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Notes & Quotes: Michigan State is totally focused on Western Michigan

In his weekly press conference, Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker assured the media that the team is taking this season one game at a time, starting on Friday night.

Syndication: Lansing State Journal Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

With “Week 0” in the books, the 2022 college football season is officially here. For the Michigan State Spartans, the season officially kicks off on Friday, Sept. 2, and the Spartans are committed to being fully prepared for their home opener against the Western Michigan Broncos.

In his weekly press conference on Monday, Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker spoke to the media about the way his team is preparing for Western Michigan on Friday.

“Right now we’re just focusing on stacking days,” Tucker said. “Again, we’ve already stated what our goals are for the season and we’re just stacking days.”

Coach Tucker explained that “stacking days” referred to having different practice formats on different days of the week, focusing individual days on specific circumstances the team may face in the game ahead.

“Right now we have one game,” Tucker said. “We have a one-game focus, we have one game on our schedule and we’re working to stack days in preparation that we can go out there and put our best foot forward and have a chance to win the football game.”

Redshirt senior receiver Jayden Reed has been noticed by many analysts as one of the more exciting returning players in college football, with much of that praise due to his substantial special teams contributions as a kick/punt returner. When asked if he has any reservations about putting such an important player in that position, where injuries can easily happen, Tucker insisted that he would make the decision that he feels is best for the team.

“We’ll just have to see, we got quite a few guys that can do it, but we don’t have any reservations about putting guys back there. We’re going to put the best players back there to get the most production.”

With the announcement of the team’s acquisition of grad transfer kicker Ben Patton, many fans were caught off guard at the apparent lack of a solidified starter. When asked about Patton’s performance and what the kicker situation will look like throughout the season, Tucker left fans and reporters guessing in true Mel Tucker fashion.

“He did a good job today at the end of practice,” Tucker said about Patton. “We’ll make a decision at some point and I feel good about it.”

Following the team’s breakout 11-2 season last year, expectations have certainly been raised for the Spartans this season. However, when asked about these expectations, Tucker maintained that internal expectations have remained quite consistent.

“It’s the expectations from the outside that really ramped up, so to speak,” Tucker said. “We have standards and we have expectations for ourselves and they’re high and that hasn’t changed.”

Quarterback Payton Thorne had a breakout season in 2021 as well, and when asked about the biggest leap Thorne has taken, Tucker expressed his approval of the redshirt junior signal-caller’s leadership qualities.

“Really, leadership (is where Thorne has taken a leap),” Tucker said. “Not just leading by example, but being more vocal with his teammates, not just on the offense but the defense as well. He’s really grown in that regard, I’m really proud of him,” Tucker said.

The Spartans undoubtedly owed a large portion of last season’s success to Walter Camp Player of the Year and Doak Walker Award winner Kenneth Walker III. With Walker departing for the NFL, many have wondered if the team’s two transfer running back acquisitions, Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard, can fill the void left by Walker. When asked about who will be heading the backfield, Tucker again left fans and media members wondering.

“We’ll just have to see,” Tucker said about the running backs. “It’s going to take all of us. It’s going to take the offensive line, the tight ends, the runners, the wide receivers blocking... We have to be able to run the ball on our terms and have balance on offense.”

When asked about what this game could mean for Western Michigan, Tucker made it clear that his team knows it can’t take the Broncos lightly, and the Spartans will be ready come Friday night.

“My experience tells me in games like this, this game has been circled on their schedule for quite some time,” Tucker said. “Whatever we’ve seen from them on tape, they’re going to be better than that. Their coaching staff has those guys ready, prepared and believing that they can come in here and beat us, so that’s what we’re preparing for.

“That’s just what it’s going to be,” Tucker added. “We know that and that’s why we’ve got to stay focused on and what we’ve got to get done today.”