Mel Tucker has orchestrated one of the fastest turnarounds in college football at Michigan State after taking on retired Mark Dantonio ahead of the 2020 season.
The Spartans struggled to a 2-5 record in Tucker’s COVID-shortened debut season when the head coach was unable to maintain face-to-face communication with his players and coaching staff for most months leading up to this season.
Tucker then immediately and, let’s be honest, shockingly, led Michigan State to 11 wins in 2021. Not even the biggest diehards of die-hard Spartan fans expected that THAT impressive from a season last year.
But Tucker pulled it off, and suddenly Michigan State football has an abundance of momentum. Tucker’s accomplishment hasn’t gone unnoticed — on the recruiting lane or in national publications.
On Wednesday, CBS Sports released its list of the top 25 college football head coaches, part of a two-day publication that ranks each of the 65 head coaches in college football’s Power 5 conferences.
Tucker soared up the list, moving up a whopping 33 places between 2021 and 2022, landing at No. 24 in the country. It was the second-biggest jump by a Power 5 coach in the rankings, only behind Baylor’s Dave Aranda – who jumped 51 places in the rankings after leading the Bears to a school-record 12 wins and a Big 12 championship last season had.
“Tucker shot up our rankings faster than his annual salary, but guess what? His 33-point rise isn’t even the biggest jump by a coach this year,” wrote CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli. “Tucker was 57 last season after a 5-2 debut at Michigan State, but an 11-2 record and a Peach Bowl win propels him into the top 25.”
Scroll to Next
Despite Tucker’s big jump, he’s still only the eighth-best head coach in the Big Ten, according to CBS Sports’ rankings. That could be because Tucker still has just three seasons under his belt as head coach and has a career record of 18-14.
“The trick will be to see if he can continue because expectations have been raised,” Fornelli wrote. “As our rankings have shown, we punish coaches when they don’t do them justice here.”
Ohio State’s Ryan Day remains the highest-ranking coach in the Big Ten, despite falling two spots to No. 6 in the Power 5. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh climbed 14 spots to No. 9 after leading the Wolverines to a Big Ten championship and college football playoff appearance in 2021.
Kirk Ferentz (No. 13) of Iowa, Paul Chryst (No. 14) of Wisconsin and James Franklin (No. 15) of Penn State occupy the next three spots among Big Ten coaches. Ferentz and Chryst each climbed four spots, while Franklin dropped two spots.
Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald comes into play as the sixth-highest-ranked Big Ten coach after falling 13 places in the rankings to 21st. PJ Fleck of Minnesota is next in 23rd, up two places from last year.
Tucker, ranked No. 8 in the conference, certainly feels low given the impact he’s already made on the field and down the recruiting path in East Lansing. But this is one of those situations where we just have to be patient and wait for the fruits of his labor to come through – meaning his ranking will continue to rise as the wins keep coming.
Michigan state is just under two weeks away from the start of summer conditioning, which will begin on May 31st.