In a press conference Wednesday morning, Michigan State football welcomed a host of new faces to the program, including defensive line head coach Diron Reynolds, a couple of transfer portal additions and a few early enrollees.
It’s been a busy offseason for the Spartans. Sixteen players signed their letters of intent during the early signing period, slotting in MSU’s recruiting class at 23rd in the nation. The program also added 12 transfers from the portal.
DL Coach Diron Reynolds
A few weeks after defensive line coach Marco Coleman departed for Georgia Tech, MSU hired Reynolds to fill the slot.
The newly minted coach has experience in both the NFL and college football. He spent the last seven years coaching with Stanford in the PAC-12. Reynold’s NFL experience includes stints with the Vikings, Colts and Dolphins.
“I feel like Coach Tuck was looking for technique, someone that’s a technician,” Reynolds said. “I kind of pride myself on that.”
A few things attracted Reynolds to MSU. The current roster, incoming freshmen and transfers certainly played a role in the choice. Tucker’s desire to create a pro, NFL-focused environment was another aspect that drew him to the program.
“It (Michigan State) does have that NFL, OTA (organized team activities) type feel to it,” Reynolds said. “The recruiting part of it was really interesting to me, because we position recruit and we go national for it, which is great, because it’s kind of like an NFL experience. You go to pick the guys you want.
In terms of defensive identity, Reynolds believes that stopping the run is key to the success of the entire defense, including an improved pass-rush.
“We’re going to work on stopping the run first, and then pass will happen,” Reynolds said. “We get an opportunity to stop the run and put people in second and long, third and long situations, that’s where your pass rush comes into play.”
Reynolds will certainly have his work cut out for him. He enters a defense that finished 101st in the nation in yards allowed per game. He’ll have a handful of older, experienced players like defensive end/linebacker Jacoby Windmon and younger, talented players like incoming freshman defensive edge Bai Jobe.
“In this whole new world of college football, you’ve got to find ways to make the team gel fast,” Reynolds said. “I’m just trying to figure out how the pieces will fit at this point.”
Eight members of Michigan State’s 2023 recruiting class chose to enroll into the university early, cutting their time in high school short. There are a few different reasons to depart for college a semester early, whether it be a drive to hop into training early, or simply a desire for some more personal freedom.
“I just wanted to get used to college life,” offensive lineman Stanton Ramil said. “The training, the speed of everything, I knew it was going to be different. I just wanted to get used to that and not get thrown into full chaos.”
Ramil is not the typical high schooler. He is a four-star recruit out of Alabama with the archetypal build of a Tucker tackle: tall and heavy being 6-foot-7-inches and over 300 pounds, to be exact.
The coaching staff, namely Tucker and offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic, were key pieces in Ramil’s recruiting process and eventual selection of Michigan State.
“The O-line room, Coach Kap, Coach Tuck - those were all difference makers for me,” Ramil said. “Getting to a program like that will be big for me to develop myself as a person and player.”
That was a common thread amongst the early enrollees in their recruiting process. Tucker and the relationships he formed with prospects during the recruiting process seemed to be the difference-maker for MSU’s early enrollees.
Offensive lineman Cole Dellinger, another heavy lineman and a three-star Michigan native, sung similar praises of the coaching staff.
“I really liked coach Kap and coach Tucker,” Dellinger said. “I feel like they made a big change to the program. They have a history of developing players.”
Four-star linebacker Jordan Hall’s relationship with Tucker is also strong. He made his commitment to MSU official live on Instagram - at the head coach’s house.
“I felt like with the relationship I had with my coaches, it was all genuine,” Hall said. “I came up here a lot of times before my commitment and so that just built the relationship from there.”
Hall, a Florida native out of prestigious IMG Academy, had offers from the likes of Notre Dame and Florida. It’s hard for an incoming freshman to make an immediate impact on a program, but Hall is ready to make that push.
“I think that they see me coming in and making an early impact, as much as possible, whether that be special teams, defense, wherever they see me fit it,” Hall said. “For the last three years at IMG, I’ve been a captain and a leader, so I hope to try and fit into this world as early as possible.”
Of the 12 transfers Michigan State added in the portal this off-season, graduate transfer running back Jaren Mangham should be the most familiar for Michigan State fans. The former USF and Colorado running back is the brother of current MSU defensive back Jaden Mangham, who recently wrapped up his first year of collegiate football.
“Not every brother gets to play together. It's very special to me,” Mangham said. “It’s kind of a special moment for my parents seeing their boys on the same team, having that green and white on.”
Mangham is extremely familiar with Tucker and members of his coaching staff. In his two years playing for Colorado, Mangham played for Kapilovic, offensive coordinator Jay Johnson and of course, Tucker.
“I always had a tremendous relationship with coach Tucker, we were always close,” Mangham said. “Once he reached out, we had a great conversation. It was really like catching up, like we never lost a beat.”
Much like MSU’s incoming freshman early enrollees, the transfers spoke highly of Tucker and the coaching staff.
“I really do feel like they love the players beyond football,” Mangham said. “Building those relationships, those are going to go beyond the sport.”
Defensive lineman Jarrett Jackson is another transfer that made his way to Michigan State thanks in large part to Tucker and his staff.
“Everything he [Tucker] does, he’s a pro in what he’s doing,” Jackson said. “He preaches that, it’s constantly the message. Even during my recruitment process, that was just constant.”
Naturally, Tucker’s name is the most commonly mentioned by recruits and new members of the roster in relation to the recruiting process. However, Jackson is especially excited to work with pass rush specialist Brandon Jordan.
“BT is special,” Jackson said. “That was another big thing in me coming here, just getting to be around somebody who guys in the league pay a lot of money for, I’m getting him essentially for free.”
Jordan has worked with some of the best pass rushers in the NFL, including Jadeveon Clowney and Von Miller.
Tucker has been known to lean heavily on the transfer portal in his few years at Michigan State. Jackson is another one of those players that sees MSU as an opportunity to unlock his full potential. In the ever-changing landscape of college football where mobility and money are king, players like Jackson are trying to utilize the portal as a business decision of sorts.
“The whole scope of everything in college football is changing,” Jackson said. “With that change, we have to change. Our mindsets have to change. I feel like we need to become pros earlier.”