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Mel Tucker Notes Standouts From MSU's First Live Scrimmage Of Fall Camp

Some names were familiar, others are new additions...

Michigan State football had its first inter-squad scrimmage of fall camp this past Saturday, and head coach Mel Tucker was pleased with the effort of his players and coaching staff.

“I liked what I saw,” Tucker said. “We had some guys really competing hard. I feel like we’re getting better as a football team. Our coaches are coaching hard. We’ve got a lot of buy-in out there. Guys are running around, playing fast, playing hard and just a lot of bright spots out there.”

There were plenty of familiar names that were “bright spots” for Tucker, but several new guys may have taken steps towards separating themselves in tight competitions as well. One of those guys was Wisconsin transfer running back Jalen Berger.

“I was pleased with the way we ran the ball at times with some guys,” Tucker said. “Berger was about five yards a pop, and he was running behind his pads. He was falling forward on contact, which is good. He had really good traffic burst through the hole and showed really good vision and ran hard.”

When asked about his production during the scrimmage, Berger instead pointing to areas that he needs to improve.

“I’ve got some things to work on – finishing more runs, staying tighter to the blocks of my O-lineman, pass protection,” he said.

From what we heard at Monday’s press conference, it sounds as if Michigan State’s offense performed well during Saturday’s scrimmage.

“The offense played well. We moved the ball. The first drive, I think we scored, so I think the offense is doing a great job,” Berger said.

The tailback from Wisconsin wasn’t the only player on the offensive side of the ball who stood out to Michigan State’s head coach. Tucker was pleased with his quarterback and his new tight end as well.

“Payton [Thorne] was efficient and competed well. DJ Barker showed up and was very productive in opportunities that he did have,” Tucker said.

The Spartans have some production to replace at wide receiver with the departure of Jalen Nailor, but sophomore wide receiver Keon Coleman provided a positive update on MSU’s receiving corps.

“I felt like we looked good,” Coleman said. “We came a long way in the receiving room, we started early. We’ve got some younger guys, they’re stepping up. The A’s and B’s and C’s and D groups – everybody was playing at the level and the standard that we set early on. Blocking, catching the rock, no balls on the ground, ball security – I felt like we handled all that. Limited the [missed assignments], the penalties – we had a good scrimmage.”

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Although all parties seemed happy with the offensive production, Michigan State’s defense may have garnered even more praise following Saturday’s scrimmage.

“I feel like our defense showed some good signs that it’s going to be trouble out there [for the opponent],” Coleman said. “We’re going to put some complete games together.”

Berger agreed.

“The defense, they’re different, I ain’t going to lie,” the tailback said. “The defensive line, sometimes they’re in the backfield when I touch the ball, so we’re going to be good on both sides of the ball.”

As far as defensive standouts, once again Michigan State seems to be solid up the middle at defensive tackle, linebacker and safety.

“Ben VanSumeren is really coming along,” Tucker said. “He had a good spring…in the last couple days, couple weeks was really starting to play well and he carried that over and had quite a bit of production.

“There’s quite a few guys that are playing well. Xavier Henderson is very consistent. He’s playing fast. His speeds are up on a consistent basis, based upon the numbers that we get off of the units. Jacob Slade is in really good shape. He’s in great condition. He looks quick. Obviously, he’s stout against the run but he’s showing some push in the pocket and in the pass rush and working the edges, things like that, being disruptive inside.”

The scrimmage was also the first opportunity for Michigan State’s true freshman to get there first real taste of college football, and several of the youngsters drew praise from Tucker.

“Germie Bernard has caught my eye out there,” Tucker said. “Tyrell Henry is a good player. Zion Young is a good, young player trying to figure out what to do. Ade Willie – he was consistent in the scrimmage. I liked the way he graded out. He had really good focus today. He’s a longer guy that can run. [He’s] learning how to play consistently, play with the intensity that we need.”

The head coach sees a path for these young players to see the field in 2022, but Tucker wants to temper expectations of his true freshman as well.

“I don’t want to build these guys up, because we’ve only had one scrimmage and they’re still young and it’s still early in the process,” he said. “I don’t want to put these guys out there, hold them up there yet, because it’s consistency and performance. But, there are guys out there that are flashing, and I believe they should be able to help us this year.”

The Spartans will scrimmage again before the Sept. 2 season-opener against Western Michigan.