Mel Tucker’s problems are mounting, but does he know how to fix them?

Note: this is another in a series of articles attempting to assess and define the Mel Tucker coaching administration.

Just yesterday, 3 Spartan players opted into the Transfer Portal including starting QB, Payton Thorne; 4-Star WR, Keon Coleman and CB, Charles Brantley.

And if we dial back the calendar to December, we can also add 4-Star WR, Germie Bernard who opted for the Transfer Portal and landed at University of Washington whose Pass Offense ranked #1 in the land.

At any measure, these are not defections of a program expected to compete for Championships, rather these defections are arguably emblematic of larger, systemic problems that underscore unfulfilled promises.

We were told, and recruits were told, Mel Tucker would bring instant success including championships, and recruits bought into that promise, but to the contrary Mel Tucker has compiled 2 losing seasons in 3 years and there are no championships to be found.

Just last season Spartan Football posted a dismal 3-6 record vs Big Ten competition including 1-5 vs Big Ten East opponents and in just 3 years, Mel Tucker has guided Spartan Football to 7-10 record vs Big Ten East opponents and that’s the Division where Spartan Football lives.

I want to be as fair as possible, but Mel Tucker’s compass is not pointed North.

Of course, we didn’t get a chance to judge or assess improvement this spring because Mel Tucker chose not to conduct a Spring Game, so we are left to study history and here is what we know.

The stats compiled over 3 years are shockingly bad.

In just 3 years and in just 25 Big Ten games, Mel Tucker has guided Michigan State to “dead last” in 5 major statistical categories and here is an overview of unprecedented breakdowns of position groups.

Rankings compiled vs Big Ten competition:

  • 2020: #14 Total Offense (dead last) 325 YPG…#14 Scoring Offense (dead last) 18 PPG
  • 2021: #14 Pass Defense (dead last) 338 YPG…#14 Total Defense (dead last) 463 YPG
  • 2022: #14 Rush Defense (dead last) 208 YPG

But wait, there’s more…

Spartan Football ranked near the bottom in 6 other Big Ten statistical categories as well.

  • 2020: Rush Offense ranked #13 compiling just 88 YPG…Scoring Defense ranked #12 yielding 35 PPG.
  • 2022: Total Defense ranked #13 yielding 437 YPG…Pass Defense #13 yielding 229 YPG…Scoring Defense ranked #12 yielding 31 PPG…while Rush Offense ranked #12 eking out just 95 YPG.

Those systemic failures rendered a dismal 12-13 Big Ten record since 2020, including a miserable 1-5 record vs Big Ten East opponents’ last season.

And while we already noted Total Defense and Pass Defense ranked #14 (dead last) in Big Ten competition in 2021, we should underscore that fact by noting the Defense yielded nearly 1300 yards in just two games including 594 Yards yielded to Purdue in a 40-29 loss, and a mind bending 665 Yards yielded to Ohio State in a 56-7 blowout.

Rarely do we see so many massive breakdowns of position groups in such a short span of years, but that’s Mel Tucker’s body of work!


Systemic failures:

Players and recruits are smart, they were promised they would compete with the best but three years into the Mel Tucker experiment, they are living a losing reality.

The stats associated with a 12-13 Big Ten record don’t represent the odd breakdown or a broken play, rather they represent “systemic failures” across the statistical landscape and an over entire season, including but not limited to Rush Offense, Scoring Offense, Total Offense, Rush Defense, Pass Defense, Scoring Defense and Total Defense.

In fact, not a single coach lacks responsibility for those systemic failures and it’s nearly unthinkable that Mel Tucker is earning $9Mn per year for such dysfunctional results.

It’s also unthinkable that Mel Tucker is rewarding each of his coordinators more than $1Mn per year for such dreadful results including Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback Coach, Jay Johnson…Assistant Head Coach, Offensive Line Coach and Run Game Coordinator, Chris Kapilovic…and of course, Defensive Coordinator and Linebacker Coach, Scottie Hazelton.

And let’s give special dubious recognition to Secondary Coach, Harlon Barnett, whose Pass Defense finished “dead ass last” in the country in 2021 when measured against 130 D-1/FBS Schools, and that means “dead ass last” in Big Ten as well, and that is an unspeakable embarrassment to Spartans fans!

