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Mel Tucker, Michigan State staff putting clear emphasis on size and athleticism in 2021 recruiting class

Maryland v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Recruiting has had an unusual set of circumstances for newly-hired Michigan State Spartans head coach, Mel Tucker, and his entire staff. Of course, Tucker didn’t take over until Feb. 12, which already put him behind schedule, then of course, the whole COVID-19 situation shut down campus, making it impossible for recruits to visit and check out the atmosphere and facilities. In fact, the Big Ten just extended its moratorium on team activities and in-person recruiting through June 1.

So, with these challenges in mind, the MSU staff went to work in this new age of “virtual recruiting,” and is starting to make some waves on that front. Let’s not get too excited just yet, though. There is a false narrative out there that Tucker is already pulling in better recruits than his predecessor, Mark Dantonio. That isn’t exactly accurate at the moment. Tucker is certainly going after bigger fish and expanding pipelines into multiple states, while still putting an emphasis on in-state talent. Those are all welcomed efforts, but he hasn’t landed many of those top prospects as of press time.

Tucker’s 2021 class currently ranks 23rd in the nation, which is highly impressive. However, there is a long way to go in this cycle and that ranking will almost certainly change, for better or worse. If you look at the average rating of the players, according to the 247Sports Composite, Tucker’s current 2021 group grades out at 0.8496. Dantonio’s 2020 class that was highly scrutinized had a higher average of 0.8568. So, while it’s been exciting to see recruit after recruit committing to MSU as of late, these players are really in the same grouping as the kind of prospects Dantonio would land. The difference is Tucker seems to take bigger swings and makes sure his entire staff puts an emphasis on recruiting.

In any even, at the beginning of April, Michigan State had exactly zero verbal commitments in its 2021 class. Then on April 7, three-star running back Davion Primm (Oak Park, Michigan) announced his decision to spend his college career in East Lansing. After that, the dominoes began to fall, and MSU currently has a class that is currently 10-strong, with many more still to come.

Primm has solid size at the running back position. According to his Hudl highlight tape, he stands at 6-feet-1-inch tall, and weighs 205 pounds. Meanwhile, 247Sports lists him at 6-foot-even and 201 pounds. Either way, he has the coveted size and athleticism that new Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker, and the rest of the staff, is looking for.

Those two traits, size and athleticism, are clearly a big emphasis for the staff when it comes to recruiting, but especially the former. The staff seems to like players with good height, in particular.

Of MSU’s 10 verbal commitments thus far, here are the listed heights and weights for each prospect:

  • Ethan Boyd (East Lansing, Michigan), offensive tackle, 6-foot-7, 285 pounds
  • Tyson Watson (Warren, Michigan), defensive end/defensive tackle, 6-foot-6, 270 pounds
  • Kevin Wigenton (Princeton, New Jersey), offensive guard, 6-foot-5, 290 pounds
  • Kameron Allen (Forney, Texas), tight end, 6-foot-5, 220 pounds
  • Hampton Fay (Fort Worth, Texas), quarterback, 6-foot-5, 210 pounds
  • Gabe Nealy (Miami, Florida), safety/cornerback, 6-foot-4, 175 pounds
  • Derrick Harmon (Detroit, Michigan), defensive tackle, 6-foot-3, 320 pounds
  • Davion Primm (Oak Park, Michigan), running back, 6-foot-1, 205 pounds
  • Charles Brantley (Venice, Florida)), cornerback, 6-foot-1, 170 pounds (according to Rivals, while 247Sports lists him much smaller at 6-foot-even 160 pounds)
  • Antoine Booth (Hyattsville, Maryland), cornerback, 6-foot-even, 185 pounds

Update: Recruits joining MSU this week fit the theme as well:

  • Michael Gravely Jr. (Cleveland, Ohio), safety, 6-foot-1, 193 pounds
  • Mark Vassett (Melbourne, Australia), punter, 6-foot-4, 210 pounds

There isn’t a single player in that group under 6-feet tall, and there are seven players who stand at 6-feet-three-inches tall, or taller. There are also four players weighing in at least 270 pounds. Harmon is the lone player to cross the 300-pound barrier. Brantley is the lightest at somewhere between 160 and 170 pounds.

Athleticism is also key for this group, even with that kind of size. Boyd, at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounder, was also a key contributor on the East Lansing basketball team. Harmon, at well over 300 pounds, is highly-regarded for his quick feet from the interior defensive line. Brantley is a ball-hawking defensive back, who had eight interceptions as a junior. Hampton Fay, while listed as a “pro-style” quarterback is lauded for his high athletic upside as well. Just about all of these players that make up the class so far have high ceilings in terms of athleticism, and that’s not by accident.

Michigan State is also after players such as tight end Mitchell Evans (Wadsworth, Ohio), 6-foot-7, 240 pounds; outside linebacker Jamari Buddin (Belleville, Michigan), 6-foot-2, 210 pounds; outside linebacker Tyler McLaurin (Bolingbrook, Illinois) who is also 6-foot-2, 210 pounds; wide receiver Andrel Anthony (East Lansing, Michigan), 6-foot-2, 175 pounds; and safety Benjamin Perry (Chicago, Illinois), 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, amongst many others.

Expect this trend, with targeting big and athletic players, to continue throughout the rest of the 2021 cycle and into 2022. That isn’t to say MSU will not go after smaller players with a lot of talent, of course, but it is obvious the new coaching regime prefers size.