Michigan State WR Coach Terrence Samuel Emerges As One of the Best

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As Spartan fans prepare to enter the Sacred Cathedral this evening (Spartan Stadium), one position people have questioned is the MSU wide receivers.  With big graduation losses last year, the MSU fans are wondering what the Spartans have on the perimeter for new QB Andrew Maxwell. I will give you all a snap shot by taking you inside a Spartan practice and into the meeting rooms.

At the end of last year I couldn’t give new WR Coach Terrence Samuel a grade. With the core of players he inherited in their senior year, it was hard what impact he had on such a talented and senior laden group. I said to him after the Outback Bowl that I was not against his hiring, but that the true test would come with a fresh batch of young pups he had to help become dogs. I asked Terry if I was being fair? Samuel wasted no time giving his answer. “I think you are absolutely correct.”

All spring I watched Terry “the teacher” go to work. With so many young players, I was curious to see Terry’s approach meshed with a young group. After watching him closely, I can tell you without hesitation, he is good. I like his style and approach. Coach Samuel is detail oriented and doesn’t tolerate mistakes. He isn’t a guy who jumps in your face with a furious flow of four letter words. He is quick to correct, a young man. He is quick to praise, but his best attribute is that he compels competition while fostering a family environment.

That was something I better understood about him earlier this year; I got a chance to see him interact with his own family. It was not a media event so I won’t give you the details. I will say that Jaclyn (Terry’s wife) is wonderful. Terry and Jaclyn have two sons Draven and Brooklyn. They do things the right way and it shows up in their kids. Terry treats his boys with compassion and attention to detail. He is a family man first. He is a man of character and integrity and it is those same values that he shows up on the practice field with his young wideouts.

Mark Dantonio told me in 2007 that when assembling a staff he looks for, “Great teachers, great understanding of the game… I want role models. I want men on my staff that these players can look to as role models. They love their families. (They need to be) great fathers if they have children… great husbands if they are married. Coaching is about so much more in college. It is about developing people on and off the field. I want our players to see our coaches as men they can be and want to be.”

Samuel fits Dantonio’s description perfectly. I don’t want to embarrass a player so I will not name them for this anecdote. There is a very highly talented WR on this team who wasn’t performing a drill correctly. Coach Samuel corrected the young man. When he made the same mistake again, Coach Samuel began to ride him pretty hard. There were no four-letter words. There was no screaming involved. Coach Samuel coaches everything. He coached this youngster on everything from how he wore his socks, to how he moved his fingers. At this level, the details need to become habit. Coach Samuel doesn’t let anything go unchecked.

After practice as they came walking by the media on the way to the locker room I watched stunned as the player ran up to his coach. They spoke briefly and Coach Samuel told him, “You need to remember that I love you.” After a hug they separated. That was it. There was no fan fare or fireworks. Samuel has taken a group with great talent, with little or no experience and made them into a unit.

Terrence Samuel is a great teacher. He won this job during his interview.  He walked into a room full of coaches and began teaching them his style, his values and his theory around coaching. He sounded like a Spartan.  That performance earned him the job. His character and his integrity earned him the interview in the first place.

Tonight the Spartan WR group begins a long road to elite status. They have a coach that can get them there. A.J. Sims said it best of Samuel, “He is a great coach and a better man. He teaches and makes the difficult things simple. Playing wide receiver isn’t easy, but he makes the process that way. I love coach.” Bennie Fowler said it better, “I love playing for him. He makes me better on and off from football. He pushes me hard and I like that.”

Coach Samuel probably won’t coach a Heisman winner this season, but he will have a group of kids that get better as the year progresses. Terry is going to produce leaders and role models. He makes this every bit as important as the game he coaches. He is a former Boilermaker star turned Spartan, in action, in deed and in character. So what are my thoughts on our WR coach? It was a great hire. He is special and the Spartan Nation is lucky to have him.