Thursday, September 16, 2021

Spartan football cashes in 1st spring practice with roster changes, 'some money in the bank'

March 23, 2021
<p>Coach Mel Tucker watches during the Spartans&#x27; opening day of spring ball on March 23, 2021, at the MSU football practice facility. Photo courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications.</p>

Coach Mel Tucker watches during the Spartans' opening day of spring ball on March 23, 2021, at the MSU football practice facility. Photo courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications.

As the men’s and women’s basketball teams’ seasons come to a close, Michigan State football began spring practice on the morning of Tuesday, March 23.

And it began with the team, head football coach Mel Tucker said, putting "some money in the bank."

“We had a good day today," Tucker said Tuesday afternoon of his team's first spring practice. "It was a good start ... What we’re looking forward to in the spring is to gain ground and get better, that’s really what it’s all about.”

According to Tucker, the team will practice every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for the next five weeks. Tucker said the energy his players brought to Tuesday's practice felt different, and running back Connor Heyward attributed that heightened energy to him and his teammates' thankfulness to be playing spring ball after it was canceled last year due to COVID-19.

"We’re just eager to get out there, and I feel like this year we’ll all be on the same page more," Heyward said. "... It’s (COVID) taught all of us not to take football for granted because we were all at home. ... We weren’t here with our brothers or anybody being able to do what we love and what we feel so comfortable doing."

However, COVID-19 still plays a factor, even more than a full year later. Tucker said he did not know the timetable for when his team could all receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but currently, the team tests six days a week to stay safe.

The football spring roster was also released Tuesday afternoon. Most notably, tight end Matt Dotson, right tackle Jordan Reid, receiver Laress Nelson and several others were not listed. Both Dotson and Reid were seniors on the roster last year who had the opportunity to return given the NCAA's extra year of eligibility.

Tucker said roster changes were expected after his first year in the position and the athletes' decisions came down to what they felt was best for them.

“Every player has to make a decision based on what he thinks is best for him, and we support those decisions," Tucker said. "In the first year there’s going to be some movement, some attrition and I know that, I understand that and we’re prepared for that. That’s not going to slow us down. We’re going to do what we have to do to build our football team.”

On the opposite side of the equation, defensive end Drew Beesley decided to take advantage of his extra year of eligibility and will return with the Spartans in 2021. Beesly said he made his decision to stay after talking with teammates Matt Allen and Luke Campbell.

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"I got their perspective on the situation and I asked them (Allen and Campbell) 'Why would you guys want to come back?' and they said “Why wouldn’t we want to come back?'" Beesley said. "This is a truly special place and the culture and the people that are here and the environment that coach Tucker is creating that was just something that I wanted to be a part of, and I feel like I would regret if I missed out on it.”

Tucker said it is likely the roster will undergo several more adjustments after spring ball. Not only will guys begin to fit into their specific roles, but the staff is still exploring options in the transfer portal before fall.

MSU will host its spring game on April 24. Tucker said he was not sure if the game will allow fans or not, but he hopes it can run as close to a normal football game as possible.

After a subpar debut season last year, Tucker said the energy this year's team has excited him for what is to come.

“They’re hungry, and they have a chip on their shoulder just like our coaching staff that excites me," Tucker said. "They love football, they live football and like I said from day one, if you like football you probably got a shot with me.”

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