Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Mel Tucker talks lessons from Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez

ByNICK KOSKO Jun 22, 10:01 AM

Mel Tucker became the Michigan State coach seemingly out of nowhere after one year at Colorado. In a unique offseason, Tucker has a tall task to rebuild the Spartans football program after the departure of Mark Dantonio.

However, he at least has a figure to look up to for coaching advice heading into the Big Ten. Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, who coached the Badgers from 1990-2005, was Tucker’s coach when Tucker played at Wisconsin from 1990-94.

Speaking on the Move the Sticks Podcast, Tucker praised and credited Alvarez for his development as a coach and thinks the lessons from him will lead to success at Michigan State.

“Coach Alvarez is a great coach, a great man, a great leader,” Tucker said on the Move the Sticks Podcast. “My freshman year we were 1-10, then 5-6, 5-6, Rose Bowl Champs. Coach Alvarez was unwavering. He would always talk to us about ‘never flinch.’ Never blink. He was just staunchly committed to a vision of building a championship program through hustle, effort, toughness, mental toughness, physical toughness, team, unselfishness day in and day out. He never wavered. His assistant coaches never wavered. Through recruiting, he was able to build that program with those core values and principles that we can all understand. Eventually he was able to get that program turned around. I learned a great deal from him in that regard.”

Alvarez finished with a 120-73-1 record as head coach of Wisconsin and Tucker referenced the 1993 and ‘94 turnaround after the beginning of his career. In 1993, Wisconsin finished 10-1-1 as Rose Bowl champions and in Tucker’s final year as a player in 1994, Wisconsin finished 8-3-1 and won the Hall of Fame Bowl under Alvarez.

Tucker received his first head coaching opportunity in 2019 with Colorado and the Buffaloes finished 5-7.

CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli ranked all of the coaches in the Power Five level, releasing numbers 26-65 last month. Tucker checked in at No. 55 on the list, despite his under .500 record in his first year of coaching. That is a nine-spot bump from his ranking of No. 64 in 2019.

“He climbed from No. 64 to No. 55 with the move to Michigan State,” Fornelli wrote. “My theory is it has a lot more to do with all the new hires than our voters being overly impressed by his 5-7 season in Colorado. He steps into a difficult situation at Michigan State thanks in part to the timing of his hire and lack of spring practice.”

Tucker’s coaching career actually starting at Michigan State, serving as a graduate assistant on the 1997 and 1998 teams. After that, Tucker coached defensive backs at Miami (Ohio), LSU and Ohio State, before leaving to coaching in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears from 2005-2014. Prior to Colorado, Tucker served as the associate head coach and defensive backs coach with Alabama (2015) and the defensive coordinator for Georgia (2016-18).

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