Tempo is what defines modern day college football these days and during the Michigan State Spring Game, it’s apparent that tempo has made its way to East Lansing.
Right from the first whistle, it was apparent that tempo is a huge factor in what Michigan State wants to do as players sprinted to where their first drill was without any confusion or question as to what was happening.
“It’s a great way to get the practice going to start with a fast tempo, guys getting the signals and getting lined up,” Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker said. “It’s just something that we do quite a bit and that’s the way we operate. It’s just a really good way to get things started.”
That sense of urgency wasn’t just for show either, it’s been there all spring long as players are beginning to enter the early mornings and late nights that spring and summer football can bring.
“I love the tempo,” Michigan State senior quarterback Anthony Russo said. “Coach Tucker brings a ton of energy everyday to practice and I think it’s very infectious. There’s been days throughout this Spring, it’s an early morning and we might not have that much energy at practice. As soon as we see coach Tuck (Mel Tucker) out there running around being vocal, being energetic, we feed off of that because it’s infectious to see a coach with that much energy.”
The tempo came from more than just going from drill to drill and session to session, it was evident in the seven on seven and the mini scrimmages as well as both sides of the ball made their way to the line of scrimmage quickly and got in position for the next play.
It appears that tempo and a fast pace is making its way to Michigan State this fall.
“Heavy emphasis on tempo, we want to work with a sense of urgency,” Tucker said. “Guys need to know where to go and get there very quickly and get the next drill started fast as possible. Urgency, tempo, that’s all part of how we practice, that’s our mindset, our mental disposition towards getting things done.”
The main place we have seen tempo come from is on the offensive side of the ball where teams have begun to abandon the huddle and move to a no-huddle offense to try and keep the defense on its toes.
“The quicker you line up, the easier it is because it gives you more time to read the defense to see what they’re doing,” Michigan State sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne said. “That’s definitely something that we’re stressing and getting set and having good tempo. Tempo comes with everything we do right now in the weight room, running, all that stuff. Every day, tempo is essential.”
It’s also beneficial for the defense too when they can line up before the offense and get set in their positions as well as keeping up with the fast-paced modern-day offenses in the Big Ten like Ohio State.
“When you play against teams like that, they’re going to try and catch you off guard and get you in the wrong positions,” Beesley said. “Being able to get the call and get lined up is a huge skill that you need to have when you go against fast tempo teams because they’ll try and catch you off-guard and try and get first downs.”
One of the players who may help with the tempo is a guy like Kenneth Walker, who's speed and change of pace bring a dynamic force to the running back room, something they didn’t have a year ago.
“He’s a complete player, I think you could see that today,” Tucker said. “He does an excellent job running the ball, ball security, he can make guys miss, he runs with power as well and he does a great job in pass protection.”
The Spartans have now completed their spring practice schedule and will take a break before entering their summer conditioning program. The implementation of the tempo will be supplemented by the conditioning as well as having a normal schedule, something the Spartans didn’t have a year ago.
“That’s why it is so important to get these 15 practices in so these guys can develop and continue to grow,” Tucker said. “Then we’ll take into the summer, have a really good summer program. I expect to see a better football team going into fall camp.”
Michigan State will have until Sept. 4 to implement their tempo before they face the tough defense Northwestern will have awaiting for them in Evanston.
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