Can Mel Tucker take the Spartans to the promised land?

Let’s look back: Mel Tucker posted a 5-7 losing record at Colorado in 2019, his first season as a head coach, yet what made Bill Beekman think Mel Tucker could take the Spartans to the promise land?

Of course, Mel Tucker’s 2-5 losing record at Michigan State during the COVID year didn’t instill confidence either.

Of course, everyone celebrated an 11-2 record last season, but what did we learn?

While everyone celebrated an 11-2 record, nevertheless everyone conveniently overlooked an abundance of flawed fundamentals.

It’s worth remembering, the Spartans posted 4 victories by a grand margin of just 15 points to Nebraska, Indiana, Michigan, and Penn State. Wins are wins, but it would be fair to say the Spartans escaped with the benefit of good fortune and not due to the benefit of brilliant coaching.

It’s also worth remembering, the Spartans closed the regular season by yielding 1700 Yards passing to 4 opponents, including the fact they yielded 1000 Yards Passing and 9 TDS to Purdue and Ohio State combined, both of which were losses.

Of course, the Spartans commenced this season with two “unremarkable” victories vs WMU and Akron, arguably two of the worst teams in the country.

But then reality set in…

In two games over the past two weeks vs University of Washington and University of Minnesota, the Spartans Defense yielded more than 1000 Yards total and the Spartans were unequivocally pronounced pretenders to a Big Ten crown.

Let’s look at a few coaches…and let’s ask some questions?

Harlon Barnett…

Harlon Barnett has been a coaching question mark for the past 5 years.

Harlon Barnett was Defensive Coordinator at Florida State in 2018 and 2019. Those teams finished with a cumulative record of 11-14 and the entire FSU coaching staff was fired.

During that time, the FSU Defensive Secondary guided by Harlon Barnett was ranked #119 (bottom 10th percentile) in both 2018 and 2019 respectively when measured against 130 D-1 Schools (sound familiar?).

After being dismissed at FSU, Harlon Barnett was rehired at Michigan State.

Then in 2020 (COVID season) the Spartans Pass Defense under Barnett ranked #72 in the land (the bottom 50th percentile) when measured against 130 D-1/FBS Schools.

Then last season, the Spartans Pass Defense declined precipitously whereby it was ranked “dead ass last” in the country, ranked #130 when measured against 130 D-1/FBS Schools.

This season the Spartan Pass Defense is ranked #101 and falling fast.

We know the Spartans Pass Defense yielded nearly 400 Yards, 4 TDS and zero Interceptions vs Washington in week 3.

Then last Saturday, Minnesota’s good but not great pass offense, completed 23 of 26 pass attempts (88%) to 10 receivers, for 268 Yards at 12 Yards per completion, including 3 TDs and zero Interceptions.

That means the Spartans Pass Defense has yielded 664 Yards in its last two games, or an “eye glazing” average of 332 Yards per game.

Let’s be candid, it’s hard to complete 80% of passes in “pitch & catch” in pregame practice, and yet Harlon Barnett’s secondary, assisted by Mel Tucker as Cornerback Coach allowed Minnesota to throw the ball around the yard and complete an astounding 80% of its passes during the game?

Will someone remind me “how and why” Harlon Barnett has a job as overseer of the Spartan Defensive secondary?

Scottie Hazelton…

We know the Spartan Defense under the guidance of Scottie Hazelton yielded more than 35 PPG in 2020 and ranked #100 in the land when measured against 130 D-1/FBS schools.

We also know Scottie Hazelton’s Defense was ranked #111 in the land last season yielding 442 Yards per game.

And we know that in 2022, the Spartans Defense under the guidance of Scottie Hazelton is ranked #83 (bottom 40th percentile) while the Pass Defense is ranked #101 (bottom 25th percentile) when measured against 130 D-1/FBS Schools.

Of course, the Spartan Defense yielded more than 1000 Yards combined to Washington and Minnesota in the past two weeks and the Spartans were outscored 46-8 in the 1st Half by those two teams.

Will someone remind me “how and why” Scottie Hazelton has a job as Defensive Coordinator at Michigan State?

Chris Kapilovic…

Chris Kapilovic was hired by Mel Tucker in 2019 as Offensive Line Coach and Run Game Coordinator at Colorado.

