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Notes & Quotes: Mel Tucker and Michigan State never gave up on recruiting wide receiver Keon Coleman

“(Coleman’s) very effortless in his pass routes and his ability to go and attack the football. He can run the entire route tree, he can play inside or outside. His upside is through the roof.”

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State Spartans head football coach Mel Tucker met with the media on Wednesday to discuss National Signing Day.

The day was relatively uneventful for Michigan State, as 18 of the committed players in the 2021 class signed their National Letters of Intent on Dec. 18. However, there were still some fireworks as the Spartans landed four-star wide receiver Keon Coleman, and also lost four-star defensive tackle Rayshaun Benny to the rival Michigan Wolverines.

“As you know, we signed 18 outstanding players during the first signing period in December,” Tucker said. “Today I’m very excited to announce the signing of wide receiver Keon Coleman to our recruiting class.”

Of course, Tucker could only talk about Coleman, a “high priority target,” as the only Spartan to sign on Feb 3. Tucker is very excited about what Coleman, who hails from Opelousas, Louisiana, brings to the football program. He feels that Coleman’s potential is incredibly high.

“Keon is a very special player,” Tucker said. “He’s tall, he’s long, he has a very good build for a receiver. Very smooth and athletic, strong release off the ball. He gets open with speed, quickness, size, instincts and awareness. He has the athletic ability to out-jump defenders for the ball. He has outstanding ball skills — very natural and confident hands. He has a wide catch radius — very friendly to the quarterback. He’s very effortless in his pass routes and his ability to go and attack the football. He can run the entire route tree, he can play inside or outside. His upside is through the roof.”

Landing Coleman took a lot of work from Tucker, wide receivers coach Courtney Hawkins and the rest of MSU’s recruiting staff. The talented wide receiver had nearly 50 scholarship offers. He originally committed to Kansas for both football and basketball, but later de-committed from the Jayhawks. Michigan State never gave up on Coleman, though, and with his permission, continued to recruit him even after he committed to Kansas. Michigan State’s persistence paid off.

“We’ve never gotten off Keon,” Tucker said. “Even when he committed to Kansas, we wished him well, but asked him if it was OK for us to continue to recruit him. He said that it was, and we stayed in constant communication and it was a relentless effort to continue to put our best foot forward and continue to recruit him. And at the end of the day, he felt like this was the best place for him.”

As mentioned, Coleman is not just a football player. Tucker confirmed that Coleman will also play basketball for Tom Izzo, which was a big selling point for Coleman to choose MSU over the many other schools that wanted to add him. Coleman says he is a point guard/shooting guard.

Tucker called Coleman a “legitimate basketball player” and mentioned that he had several Power Five offers in basketball, as well as impressive highlights on the court. Tucker also noted that Coleman is averaging 30 points per game as a senior, and that he dropped 63 points in a game earlier this season.

Tucker also credited Izzo for helping recruit Coleman, and now the two will work together to coach the two-sport athlete.

“Tom was very instrumental,” Tucker said. “He’s very instrumental and we have a history of two-sport athletes, we have a history of football players also playing basketball so that really helped.”

While it has been a while since we’ve last seen it, Tucker notes that Michigan State, and Izzo in particular have a history of athletes who play both basketball and football. The most notable example is probably Matt Trannon, who played wide receiver for the football team and forward for the basketball team in the early to mid 2000s. Then there is Lorenzo Guess, who currently serves as the program’s associate head strength and conditioning coach, and played both football and basketball for the Spartans (shout to out to the fellow Wayne Memorial Zebra!). Tucker was a graduate assistant at Michigan State when Guess played for MSU. There is also Deon Curry, son of former Detroit Pistons player and head coach, Michael Curry, who played both football and basketball for MSU in the mid 2000s. Andre Rison is another example (as was pointed out to me in the comments section).

As for striking a balance with Coleman for his football and basketball schedule, given that the seasons overlap somewhat, Tucker said that “communication” is key, as well as supporting him in both sports.

“It’s all about communication,” Tucker said. “Getting out the calendar, mapping things out and the key is to make sure that the player never gets caught in the middle. We want to make sure that the player, or the student-athlete, doesn’t feel conflicted. Our programs have to work together as a team and do what’s best for the student-athlete. So, I’m really excited about it. I think it’s going to be great.

“If you can play two sports at the Power Five level, you’re a heck of an athlete and those are the type of guys that we’re looking for,” Tucker added.

Two of the early enrollee true freshmen, quarterback Hamp Fay and tight end Kameron Allen, also spoke with the media on Wednesday. You can watch and listen to what they had to say in the videos below.