EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan State’s football coach Mel Tucker is all business when he steps on to the practice field. Especially on a day, like Wednesday, where physicality and toughness are emphasized.
For the first time this season the Spartans held their first fully-padded practice of fall camp and the energy, as well as the intensity, was evident right from the get go.
Tucker designed it to be that way.
“Every day we have a point of emphasis as a team,” said Tucker. “You know one day it’s pad level. The next day it might be hand placement. You know? Today it was physicality and finishing with extreme effort, and we got that so we’re closer to where we need to be.”
Tucker along with all of the other coaches raised their voices a time, or two, but only ‘in enthusiasm’ as he likes to say.
Players were challenged all day to be physical because it will determine who steps on to the field come September 3 at Northwestern in the opener.
“That’s why we’re out here,” said Tucker. “We’re finding out. We’re working to improve our technique, and our fundamentals, and know when to do it and why to do it. We’re actually finding out who can help us. Who loves football. Who lives football and we’re going to play the guys that play with toughness, mental and physical, who know what to do and give effort. Those are the guys who we’re going to play. We’ll fit our schemes to fit those guys and do what those guys can do. They might not necessarily be the most talented players, but you have to give extreme effort. You have to know what to do and you have to play with mental and physical toughness.”
If Tucker doesn’t like the way practice is going or how the guys are working through drills he will stop what’s going on and restart it. It’s one reason why sophomore running back Jordan Simmons wanted to play for Tucker.
“That’s what I like about him,” said Simmons. “If he doesn’t like the way his practice is going he’s going to restart it so he can have it the way he wants it.”
Tucker wasn’t the only coach laying down the law on the practice field. Chris Kapilovic, who was promoted to assistant head coach in January 2021, is also responsible for the Spartans’ run game and the offensive line and he was calling out the guys up front all morning when it came to technique during drill work.
“You can only play this game one way up front and there is no plays off up front, right?,” said Kapilovic. “It’s not like you’re on the outside and you’re going to run the ball the other way and you kind of coast or something — everybody has a critical role in every play. I always talk about like, mental warfare in a sense. You have to push yourself every snap and it starts in drill work. You know if you take a play, or rep off, in drill work you’re going to do the same thing when you get tired out on the field. So, that’s the job of an O-line coach right? We have to be great teachers, but then we have to push them. If you let it slide then it will become habit.”
Michigan State has nine players with game experience on the offensive line and right now all of them, from six-year center Matt Allen to first-year Arkansas State transfer Jarrett Horst are competing for the five starting spots.