Colorado’s Rushing Offense was ranked #79 (bottom 40th percentile) when measured against 130 D-1/FBS Schools and Colorado posted a 5-7 losing record.

In 2020, Mel Tucker was hired by Michigan State and in turn he hired Chris Kapilovic as Offensive Line Coach and Run Game Coordinator.

In 2020, the Spartans Rushing Offense ranked #122 (just 91 YPG) when measured against 130 D-1/FBS Schools.

We also know the Spartans Rushing Offense ranked a respectable #53 in the land in 2021 given the fact Kenneth Walker III compiled 1635 Yards Rushing including 18 TDs.

But Walker’s success created the illusion that the Spartans Offensive Line was operating at high efficiency…but that’s simply not true.

When we break it down, it’s notable that KWIII compiled 1168 “yards after contact”, or said another way, KWIII compiled 70% of his yardage after contact, the most of any Running Back in the country.

That means the Spartans Rushing success in 2021 wasn’t due to the efficiency of the Offensive Line, rather success was due KWIII single handedly making a bad Offensive Line look good.

Yet, KWIII is now in the NFL, and the Spartans Rushing Offense is ranked #92 this season (bottom 30th percentile) when measured against 130 D-1/FBS Schools.

Yet, that ranking is skewed due to gratuitous Yardage posted against WMU and Akron, otherwise the #92 ranking isn’t indicative of the Spartans Rushing futility…

In two games against Power 5 opponents this season (Washington and Minnesota), Spartan Running Backs have compiled a dismal grand total of 67 Net Yards Rushing or an average of just 34 Yards per game.

Let’s make this clear, Chris Kapilovic is responsible for overseeing a dysfunctional Offensive Line since 2019 at Colorado and it isn’t getting better at Michigan State.

Will someone remind me “how and why” Chris Kapilovic was hired as Offensive Line Coach and/or Running Game Coordinator and “why” does he still have a job at Michigan State?

Rhetorical questions:

Of course, the preceding rhetorical questions are intended to make a point rather than to get an answer, yet I submit, that Chris Kapilovic, Harlon Barnett and Scottie Hazelton are arguably unemployable as Assistant Coaches or Coordinators at Championship caliber programs such as Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, or Ohio State to name just 4.

Want evidence?

Are you aware of “any” D-1/FBS schools that made overtures to hire Barnett, Hazelton or Kapilovic?  The answer is NO. Yet those coaches get paid nearly $1 Million per year to ply their trade at Michigan State?

In a cynical and derisive rhetorical question, we have to ask: why is Michigan State so lucky to employ those coaches?

At the bottom line (the gauntlet gets tougher and we may be asking “why” is Mel Tucker Head Coach?).

In the month of October, the Spartans will face in order some of the best teams in the Big Ten including Maryland, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan and let’s make this clear, the Spartans won’t be favored in any of those games.

In fact, the stats favor Big Ten opponents in almost every category, in almost every game for the balance of the season.

Yet, let’s focus upon the most problematic matchup for the Spartans in each game.

Maryland’s Passing Offense is ranked #4 Big Ten (300 YPG) and the Spartans Pass Defense is ranked #11 and fading fast: Advantage Maryland.

Meanwhile, Ohio State’s Pass Offense is ranked #1 Big Ten (339 YPG) while the Spartans Pass Defense is ranked #11: similar story, similar prediction…Advantage Ohio State.

Wisconsin’s Pass Defense is ranked #7 Big Ten (yielding 198 YPG), and this is the best matchup for the Spartans in the month of October. Yet, the Spartans erratic Pass Offense is ranked #10: Advantage Wisconsin.

And lastly, Michigan’s #1 Big Ten Scoring Offense (50 PPG), will matchup against Michigan State’s #9 ranked scoring Defense. No magic for the Spartans: Advantage Michigan.

If Mel Tucker comes up empty handed in the month of October, and that is highly likely, he will then own an upside-down record of 2 wins and 6 losses, and we will be justified asking the question:

Will someone please remind me “how and why” Mel Tucker was hired as Michigan State Head Football Coach?

Thank you for reading and I always welcome your comments and opinions.