The first full offseason for Mel Tucker and his coaching staff has been a rollercoaster so far. The football program has welcomed in recruits from around the nation as Tucker tries to revamp the talent on the roster and brand of MSU football after not being allowed to host recruits in his first year as head coach due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is Tucker’s first chance to leave his imprint on the program outside of just leadership. After joining MSU in Feb. 2020, Tucker and his staff were handcuffed by the pandemic. They could not hold practice with the team over the summer and could not host recruits after Tucker’s first two weeks in East Lansing because of the pandemic recruiting dead period instituted by the NCAA.
On the field, the results matched the dysfunction of the coaching staff’s first offseason. The team struggled mightily in a new coaching system and it became very apparent that Tucker would need time to rebuild the program. The Spartans ultimately finished 2-5 but are set up to have more success under Tucker in his second year due to the coaching staff’s efforts to bring in new faces this summer.
The first step in the offseason was revamping the talent on the roster. MSU’s roster last year was talent-deficient and needed a change in order to be successful. The coaching staff was limited to zoom meetings and phone calls with recruits during their first year in charge because of the 14-month recruiting dead period from March 2020 to the end of May this year.
This has led to MSU being one of the most aggressive schools in the country in bringing in transfers and having a parade of recruits travel to East Lansing this month to visit the coaching staff and see if the online recruiting pitches lived up to expectations.
The Spartans have hosted a bevy of recruits each weekend so far this month in an attempt to make up for lost time. MSU has secured seven commitments this month for the class of 2022, bringing the total number of 2022 commitments to 12. This spree of commitments catapulted MSU to the 27th best 2022 recruiting class, according to 247sports.com.
The headline of the class so far is four-star quarterback Katin Houser of Bellflower, California, who announced his commitment to MSU on June 27 after being previously committed to Boise State. Houser is the latest commitment for MSU and the first quarterback to commit to MSU under Tucker.
Houser’s tape shows that he is extremely accurate in the pocket and on the move, has a lightning-quick throwing motion and can throw the ball at least 60 yards down the field. He has the potential to increase his recruiting profile during his senior season and at the Elite 11 camp this week, making him a potential steal for MSU and the quarterback of the future for Tucker.
MSU also addressed arguably its biggest need following the 2021 season in securing a commitment from 2022 five-star kicker Jack Stone from Dallas, Texas. Stone is the 21st-ranked kicker in the 2022 class, according to Kohl’s Kicking Camp, and can be Matt Coghlin’s replacement following his departure after the 2021 season.
The other five commitments this month were from three-star linebacker/safety Quavian Carter of Leesburg, Georgia; three-star tackle Braden Miller of Aurora, Colorado; three-star tight end Michael Masunas of Chandler, Arizona; three-star wide receiver Jaron Glover of Sarasota, Florida; and three-star cornerback Shannon Blair of Knoxville, Tennessee.
All seven June recruits are from outside of the state of Michigan, showing Tucker’s dedication to increasing the national brand of MSU and bringing in talent from every part of the county. As it stands right now, only two 2022 recruits are from Michigan. Three recruits are from Georgia, and the other seven are from a combined six states.
MSU was also not afraid to be aggressive in the transfer portal to infuse the roster immediately with college-ready talent. The Spartans brought in 19 new players through the transfer portal this offseason with the expectation that a lot of those players will contribute immediately.
It is hard to say which transfer will have the greatest impact right away for MSU but expect to see a lot of the new faces in week one against Northwestern. The biggest name to watch is Temple transfer quarterback Anthony Russo.
Russo used his four years of eligibility at Temple, throwing for 6,287 yards, 44 touchdowns and 32 interceptions, completing an average of 59.6% of his passes, according to ESPN. He will compete with Peyton Thorne for the starting quarterback position.
Kenneth Walker III, a graduate transfer from Wake Forest, is another name to watch for on offense that joined through the transfer portal. Walker ran for 1,158 yards and 21 touchdowns in two seasons for the Demon Deacons. He joins an already crowded backfield but has been highly regarded by coaches in press conferences this offseason.
Walker will provide a jolt of speed and elusiveness to MSU's backfield. Walker averaged 4.9 yards a carry at Wake Forest while constantly making opposing defenders look silly with his explosive jump cut in the hole or breaking tackles with his powerful low-to-the-ground running style. Walker is also an effective receiver out of the backfield and can provide another layer to MSU's passing game that was largely absent last year.
On the defensive side of the ball, MSU added eight new linebackers and defensive backs to the roster through the portal and standout defensive linemen Drew Jordan. Jordan is the most accomplished defensive transfer for MSU, picking up 102 tackles and 10 sacks in four seasons for Duke.
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The other intriguing transfers on defense that could have an immediate impact are Tennessee transfer Quavaris Crouch at linebacker to replace Antjuan Simmons or Ronald Williams Jr. from Alabama at cornerback. Both players played for SEC defenses and have the speed and athleticism to be a go-to guy for Tucker and Defensive Coordinator Scottie Hazelton next year.
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