I can forgive a 5-7 season.

Especially when two of the aforementioned seven came against teams that wound up making the College Football Playoff. And when you consider that the program is still reeling from being on the college football equivalent of Tesla's dubious self-driving mode for the last four years of the prior caretaker's term. (Thanks for burning it down on your way out, Mark!)

But what I can't abide at Mel Tucker's Michigan State football program is underwhelming or even average recruiting. Because, at the end of the day, the $95 million contract he got was thanks in no small part to his recruiting acumen.

Why, then, has MSU lost a conspicuous number of 2023 committed recruits, many of whom were highly touted?

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Over the summer, Tucker and Co. had put together a recruiting class that was considered Top 20 by some experts. It wasn't uncommon to hear recruitniks predict that State's 2023 group would end up ranking among the nation's 10 best.

A lot has changed since then, as evidenced by MSU now barely cracking the Top 50 in the 2023 recruiting class rankings, per 247sports.com.

Over the weekend, Michigan State lost Colton Hood, a 3-star corner from Georgia, and Jonathan Slack, a 3-star offensive lineman from Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Detroit. There are rumblings on sports radio and social media that at least some of the Spartans' recent decommitments were initiated by the program, but regardless it's not a good look or vibe, and recruiting is often very much about look and vibe.

I wasn't worried about MSU and Tucker suffering in recruiting as a result of the brutal 2022 season they just wrapped up. I've heard too many coaches and college football lifers say that bad seasons often serve as a positive recruiting mechanism, by way of showing prospects that they could compete right away for significant playing time thanks to preexisting personnel clearly in need of improvement.

This, though, is different. In context with MSU's recent surprising departures via the transfer portal, there's an uneasy feeling about the future of Tucker's program at precisely the time when some positive reinforcement is so desperately needed.

I knew Tucker had his work cut out for him here. Even after a magical 11-2 campaign in 2021, I figured it would take at least a couple more seasons until this program fully cleansed itself of the MAC-level talent Mark Dantonio had settled for over the twilight of his career. I thought it would take at least two more recruiting cycles for that to be rectified, and that was assuming Tucker would continue to deliver Top 30 recruiting classes year-in and year-out.

Now, with Early Signing Day just a few days away, MSU has just 10 committed recruits, and a once-promising '23 class has cratered to the mediocre ranks we grew accustomed to during Dantonio's complacent years.

I don't know if Tucker can coach. That's not a slight against him, by the way. I've seen guys achieve success early in their tenure in college football then fail to replicate it ever again. It's an insanely competitive industry where everyone is always going full-speed to find even the slightest edge.

But I was told Tucker was a guaranteed recruiting savant. The kind with an SEC and NFL pedigree, to boot.

For $9.5 million per year, that's the bare minimum of what he has to be at Michigan State. Otherwise, what the hell is MSU paying for?

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