As he has done on Tuesday afternoons of each week so far throughout the spring football season, Michigan State Spartans head football coach Mel Tucker took some time today to speak with the media and provide updates on his team.
Tucker gave some insights into the format for Saturday’s “spring game,” which is going to look somewhat different than it did during the Mark Dantonio era. Tucker noted that Saturday’s festivities — which will include a limited number of fans — will be a mix of practice drills and live scrimmaging.
Mel Tucker speaking now:— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) April 20, 2021
He mentions the format of the spring game will be more of an “inside look” at practice, with drills in the first half of the practice and then some live scrimmage work in the second half.
Adds he’s really excited for fans to attend.
“We’re just going to give our fans and everyone an inside look at how we practice — it’s not going to be a game, per se,” Tucker said. “The focus is going to be on the efficiency, the attention to detail, the sense of urgency in which we practice, the enthusiasm, the high effort, the high energy — that’s really how we go about our practices. It’s going to be a chance for everyone to see the culture of our practices and emphasize how we really go to work.
“We want it to be very competitive. This format that we’re planning is going to be the best way to really display all of those things based upon the guys that we have available. The drills in the first half of practice will really set the tone, and then we’ll have some live scrimmage work in the second half of the practice.”
Tucker was also clearly ecstatic about having fans in Spartan Stadium for the first time in his tenure. Of course, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Big Ten did not allow fans (outside of friends and family of players and staff members) during the abbreviated 2020 season. So, the roughly 6,000 fans allowed to attend the spring game will be Tucker’s first true experience with Spartans fans cheering the football team on — even if it is only abut eight percent of Spartan Stadium’s capacity.
“Having fans in the stands for the spring practice on Saturday, we’re really excited about that,” Tucker said. “It’s really an opportunity for our players to play in front of fans. We’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time. It’s exposure for our program. It’s gonna be on the Big Ten Network, which is huge is for us. We’ll have the band, we’ll have the cheer team there. It’s going to be a great environment and it’s something that we didn’t have a year ago. We’re really excited to have that on Saturday.”
As far as injuries go, while there are likely going to be some players who won’t participate in Saturday’s spring game, and Tucker didn’t specify who those players being held out may be, there have been no major injuries to report so far throughout spring practice.
Tucker says the team is fairly healthy heading into the spring game, no “catastrophic injuries” thus far.— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) April 20, 2021
“We’ve been relatively healthy,” Tucker said. “We’ll see what the injury report is after practice at the end of today and tomorrow morning and we’ll go through. It’s a fluid situation. In terms of catastrophic-type injuries, we’ve been able to avoid those for the most part.”
As for what to expect from the spring game, or perhaps practice is the better word, itself, Tucker says not to expect anything too fancy, but that it will showcase the fundamentals and the culture the team has been working on throughout the past few weeks. The goal is for his players to continue to improve.
“It’s gonna be a meat-and-potatoes-type practice,” Tucker said. “There’s not gonna be a whole lot of French pastry in terms of inside the lines. And whatever’s going on outside the lines, it is what it is. But in terms of the practice, we’re gonna do what we do. We gotta get out there, and we gotta get work done. It’s practice 15 for us, and it’s another opportunity to get better, an aggregation of marginal gains. We just gotta get one, two percent better in everything we’re doing every day individually and collectively — that’s the goal of our practice.”
This will also be the first opportunity for a lot of players on the team to play in front of a crowd, and for the upperclassmen, it will be their first time since 2019 that spectators will watch them play. Tucker is interested to see how his players perform in this setting.
“We’ll see how they react,” Tucker said about his players playing in front of a small crowd. “That’s part of the process, and that’s really part of the progression. You just take it from the meeting rooms, and then you take it to a walkthrough, you take it to individuals and then you take it to group work. You take it to a scrimmage, and then you take it to a live game. This is the closest to a live game that you can really get, when you get into the stadium and you actually have fans and you do go live. Even though it’s not going to be a total game format, there’s going to be more of a glimpse into how we run our practices. It’s going to be very competitive.”
While Tucker likes the progress he has seen his squad make throughout the spring, he knows that the program is still being rebuilt in his vision. There is still a lot of work to do heading into the summer and fall, and the staff knows there is no time to waste.
“Only time will tell how far away we are with this particular team...we’re continuing to gain ground...we don’t have a day to waste,” Tucker says.— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) April 20, 2021
“Only time will tell how far away we are,” Tucker said. “We still got a lot of work to do with this particular team. We’ve got guys coming this summer that we need to get into our program and get indoctrinated into our culture, then we’ll continue to gain ground and see what happens. But, like I said, we have a long way to go, and we have catching up to do. So, we’re working hard to do that every single day. We’re very realistic about what we need to get done, and we don’t have a day to waste.”
Tucker also mentioned the flurry of activity that the Michigan State program (and several other programs around the country) has gone through this offseason, but wanted to make it clear that his intent is still to build the MSU program mostly through the high school ranks, but use the portal as an additional tool to make the team better.
“I just want everyone to understand that we’re gonna do what we have to do to build our team,” Tucker said. “I don’t anticipate necessarily being in the portal as much in subsequent years. We would ideally like to build our team through the high school ranks, and that’s really our primary focus. We will use the portal to complement and supplement the talent on our team.”
Also regarding recruiting, Tucker is looking forward to getting back to on-campus recruiting activities — which returns on June 1 — and being able to have more of a normal recruiting cycle moving forward. The ability to now bring prospects to East Lansing is going to be crucial for the program’s future.
Tucker says “we’re gonna hit the ground running” when on-campus recruiting and camps returns in June.— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) April 20, 2021
“We’re gonna hit the ground running, and really kind of getting back to normal for us,” Tucker said about on campus-recruiting returning soon. “In that month of June, we’re used to recruits being in all day, every day. Whether they’re in for official visits or they’re in for unofficial visits, or working out — we got camps going — that’s what this time of year is usually all about. So, we’ve been planning for it, and we’ll be ready to rock and roll.”
Elijah Collins tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020
Redshirt senior linebacker Noah Harvey and redshirt junior running back Elijah Collins also met with the media on Tuesday. Collins revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 last summer, just before the start of fall camp, and said the virus forced him to miss almost a month of activity. As expected, the virus really affected his body and could have played a factor in his seemingly more limited role last season.
“I tested positive for COVID-19 (last summer) and it kind of took a toll me back then,” Collins said. “I lost weight, muscle, wind, all of that stuff. It really took a deep effect. But I didn’t have any symptoms to start out with, so that’s what was kind of scary to me, like, ‘How many lingering effects will it have?’ But for me, those effects lasted a couple of weeks, but after that, I didn’t even think twice about COVID. I kind of put it behind me, and just was like ‘What can I do now? Where can I go from here?’ I’ve been putting the work in every single day (to improve).”
For full comments from Tucker, Collins and Harvey, please watch the videos below.