EAST LANSING – When the Michigan State football players lined up to run sprints, it signaled the end of its open spring practice.
As fans began piling out of Spartan Stadium, coach Mel Tucker reflected on an essential part of MSU's offseason, saying, "We made the most of all the 15 practices we had; I feel really good about how efficient we were."
Entering his first year, Tucker didn't get a single spring practice due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nor could he implement a traditional fall camp, which lasted just five days before the Big Ten postponed the season and reinstated it later.
After not having the opportunities a new coaching staff is typically afforded, the Spartans have checked off multiple boxes, including an eight-week strength and conditioning program starting in January. Then MSU transitioned into spring, a period lasting five weeks.
Tucker continuously stressed the importance of "marginal gains," fundamentals, and cementing his culture.
"We kept preaching, just relentlessly every day; each guy getting one to two percent better … if you can do that collectively, that's how you have significant improvements," Tucker said. "So that's what we wanted to do this spring."
Following the end of Michigan State's spring semester, players will have three weeks off.
"Well, I'll probably be at home hanging out with my family. They've supported me in my journey; just being with them – I've sacrificed a lot of time due to COVID and football, being away from home, them not being able to come to games," defensive end Drew Beesley said. "I'm going to be with them for the majority of our time off."
Payton Thorne, a redshirt sophomore quarterback, competing alongside grad transfer Anthony Russo for the Spartan's starting job, is heading home with MSU receivers Cade McDonald and Jayden Reed. The three were teammates at Naperville Central High School and plan to work together while away from East Lansing.
"In the time off, I'll be home … they'll (Reed & McDonald) be home with us," said Thorne. "We're going to have some guys stop by in Naperville coming through from the offense and maybe a couple of guys from the defense."
Head strength and conditioning coach Jason Novak is scheduled to lead the Spartans in an eight-week summer program when they return.
"We have confidence in what they tell us to do, and so we're going to go do it," Thorne said. "It's going to be key that we work our butts off this summer to get ready for the fall, and I know that's something we're going to do."
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