Mel Tucker on Leadership in the Michigan State Locker Room

McLain Moberg

In 2019, Michigan State lost three starters from a unit that finished 10th nationally and were the country's best run stoppers.

It wasn't much different from how the Spartans kicked off in 2018, but there are more questions than answers in the upcoming season.

MSU returns three starters defensively (seven on the offense) and will be searching for new leaders on that side of the ball for the first time in a long time.

One of the obvious choices (offensively or defensively) is LB Antjuan Simmons, who led the team in tackles last season and enters 2020 with 156 career tackles – the most of any active Spartan.

"Leadership is important. On all the great teams, you will find great leadership. And when you have that, it does go a long way to helping to develop the rest of the team," Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker told reporters last week. "And so, Antjuan, for example, is a leader. He is a leader, he's bought into what we're doing, and then he's preaching and carrying the message to his teammates. And that's very, very helpful."

Tucker and his coaching staff have done a phenomenal job creating their culture where players responded positively during a transition period.

From everything Spartan Nation has heard, multiple players bought into the new system, ideals, and culture. They love Tucker's intensity on and off the field – Simmons included.

Leaders in the locker room are essential for numerous reasons, but one, in particular, is derivative of receiving meaningful advice from a teammate.

"Often times, a word or a message or a conversation from a teammate or from a peer may be as impactful or more impactful than that same type of conversation coming from a coach," Tucker said. "Developing leadership, putting guys in position to lead, that's going to be very important to our success. I do see a large number, a high percentage of the guys that are bought in to what we're doing. And I do see leadership emerging, especially as the practices, get tougher, that's when the leaders really start to step up."

Tucker is looking for leaders everywhere, and in the words of the new MSU head coach, development takes place not just on the football field but off of it as well.

"The development takes place in many different ways. It takes place off the field, in terms of socially, in terms of academics ... there's also development that takes place in the classroom with the coaches in the meetings, reviewing film, and teaching guys the scheme and how to study, how to take notes, and that's development," said Tucker. "And then in the weight room, development in terms of developing a faster, stronger, more explosive athlete so they can sustain and play hard for four quarters or more if needed. And then also the development on the field."

So, who will step up and join Simmons?

If there isn't a clear picture now, there will be in week one.

Tucker will make sure of it.

"A coach's job is to teach, motivate and develop players, and I've been very pleased with our staff, and I believe that our staff is able to do that at a high level," Tucker said.

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