EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – For the first time in the Mel Tucker era at Michigan State, fans – outside of family members – were allowed inside Spartan Stadium.

6,000 fans, the Spartan Marching Band, the Spartan Cheer and Dance teams were in attendance for Michigan State’s final spring practice of the year. The Spartans began spring practice on March 23 and held three practices per week over the last five weeks.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MSU couldn’t have a spring game in Tucker’s first year as the Spartans’ head football coach. In his second year at the helm, Tucker and company finally got to play in front of the Spartan faithful.

“You could tell there was a little extra pep in the step, you know, seeing the fans out there. Our fans are so important to us,” Tucker said during his post-spring game press conference. “It was excellent to see our fans back out there. I was actually excited myself to see the fans out there.”

“Even at the limited capacity, it was infectious,” MSU quarterback and Temple transfer, Anthony Russo said. “You felt it when you were out there, you could hear it when you were out there, it was kind of motivating us guys on the field to just keep going harder.”

One of the position battles that many had their eyes on this spring was the quarterbacks. Russo and redshirt-sophomore Payton Thorne were taking the majority of the snaps with the starters. Thorne made his first career start in MSU’s final game of the year last season. He threw three touchdowns in a 39-24 loss at Penn State. Russo threw 44 touchdowns in five seasons at Temple. The two have been trading reps with the ones, and leave spring practice with a good feel for Tucker’s offense.

“I think that COVID and not having spring ball last year was a little bit of a blessing in disguise because we focus strictly on the mental piece,” Thorne said. “Doing all the Zoom stuff for months, we got so down into the details of the offense that I think it was beneficial, and I think that has carried over into this spring.”

“When I first got here in January, my main things were trying to learn formations, learn snap counts, learn just the super basic stuff. From then until now, I think I’m light-years ahead,” Russo said on his improvements since arriving at MSU. “I think that I really have a good grasp for it, but I think that it needs to enhance this offseason. I think the summertime is going to be a big opportunity for me to watch more film. I think I have a good understanding of it right now, but I need to master it by the time fall camp comes.”

As spring practice comes to an end for MSU, the team will take some time away from campus before returning for summer camp, with fall camp to begin in late July or early August.

“Our culture is being cemented right now, you know, our practice culture on and off the field as we grow together as a team so I felt like we got a lot done this spring,” Tucker said.