As August draws to a close, football season is rapidly approaching in East Lansing. With the season opener on the road against Northwestern looming less than two weeks away, the Michigan State Spartans are working hard to prepare for the new season during fall camp.
One of the biggest question marks for the Spartans heading into this season is the quarterback battle between Payton Thorne and Anthony Russo. Despite much speculation among fans and media members, Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker revealed that a decision has yet to be made on that front, consistent with what he has said throughout the offseason, spring and summer.
“We’re going to talk about it a little bit more this week,” Tucker said. “We’ll make a determination at some point before the game.”
Russo, a transfer from Temple, is just one of a multitude of new additions brought in by Coach Tucker and his staff this past offseason. Since he was hired to become the next head coach for the Spartans in February 2020, Tucker has made it clear that a massive overhaul of the roster has been a priority for him and his staff. He has shown his commitment to that goal, and many of the new transfers are expected to compete for starting positions this season.
The transition from one team’s system to another can often be a long and arduous process, but Coach Tucker has clearly made it a priority to acclimate the new guys as quickly as possible.
“I feel like everything has been going super smooth,” Quavaris Crouch, a transfer linebacker from Tennessee, said. “I’ve been adapting to everything pretty well; I’m just trying to get with the players and build a relationship and our bond.”
Coach Tucker’s personality and coaching style has been a draw for many of the transfer players, including running back Harold Joiner III, a transfer from Auburn University.
“He’s a straightforward guy, he doesn’t hide anything, he doesn’t sugarcoat anything,” Joiner said. “He has a standard, and you have to meet that standard or you’re just not going to be eye to eye with him.”
When asked how he felt about Tucker’s straightforward style, Joiner’s answer was simple.
“I love it,” Joiner declared.
Unrest in the locker room can often be felt any time new players come in and push for a role, but the Spartans are working hard to build positive relationships among new and returning players. Returning senior safety Xavier Henderson said he has taken on a leadership role and is enjoying building relationships with his teammates.
“That’s kind of how I’ve felt my whole life, every team I’ve been a part of, I feel like I’ve been a leader,” Henderson said. “It’s just something I’ve kind of taken to the next level with the help of Coach Tucker and (secondary) Coach (Harlon) Barnett.
“During the summer we were working out with groups of four or five and we didn’t get to really talk to each other that much,” Henderson said of the team’s summer workouts last year during the pandemic. “This year with the summer workouts and just being in here during camp…I’m having a lot of fun just being around everybody and getting to know the people I didn’t have a chance to before.”
As the countdown to kickoff continues for all Spartans fans, Coach Tucker feels encouraged about his team’s progress in training camp and he thinks his team will be fully prepared come game day.
“I’m confident that our preparation will put us to a point where we’re ready to play,” Tucker said. “Based upon all the work that we put in…we’ll be ready.”