Michigan State football makes exceedingly smart hire of Nick Saban disciple Mel Tucker

PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 02: Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mel Tucker during the college football game between the Colorado Buffaloes and UCLA Bruins on November 02, 2019, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 02: Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mel Tucker during the college football game between the Colorado Buffaloes and UCLA Bruins on November 02, 2019, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

After initially turning Michigan State down, Mel Tucker has accepted the offer to be the next head coach of the Spartans.

Michigan State got their man.

Former Colorado head coach Mel Tucker is the new head coach of the Spartans, accepting the offer overnight, about a week after initially saying no to the Spartans.

Tucker was one of the first candidates Michigan State reached out to after the sudden retirement of Mark Dantonio along with Iowa State’s Matt Campbell but wasn’t interested in leaving Colorado based on the initial offer.

According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, Michigan State didn’t take no for an answer, they repeatedly came to Tucker’s reps with an offer that he couldn’t turn down. Exact details of the contract, including the length of the deal, is unknown, but Feldman reports his salary will be more than double the $2.17 million he received at Colorado. Further, Tucker’s coaching salary pool will be doubled from the $3.15 million he had to work with in Boulder.

The announcement comes after Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell turned down the job, at which point, it seems Michigan State redirected their attention to Tucker. In short, Michigan State showed Tucker the money.

Tucker, 48, began his coaching career as a graduate assistant on Nick Saban’s Michigan State teams in 1997. He followed Saban to LSU to be his defensive backs coach in 2000. Tucker then went to Ohio State where he was part of a national championship team under coach Jim Tressel.

From 2005-2014, Tucker worked in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears where he worked as the defensive coordinator. After his stint with the Bears, Tucker reunited with Saban at Alabama where he was the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach in 2015, winning another national championship.

After that year, Tucker was named the defensive coordinator at Georgia under Kirby Smart.

Tucker then leveraged his success in Athens to his first head coaching job with Colorado in 2019 and went 5-7 (3-6 Pac-12) in his lone season. Two of those five wins came against Top 25 opponents and he put together the No. 7 recruiting class in the Pac-12 this year, the highest-ranking for the program since joining the conference in 2011.

Now, Tucker returns to East Lansing with the reputation as a Saban disciple and the expectations that come with that. Tucker will face more challenges in the Big Ten East than he ever did in his one year at Colorado.

Tucker will have to recruit against Ryan Day and Ohio State, James Franklin and Penn State and Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. It’s a tough sell for Michigan State football fans who may be thinking they acted out of desperation and settled on Tucker after a series of rejections from candidates they wanted more.

If Michigan State really wanted Tucker, why didn’t they just give him the offer he ended up receiving before reaching out to and interviewing other candidates, especially Fickell?

If Fickell said yes to Michigan State on Monday, Tucker is still in Colorado today and trying to figure out how to get the Buffs back to a bowl game.

It’s understandable to feel that kind of way.

In the interest of optimism, Michigan State hired a coach who has been a part of two national championship teams and almost won a third at Georgia. He’s worked for several years under Saban, the greatest college coach of all time, and had success on his own away from Saban. That has been a bugaboo for several of Saban’s former assistants.

Tucker will bring a tough-minder, fast and aggressive defensive back to Michigan State. Fans will love and appreciate that type of unit on that side of the ball. The biggest challenge for Tucker will be fielding an offense that can score in bunches.

If Michigan State is going to compete in the tough Big Ten East, they’ll have to recruit speed to East Lansing and spread the field. Michigan State was too old school under Dantonio to compete at a high level in the Big Ten or on a national level.

Tucker can bring Michigan State into the future if he hires the right offensive coordinator who can do just that.

Michigan State needed Tucker after Dantonio left them in the lurch and now Tucker needs Michigan State fans to give him a chance to win them over.

He is more than a desperation hire, and if he wins in a big way, no one will remember he wasn’t their first pick.

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