Mel Tucker’s promise of success has descended into excuses?

Note: this is another in a series of articles trying to assess Mel Tucker’s coaching tenure. In this edition, we take an in depth look at what will it take to turn the season around and is Mel Tucker capable of  executing a turnaround? I hope you find it informative.

Mel Tucker arrived in East Lansing full of Bravado and plenty of coach speak.

He talked about being “relentless” …taking opponents into the deep end…and famously, Mel Tucker declared:

“If you can’t recruit to Michigan State, you can’t recruit.”

It all sounded good: he smoked expensive cigars and flashed around in exotic cars.

Yet, to be honest, Mel Tucker never sounded genuine. He never sounded sincere. He sounded like a coach reading from a script titled “Coach Speak 101”.

But coach speak means nothing if you can’t back it up.

After 3 years and two losing seasons including 12-13 W/L record vs Big Ten opponents, Mel Tucker, the $95 Mn redeemer, has turned into a coach with a sad list of excuses.

Bravado has been replaced with excuses such as:

“If we can stay healthy…Recruiting takes a while…Recruiting is hard…We haven’t had facilities to recruit off of…and of course, (news flash of the day): NIL is a big issue! (unquote).

Welcome to Big Boy Football Mel and the expectations that go with a $95 Mn salary.

Yet, Mel does have one viable excuse which he never addresses with the media: Mel Tucker should say, I employ 3 of the ineptest (yes that’s a word) Coordinators in Power 5 Football.

Since Mel Tucker is reticent to make that statement, then let me identify the heartbeat of Mel Tucker’s problem.

Other than Mel Tucker, the most identifiable problems of Spartan Football include deficiencies in Recruiting, Roster Management, Player Development, Play Calling and Clock Management.

And in that context, the coaches responsible for statistically ranking at or near the bottom of nearly every Big Ten statistical category include: Jay Johnson (O-Coordinator); Chris Kapilovic (Run Game Coordinator); and Scottie Hazelton (D-Coordinator).

Of course, the problems run deeper, but it starts with Mel Tucker employing “position group executives” (aka Coordinators) who are simply “over their collective heads”.


The Spartans are favored by 14.5, but Mel Tucker better hope for more.

The Spartans are favored by 14.5, but if the winning margin is 15 points or less, I will argue that would be a “technical loss”.

After all, depending upon the preseason poll, CMU is ranked in the bottom 15th percentile when measured against 133 FBS Schools.

That means the Chippewas are ranked from #110 to #119 and here are those rankings: #110 (USA Today); #112 (College Football News); #114 (Athlon); and #119 (The Athletic).

So, there will be no dignity or Badge of Honor if Mel Tucker ekes out a 2 Touchdown victory vs CMU.

Last season, CMU compiled a meager 4-8 record overall including 3-5 vs MAC opponents and its victories came against losing programs such as Akron (2-10); Bucknell (3-8) and Northern Illinois (3-9).

The Chips did manage however to beat Buffalo (7-6) yet that was their only victory vs a team with a winning record.

Meanwhile, the Chips suffered 19-point losses to Eastern Michigan and Penn State, and a 21-point loss at Toledo.

Think about that? CMU suffered a 21 Point loss to Toledo last season, yet the Spartans are favored by just 14.5?

Of course, CMU problems lie within their dysfunctional Offense and Defense. In fact, vs MAC opponents, CMU averaged just 22 PPG while yielding 26 PPG, scoring as few as 10 Pts vs WMU and yielding as many as 38 Pts vs Toledo and EMU.

So, if Mel Tucker hopes to correct his course and begin anew, then CMU is the game whereby Mel Tucker must demonstrate that he can execute a championship plan.


When will Spartan fans see a championship return on their $95 Mn investment?

This is Mel Tucker’s 4th season, and you would have thought from his bold talk, such as: “If you can’t recruit to Michigan State, you can’t recruit.” that MT’s roster would feature a bounty of “Blue Chip” playmakers.

Sadly, that’s not the case, in fact, most elite recruits have abandoned Mel Tucker.

Let’s remember, Payton Thorne, a 2-year starting Quarterback abandoned Mel Tucker after Spring practice and let’s be honest, Thorne saw Tucker’s trajectory pointed south so he opted out.

In turn, Thorne opted for Auburn where he will be paired with one of the best Rushing Offenses in the land, a Rush Offense ranked #18 last season and poised for better this year.

And MT lost Germie Bernard a 4-Star, Wide Receiver immediately after posting a dreadful 3-6 Big Ten record last season. Bernard opted for University of Washington which is preseason ranked #10 while its Pass Offense is ranked #1 in the land. Bernard opted for a winning coach and a winning program.

