Friday, May 08, 2020

MSU fan survey: Mel Tucker exceeding expectations in recruiting

Mother Nature wasn’t the only one making it rain this April.
The notoriously precipitation-filled month was one of the more exciting months in recent memory for Michigan State football recruiting. First-year head coach Mel Tucker started the fourth month of 2020 with zero committed prospects and ended the 30 days with ten recruits and a top 25 recruiting class. Prospects from Michigan, Florida, Texas, Maryland, and New Jersey made for an exciting first batch of new players under the new regime.
It was enough to get an MSU fanbase that had been contemplatively sleepy the last two years out of its collective seat and again excited about their football program.
Anybody who pays attention to Tucker, his mantras, and his reputation shouldn’t be surprised by the early results. Tucker came to MSU as a highly-regarded recruiter, hardened by the battlegrounds of SEC recruiting. A reasonable expectation for Tucker during his first season is (perhaps “was” due to the COVID-19 pandemic) to be competitive, show some promise, and pull a top 25 recruiting class. That last one is a decently high bar; one Mark Dantonio only cleared four times in 13 years. However, the expectations should be higher for Tucker. When he says the biggest thing he has learned as a coach is to, “recruit every day,” he better recruit every damn day.
Despite those lofty recruiting expectations, Tucker has cleared the bar through the beginning of May for a majority of respondents to this Twitter poll.

I assume a good portion of the 2% voting “below” are either trolling or clicked the wrong answer. The rest are loons.
On the surface it may seem absurd to suggest anything other than Tucker greatly exceeding expectations. He got ten commits adding up to the 23rd-ranked class in the country less than two months into his job without the ability to get recruits on campus because there’s a damn pandemic going on outside. All fair.
There is, however, another side to the coin. Right now Michigan State’s average prospect rating on 247Sports is .8496. That’s on a scale from zero to .9999. MSU’s 2020 recruiting class–Mark Dantonio’s final class at Michigan State–had an average prospect rating of .8568. That class finished ranked 43rd in the country and tenth in the Big Ten. In 2017 Michigan State’s average prospect rating was .8490, the lowest since Dantonio’s first full class in 2008. That 2017 class ranked 36th in the country and sixth in the Big Ten. In order to exceed expectations, Tucker has to handedly beat those those marks by time the early signing period rolls around in December.
I added another poll to try and put Tucker’s recruiting on a numerical scale. As you can see a lot of fans are very happy with the start, but still feel there is some work to be done.

To get to a nine or ten on that scale Tucker will need to start winning some real recruiting battles. He’ll need to convince top 300 prospects to choose Michigan State over the likes of Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame, Oregon, USC, etc. Win a few of those and he’d be cooking with gas. There are plenty of intriguing prospects with some good upside in MSU’s 2021 class. There also needs to be a few no-doubt players in there as well.
However it shakes out, one thing is for certain. Michigan State fans are overwhelmingly convinced their football program’s recruiting game is in a better spot right now with Mel Tucker than had Mark Dantonio not retired.

Given Dantonio’s inability to consistently sign recruiting classes up to the standard of his team’s actual on-field performance and the early returns for Tucker, that result was expected.
There is still much to be decided as college football recruiting is in a very strange time due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fall could be a bizarre time of de-commits and flips if on and off-campus recruiting activities are allowed to return in full.
It’s early, but Michigan State fans are finally confident they have a head coach and staff that can recruit well enough to keep them competitive with the best teams in the country for sustained periods. The first month of recruiting action was exciting, but the calendar has turned and like the May flowers brought on by the April shower, there is still plenty of growing to be done.

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