Monday, November 29, 2021

How words and phrases from Mel Tucker are shaping Michigan State Football

September 23, 2021
<p>Head Coach Mel Tucker calls his players off the field, after a defensive stand, during the Spartans game against Northwestern. Michigan State won the season opener at Ryan Field 38-21, on Sep. 3, 2021.</p>

Head Coach Mel Tucker calls his players off the field, after a defensive stand, during the Spartans game against Northwestern. Michigan State won the season opener at Ryan Field 38-21, on Sep. 3, 2021.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

On Sept. 20, Mel Tucker posted a public service announcement from the Michigan State Twitter and Instagram account to “pack the woodshed” for Saturday’s night game against Nebraska. 

If you do not know what the Woodshed is referencing, it’s the nickname that Tucker and the Spartan football team have adopted to Spartan Stadium. It is an ode to the late 90’s Nick Saban Michigan State teams, where Tucker started coaching as a graduate assistant, who first coined Woodshed.

Tucker wants a loud and proud atmosphere for the game on Saturday night and is using Woodshed as a way to promote the sense of Spartan Stadium being a hostile environment for opposing teams. It is also the latest of one of the many “coach-speak” sayings that Tucker and the social media team have implemented this year. 

One of the biggest changes from the last regime under Mark Dantonio to now under Tucker is the use of social media. Tucker is very active on social media to build the online brand of Michigan State for recruiting and posts like pack the Woodshed this week is a prime example.

Looking at the social media of Michigan State Football and Tucker can be a mental exercise to de-code what they are saying from time to time.

Whether it is calling Spartan Stadium the Woodshed, repeating “the standard is the standard” over and over, Tucker has a never-ending encyclopedia of coach sayings that he employs in practice, with the media and with the fans.

The little quips such as "standard is the standard" and improving through the “aggregate of marginal gains” have been with Tucker throughout his two seasons in charge, but have become more amplified this year. 

Many sayings, like the two above, Tucker repeats with the team throughout practice and media sessions in reference to how he wants the team to play and focus on improving. 'The standard is the standard' means that the expectations for the team’s performance do not change, no matter the opponent or situation.

While it may seem a bit over the top, Michigan State has bought fully into the Tucker-isms this year after results began to show. Players began saying some of the quotes themselves, like Xavier Henderson saying they are improving through marginal gains at Big Ten Media Days, and it has only increased as the wins have begun to roll in through the early weeks of the season.

“I really enjoy some of the things he does, like keep choppin',” Center Matt Allen said as he imitated a knife chopping with his hands. “I really like that one, just because it's like if you have a bad play or if something goes wrong, just right on to the next play. Because coach Kap (Offensive Line Coach Chris Kapilovic) always talks about how every play is a series of its own and you just gotta execute that play.”

The coach-speak isn’t tiring for the players, who are with Tucker and the rest of the staff more than anyone else. 

“I kind of like all of them,” Allen said. “I like taking them into the deep water a lot too. Taking 'em into the 15th round is a very similar thing. That's where we want to be and that's what we're working so hard for every day.”

Each player seems to have their own favorite Tucker-ism that they use from time to time with the media and on social media, but the most common one is relentless.

Tucker wants the team to have a relentless mindset on and off the field to improve and he makes sure that they know. Every social media post from an MSU football coach or account ends with "#RELENTLESS", and Tucker uses the word liberally to describe how the team can always push harder. 

The players are all the way bought in on the mindset, Tucker said, because it has helped them get through the work they have to do to improve.

“There's nothing casual about what we're doing," Tucker said. "From the minute these guys walk in, to the minute they walk out of here, there's a tremendous amount of work being done that has to be done in a certain way. ... it's gonna be like this every day, I mean I go all day. So get with it, or there's not gonna be any fun. Our guys are embracing that."

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