And of course, Mel Tucker lost Keon Coleman another 4-Star, Wide Receiver who opted to play for Mike Norvell at Florida State.

Norvell was the architect who put Memphis on the football map then resurrected Florida State and finished 10-3 last season, notably with a Top 10 Offense. FSU is preseason ranked #8 in 2023, so Coleman chose a proven winner.


Roster turnover is not a recipe for success:

Consequently, the Spartan feeble Offense will commence 2023 with an inexperienced Quarterback, whether it be Noah Kim who had just 19 pass attempts last season or Katin Houser who attempted just 2.

In turn, those inexperienced QB will be targeting a cadre of inexperienced Wide Receivers.

Let’s be clear, Passing is a choreography, and to be successful it is built upon anticipation and requires fine tuning and precise timing, but with inexperience at QB and nearly every WR position, the choreography of the Spartans Pass Offense will not look exactly like the Bolshoi Ballet.

Of course, Mel Tucker is also “spinning the wheel of fortune” and depending upon another new Running Back not named Kenneth Walker III.

This one is Nathan Carter from UConn, a member school of the American Athletic Conference which includes East Carolina, SMU, and Tulane. The AAC is not to be confused with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) which includes Clemson and Florida State,

In two seasons at UConn, Carter gained a modest 983 yards and scored just 3 Rushing TD’s. In fact, in a humiliating 59-0 loss vs Michigan last season (essentially a Big Ten test for Carter), he gained a meager 21 Yards on 6 attempts and zero TD’s.

Yet Carter is the RB that Jay Johnson, Chris Kapilovic and Mel Tucker are pinning their collective hopes on?

All the hype aside and with all due respect, Nathan Carter is not the second coming of Walter Payton or Jim Brown yet that is where Mel Tucker, Jay Johnson and Chris Kapilovic are pinning their collective hopes and Nathan Carter is where they spent their “recruiting capital”?

Did you hear of Nathan Carter last season? Of course not…

At the minimum, Carter will need to learn basic plays from a “dummed down” playbook and get “On the Job Training” fine tuning choreography with his O-Line.

While most opponents will be returning 70-80% of their “starters”, the Spartans return just 5 starters on Offense, and 6 on Defense from a team that compiled a 3-6 Big Ten record last season?

Hardly a recipe for success and hardly a place for lofty expectations?


At the bottom line (what does success look like?):

Last season was statistically amongst the worst in Spartan Football history, and Mel Tucker is the architect of its broken fundamentals.

In Big Ten competition last season, the Spartans averaged a meager 95 YPG Rushing and scored just 19.8 PPG, while its Rush Defense yielded a whopping 210 YPG and yielded nearly 31 PPG.

By every single measure, those are “broken” fundamentals.

If Mel Tucker and Spartan fans hope for a turnaround, then the stats need to be totally reversed.

That means, to post even a modest 5-4 record vs Big Ten opponents, Spartan Football needs to Rush for more than 200 YPG and yield less than 100 Yards, while scoring more than 30 PPG and yielding less than 20.

Essentially, a total reversal from last season…

And Mel Tucker needs to embrace his Kickers and Punters.

Immediately below is a dreadful comment rendered by Mel Tucker just yesterday:

“I don’t talk about kickers and punters,” Tucker said jokingly.

“I just talk to (special teams coordinator) Ross Els about that. He says how have you kept your sanity for 27 years and I said I don’t talk to the kickers and I don’t talk to the punters. That’s how.”

Let me be clear, that statement is not “cute”…it’s not funny…it’s not a Badge of Honor and Spartan fans should find that statement abhorrent and shameful.

After all, Kicking is a fundamental component of Football yet last season the Spartans were amongst the worst in the land.

Kicking is a game of solitude. It means kickers, holders, snappers and punters are anonymous and mostly stand alone until the game on the line.

Then, all eyes are on them. If  one component goes cattywampus then the whole process is likely to fail.

Confidence is best friend to Kickers, Holders, Snappers and Punters, yet if the Head Coach denigrates the unit and fails to put forth encouragement and support then the units will arguably fail.

In fact, in Big Ten competition last season, the Spartans finished #10 Kickoffs…#14 FG’s (converting just 5 of 10)…and #14 PAT’s including  two critical misses.

So, Mel…if you find it beneath your dignity to engage and encourage all players from every position group, including Kickers, Holders, Snappers and Punters, then step aside.

In closing, this season is likely to be a rocky road unlike any in recent Spartan history and all eyes are upon Mel Tucker.

Mel…let’s see what you got!

Thank you for reading.

Dayne Thomas

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