Mel Tucker already had his work cut out for him when he took over as Michigan State's football coach. Then, a month later, the whole country shut down.
That wiped out spring practice for the Spartans, the first chance for Tucker to get to know his team -- to say nothing of installing new systems. The spring game would have been April 18. Instead, Tucker is doing his best to lay a foundation from home.
“Typically around this time we would just be completing spring ball. We would really know a lot more about our players and have met with them face-to-face quite a bit, and we haven’t really been able to do that. So we’ve been very intentional about connecting with our players through videoconferencing several times a week, installing our schemes and really just getting to know our players.”
At the same, Tucker is trying to add new players. He's landed 10 commits thus far in the class of 2021, leaning on virtual tours and meetings to seal the deal. Tucker said he's targeting players who have something to prove.
"First and foremost, we want players that have tremendously high character, that are unselfish team players, that love the game of football and appreciate what it can do for them," he said. "We want players that are tough, physical, relentless, and we want players that feel like they have something to prove. Players that don't have any sense of entitlement, that want to work to earn everything that they get, with a chip on our shoulder.
"Those are the types of players that we need here. Those are the players that we're targeting, that we're recruiting, because those are the players that can help us build upon the winning culture of excellence that we need at Michigan State."
Four of the Spartans' 2021 commits so far are from the state of Michigan, a focus for Tucker and his staff.
"We recruit every single day," he said. "We recruit nationally so our reach is far, but most importantly, we want to a great job in our own state. We have to win at home first. That's where it all starts. So we've made some very, very strong efforts to build relationships within our own state, to let the prospects and high school coaches know that we're here to serve the state of Michigan and whatever we can do to help these young men, we're willing to do that."
While working from home has been a challenge for Tucker, he's enjoyed the extra family time. He said he's spent more time with his two young sons than he ever has before. It's made him think about the value of human relationships.
"You realize how important connection is, just interpersonal relationships with staff, with coaches, with support staff, administrators, players, high school kids, older players,” he said. “You see it right now with your family. It really makes you think about what are the things that are most important, where do we need to invest the majority of our time?
"It’s apparent to me that interpersonal relationships, authentic relationships and connections with each other, I’ve learned that probably needs to be a higher priority for all of us moving forward."