After beginning practices on Aug. 4, the Michigan State football team kicked off its second full week of 2022 fall camp on Monday.
Head coach Mel Tucker and a couple of players spoke to the media following the morning practice session. The Spartans also had the team’s first preseason scrimmage this past Saturday.
Tucker “liked what he saw” from his team during Saturday’s scrimmage, saying that “guys were playing hard” and there were “a lot of bright spots.”
When asked to elaborate on what stood out to him during the scrimmage, Tucker noted that the running game looked good, especially when Wisconsin transfer running back Jalen Berger was carrying the ball.
“I was pleased with the way we ran the ball at times with some guys,” Tucker said. “Berger was about five yards a pop and he was running behind his pads, he was falling forward on contact, which is good. He had really good traffic burst through the hole and showed really good vision and ran hard.”
Tucker singled out several other players who caught his eye during the scrimmage, including quarterback Payton Thorne, tight end Daniel Barker (Illinois transfer), linebacker Ben VanSumeren, safety Xavier Henderson and defensive tackle Jacob Slade.
Tucker also said that wide receivers Keon Coleman and true freshman Germie Bernard are both making plays on a “consistent basis.” He also named Christian Fitzpatrick as a receiver who is making an impact in practice.
Tucker would later elaborate on the running back room, which has a lot of competition. In addition to Berger, MSU brought in fellow transfer Jarek Broussard (Colorado) and returns Elijah Collins, Jordon Simmons, Harold Joiner III and Davion Primm.
“There’s a lot of competition there,” Tucker said of the running backs room. “I mentioned Berger, but Broussard is doing well and is showing up — I’m glad we got him, big time. Elijah (Collins) has been playing fast. Harold (Joiner) has been hitting the hole hard, and he’s got really good ball skills out of the backfield. Jordon Simmons, he’s hitting his tracks and he’s running hard and being physical.”
MSU will have another scrimmage on Friday, and Tucker said this will be a “huge week” for the team. He said Friday is going to be a big day for the running backs and the other positions on the squad to help determine who is going to be getting the starter reps during game weeks.
“Everyone can’t get reps in game weeks — there’s not enough reps to go around,” Tucker said.
Tucker also spoke about Michigan State’s standard of performance and what he expects from his players.
“It’s standard over feelings is really what it comes down to,” Tucker said. “You don’t do things based upon how you feel, you do things based upon the standard of performance, and that dictates the decisions that you make, and the choices that you make. At this point in camp, there’s no turning back. I already gave these guys the opportunity (to leave)...Everybody’s all in and we got to get it done with the guys we got. We’re digging in right now.”
Broussard, who arrived in May, and Berger, who arrived as an early-enrollee in January, also spoke to the media on Monday. The transfer running backs are getting used to their new surroundings in East Lansing.
Broussard spoke about why he decided to transfer to Michigan State, his running style and more. A big reason why Broussard chose MSU was his familiarity with Tucker, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson and others on the staff who previously coached him at Colorado.
Here's his running style: pic.twitter.com/RO7VdwN8pY— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) August 15, 2022
“There was a list of reasons why I came here (to Michigan State),” Broussard said. “I was fortunate enough to be coached by most of the (current MSU) staff at CU, and I actually got hurt during that time, and when I got hurt during that time, I went through a big mental phase. Just having people like Coach Tuck and Jay Johnson in your corner, just continuing to tell you ‘It’s all gonna be OK, it’s part of the game,’ just the comfort that they gave me (meant a lot).
“When I did hit the transfer portal, all these schools reached out to me, and when (MSU) reached out, I’m not going to say it was a ‘no-brainer,’ but that relationship we built during my time at Colorado did play a huge role in getting me here.”
Broussard said that he and the other running backs watch film together and critique each other to help each other get better.
“I just use my vision, and whenever I see an opening, I just try to hit it — no matter how narrow it is,” Broussard said. “I guess it just comes down to taking chances.”
RB Jalen Berger, who transferred to MSU from Wisconsin: pic.twitter.com/P8BJXRwpOk— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) August 15, 2022
As for Berger, he’s just ready to get back to playing games. He left Wisconsin’s football team last October after playing just three games in 2021.
“I just can’t wait to get back to that field, I really miss it,” Berger said.
“When I first arrived, I wasn’t really in shape as much, due to my season being cut short at Wisconsin,” Berger added later. “I wasn’t really working out as much. When I got here (to Michigan State), they made sure I got back in shape.”
Berger is back in shape. pic.twitter.com/IGh2cmFLFY— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) August 15, 2022
Berger gave The Only Colors some background into his tattoos:
Michigan State also had a special visitor during Monday’s practice, as former MSU head coach Mark Dantonio stopped by to check in on the program he ran from 2007 until early 2020.
Michigan State kicks off the 2022 regular football season at home on Friday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time versus Western Michigan.