, be successful in the Big Ten.
But let's be honest, Tucker was not Michigan State's first choice, or second, or third. And if he was such a great candidate, they would have made a bigger play for him a week ago, before Luke Fickell embarrassed the university with his flirtation and subsequent 'no thank you.'
As for predicting what Tucker will be, I'm reserving judgment because I don't think any of us actually know. In three years, it would not surprise me if he has proven to be a good recruiter and someone that has stabilized the program as the fourth best team in the East and seventh in the conference, qualifying for bowl games. It also wouldn't surprise me if his lack of experience, especially in a situation as handicapped as MSU appears to be at the moment, leaves the Spartans looking up at Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Indiana and Maryland in the next 3-5 years.
What do you think of the hire? What do you think is going to happen with Tucker at Michigan State? Comment below!!!