The Season Hasn’t Even Begun and Mel Tucker Is Already Making Excuses
Last week, Mel Tucker said a number of eyebrow-raising things during his press conference midway through Michigan State's fall camp.
Tucker criticized MSU's ground game, implying running backs were missing their gaps and tight ends/receivers were missing their blocks. He questioned his run defense, too
"Our run game on both sides of the ball, I just want to know exactly what to expect when we go out there and play in that first game," he said. "Right now, I'm not exactly sure."
Tucker was saying he doesn't know what his run game and rush defense will look like when MSU opens the 2023 season, not against two-time defending national champion Georgia, not against one of the Big Ten's best defenses and ground attacks like Michigan or Penn State, but against MAC opponent Central Michigan.
And that wasn't all. Tucker implied he was less than pleased with some of his players' body language when things haven't gone well in practice. He also grilled his defense further, saying they need to be able to shut down opponents on the ground without over-helping.
"We need to stop the run better in split-safety defense," he said. "Play big boy ball... with one linebacker in the box.
"We've got a huge defensive line right now. If we can get these guys to the game we should be stout."
If we can get these guys to the game? Given the myriad injuries MSU dealt with throughout 2022, it's a safe assumption that the health of the team is on Tucker's mind. But dropping not-so-subtle lines like this in a press conference setting indicates that State is already banged-up.
All of that sounded like a coach who was trying to temper his fanbase's expectations without overtly trying to tempering his fanbase's expectations.
Then came Tucker's comments in a sit-down interview with The Lansing State Journal. In it, Tucker sounds like a coach who's eminently aware of the expectations and pressure he's facing. He also sounds like a coach who's eminently aware that the season he's about to have won't do anything to satisfy or alleviate said expectations and pressure.
Tucker sounded like he was trying to get out in front of the negativity he knows is in store for him and his program this fall. With only a week before the Spartans kick off their 2023 season, Tucker is already methodically presenting excuses, making the case that another 5-7 mark isn't a reflection of him or his performance as State's head coach, and that it certainly doesn't invalidate the $9.5 million he's paid per year.
Let's break down Tucker's not-so-thinly-veiled excuses one by one.