Mel Tucker has orchestrated one of the fastest turnarounds in college football at Michigan State after taking over for the retired Mark Dantonio ahead of the 2020 season.
The Spartans struggled to a 2-5 record in Tucker's COVID-shortened debut season, when the head coach was unable to have face-to-face communication with his players and coaching staff in the majority of the months leading up to that season.
Tucker then immediately and, if we're being honest, shockingly led Michigan State to 11 wins in 2021. Not even the biggest diehards of diehard Spartan fans expected THAT impressive of a season last year.
Yet, Tucker pulled it off, and suddenly Michigan State football has a plethora of momentum. Tucker's accomplishment has not gone unnoticed — on the recruiting trail, or by national publications.
On Wednesday, CBS Sports released its Top 25 college football head coaches list, part of a two-day release that ranks each of the 65 head coaches in the Power 5 conferences of college football.
Tucker skyrocketed up the list, climbing a whopping 33 spots between 2021 and 2022 to land at No. 24 in the country. It was the second-largest jump of any Power 5 coach in the rankings, trailing only Baylor's Dave Aranda — who leaped 51 spots in the rankings after leading the Bears to a school-record 12 wins and a Big 12 championship last season.
"Tucker has rocketed up our rankings faster than his annual salary, but guess what? His 33-spot climb isn't even the biggest jump by a coach this year," wrote CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli. "Tucker was at 57 last season following a 2-5 debut at Michigan State, but an 11-2 record and Peach Bowl victory catapult him into the top 25."
Despite Tucker's big jump, he still only ranks as the eighth-best head coach in the Big Ten, according to CBS Sports' rankings. That could be due to the fact that Tucker still only has three seasons of head coach experience under his belt, and has a career record of 18-14.
"The trick will be to see if he can keep it up because expectations have been raised," Fornelli wrote. "As our rankings have shown, we punish coaches for failing to live up to them around here."
Ohio State's Ryan Day remains the highest-ranked coach in the Big Ten, despite dropping two spots to No. 6 in the Power 5. Michigan's Jim Harbaugh climbed 14 spots to No. 9 after leading the Wolverines to a Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff appearance in 2021.
Iowa's Kirk Ferentz (No. 13), Wisconsin's Paul Chryst (No. 14) and Penn State's James Franklin (No. 15) take up the next three spots among Big Ten coaches. Ferentz and Chryst each climbed four spots, while Franklin dropped two spots.
Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald comes in as the sixth-highest ranked Big Ten coach after dropping 13 spots to No. 21 in the rankings. Minnesota's P.J. Fleck is next at No. 23, rising two spots from last year.
Tucker being ranked No. 8 in the conference certainly feels low, given the impact that he's already made on the field and on the recruiting trail in East Lansing. But this is one of those situations where we just have to be patient and wait for the fruit of his labor to come to fruition — i.e., his ranking will continue to rise as the wins continue to come.
Michigan State is just under two weeks away from the start of summer conditioning, which will begin on May 31.