So, we have to ask the question, “why” are these coaches still employed at Michigan State, or at the minimum “why” haven’t their salaries been cut to more closely align with their losing records?


The fact Mel Tucker conducted “practice drills” in lieu of a Spring Game is a folly of immense proportions.

I think I have cited quite clearly position groups that have statistically failed which means Mel Tucker needs every evaluation tool he has available to correct course.

And conducting a Spring Game is a prime evaluation tool, yet he declined the opportunity.

Let’s also make this clear, every FBS school is allocated 15 spring practices by NCAA, and virtually every coach apportions those 15 practices as follows:

  • 12 days for conventional practice, conditioning, and drills
  • 2 days for “scripted scrimmages”
  • 1 day for “Spring Game” which is usually scheduled on the last Saturday of spring practice.

The top programs in the country all follow a similar script including Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, and Ohio State, (recent Champions all) and each chose to conduct Spring Games without equivocation.

In fact, it makes common sense to conduct a Spring Game because it’s an opportunity to close the curtain on the previous season and set the table for the forthcoming season.

Let’s remember, in his first season Mel Tucker boldly made the statement, it’s “Compete to play, compete to stay” …but maybe that was just coach speak because he has yet to conduct a Spring Game.

Is Mel Tucker smarter than championship coaches such as Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, or Kirby Smart, all of whom conduct Spring Games each year as the final evaluation tool before summer workouts?

If Mel Tucker was true to his word, then he would have conducted a Spring Game to assess the competitiveness of his team before summer, you know “Compete to play, compete to stay” but he didn’t.

If Mel Tucker had concluded spring practice by conducting a Spring Game and pitted Offense vs Defense to determine if either unit had improved since posting a dreadful 3-6 Big Ten record last season, then we could have respected that plan, but Mel Tucker chose to conduct two hours of “practice drills” which to most observers was nothing more than a folly and a grand insult to Spartan fans.



At the bottom line (Spartan Football is trending south under Mel Tucker):

I don’t know “why” Mel Tucker chose to conclude Spring Practice by conducing two hours of practice drills as opposed to conducting a conventional Spring Game, but he did.

After all, he had 14 days of sanctioned spring practice to oversee players go thru conventional Practice Drills including sprint, run and jump, yet Apr 15 was his opportunity to see how his players responded in Game type simulation.

Let’s remember, considering a 12-13 Big Ten record over the past 3 years, there isn’t anything about Spartan Football that can be considered “business as usual” because just last season Spartan Football compiled some of the most dreadful stats in their 100-year football history.

Here’s a statistical recap of last season when measured in Big Ten competition:

  • Rush Defense #14 (dead last) yielding 208 YPG…
  • Total Defense #13 yielding 437 YPG…
  • Pass Defense #13 yielding 229 YPG…
  • Scoring Defense #12 yielding 31 PPG…
  • Rush Offense #12 eking out just 95 YPG.

Those stats are as bad as it gets and they underscore an 3-6 losing record in Big Ten competition including 1-5 vs Big Ten East opponents.

Moreover, those dreaded stats span the football landscape and underscore (in my opinion) that Mel Tucker’s programs is fundamentally broken, at least that is arguably the judgement of QB, Payton Thorne; WR, Keon Coleman; WR, Germie Bernard; and CB, Charles Brantley, all of whom opted for the Transfer Portal in search of being the best and competing for championships.

After all, these are “starters” who aren’t simply looking for playing time, rather they are searching for Championships and national exposure which will catapult them to the NFL The aforementioned players who opted for the Transfer Portal arguably don’t perceive Championship opportunities under Mel Tucker and company.

Germie Bernard is a prime example who opted out of Mel Tucker’s losing program and opted for University of Washington, which (as you recall) handily beat the Spartans 39-28 last season. Moreover, UW posted an 11-2 record last season and deployed the #1 Passing Offense in the land by way of posting 370 YPG under creative Head Coach and rising star Kalen DeBoer.

There are many who preach patience…but how long are you prepared to wait for Mel Tucker to search for success, while Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State continue to their relentless march for Big Ten Championships?

Clearly, Thorne, Coleman, Bernard and Brantley are not waiting for Mel Tucker to find fixes for an abundance of mounting problems.

To borrow a phrase: “players ain’t eatin’ what Mel Tucker is cookin'”

Thank you for reading.

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