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Kentucky and Michigan State’s Impending Recruiting Clash

(Photo: © Dustin Bradford | Getty Images)

(Photo: © Dustin Bradford | Getty Images)

After immediately turning down the Michigan State brass, the Spartans came back to former graduate assistant Mel Tucker with a killer deal that will pay the former NFL defensive coordinator around $5.5 million per year and provide him a robust salary pool of $6.4 million. The Cleveland, Ohio native who formerly joined the Alabama staff in 2015 before moving to Athens to become Kirby Smart’s defensive coordinator from 2016-18 returns to the Big Ten where he helped Ohio State win a national championship in 2002. This all happened after just one head coaching season at Colorado where he went 5-7 with upset wins over Arizona State, Nebraska and Washington. It’s good to be Mel Tucker.

After what was a very long three days for the Big Blue Nation, Tucker and Michigan State’s pursuit of recruiting ace Vince Marrow fell short and UK’s tight ends coach announced he will be returning to Lexington for his eighth season and will now make $900,000 per year which will be the highest non-coordinator salary in the SEC.

Tucker may not be done trying to poach the UK staff, but it is clear that Mark Stoops and the university administration dodged a major bullet.

Now all eyes point to the recruiting trail and the class of 2021 as each school will be looking to get prospective student-athletes on campus for their spring games in addition to camps during the summer. More often than not, these two programs will be butting heads for a lot of the same players and it’s clear that Michigan State wants to take back some of the turf that UK has stolen towards the end of the Mark Dantonio era.

Detroit Rock City

What are Michigan State’s pipelines? Probably what you would guess.

With Mark Dantonio, the Spartans had a lot of success recruiting their state and that led to a bunch of wins in between the white lines. However, since the dismissal of staffer Curtis Blackwell, that seemed to be regarding a specific party where multiple Michigan State football players sexually assaulted a female back in May 2017 we have seen Michigan State’s recruiting take a dip.

In the last three recruiting classes, Kentucky has gone into the Detroit metro area and landed six players with four occurring in the class of 2020. In that class, UK landed the state’s top prospect in Justin Rogers while Michigan State did not land one player inside the top-10. This has to get fixed for the Spartans immediately and Mel Tucker knows it.

Michigan’s biggest city is specifically where UK has done most of its damage. Both Justin Rogers and Marquan McCall have came from the Detroit’s Oak Park High School while DeAndre Square and Deondre Buford hail from football powerhouses Cass Technical and Martin Luther King. Steve Clinkscale has been able to take advantage of the turmoil in East Lansing and it has resulted in Kentucky reeling in some very good football players.

Don’t be surprised if the Spartans now pursue Clinkscale after being spurned by the Big Dog.

Ohio Pipeline

In the last four classes, Michigan State has actually beaten out Kentucky with 29 signees from the Buckeye State while Kentucky has reeled in just 21. Despite those numbers, UK’s blue-chip ratio is much higher as the Wildcats have reeled in seven four-star recruits with the Spartans landing just three in that time period. That means Kentucky has a ratio of 33.3 percent while State is sitting at 10.3 percent. There is no denying that the Wildcats have owned that area outside of Ohio State when it comes to going after a higher level of football player.

Among those players for Kentucky was of course Lynn Bowden Jr. as well as projected starters and potential All-SEC performers Darian Kinnard and Chris Oats. It was no surprise to see them go after Vince Marrow who the was the man responsible for bringing all of the Ohio talent to the Bluegrass State.

Mel Tucker is from Cleveland and worked for Jim Tressel at Ohio State from 2001-03 serving as the Buckeyes’ defensive backs coach. To no one’s surprise because Marrow knows everyone in Ohio. Tucker and the Big Dog have a very close relationship and they seemed determined to land the recruiting ace and the man who has turned into a closer to allow UK to land Terry Wilson, Joshua Paschal, Jared Casey and JJ Weaver. Despite multiple attempts, Marrow is staying put in Lexington.

While the terms are not clear at the moment, it is a safe bet to assume that Vince Marrow will be one of the highest paid non-coordinator assistant coaches in college football. A major part of this was due to the heavy pursuit from new Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker that was powered by a very deep salary pool. This move makes it clear that the new head coach is going to make recruiting the Buckeye State very important.

“I still have recruiting ties in Ohio, and Ohio is gonna be an important place for us to recruit,” Tucker said. We’re gonna recruit very, very hard in Ohio.” Kentucky just won a bargaining chip to use against Michigan State on the recruiting trail with Marrow turning down the Spartans, but Michigan State is going to be ready for a fight in Ohio.

All About Crootin’

When Mark Stoops was at Florida State, he took away a lot of recruiting philosophies from Jimbo Fisher. Fisher, of course, took to Tallahassee what he learned from Nick Saban at LSU. Mel Tucker was a graduate assistant for Saban at Michigan State, plus his secondary coach at LSU in 2000 and reunited with him in 2015 in Tuscaloosa to again coach the secondary. He went on to be Kirby Smart’s defensive coordinator for three years at Georgia, but it’s clear he’s bringing some of that Saban blueprint to East Lansing.

Both coaches invest a ton of resources in recruiting and that was a big reason why Mel Tucker left Boulder for Michigan State. We’ve seen Kentucky make a true football commitment when hiring Mark Stoops and it has helped raise their recruiting ceiling which has allowed them to get into Ohio and bring in program difference makers such as Lynn Bowden Jr., Mike Edwards and Benny Snell Jr. Mel Tucker will be using very similar recruiting tactics and it’s going to result in both programs becoming very familiar with each other on the recruiting trail.

Kentucky pulled a big coup early by keeping Vince Marrow in Lexington and now they need to try their best to keep Steve Clinkscale on staff so those Michigan ties built do not go away. However, there will be no backing down from Tucker and his new staff at Michigan State. Expect some heated recruiting battles with the Spartans in Ohio and don’t be surprised if those fights stretch out into Michigan and in the south.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of a program.

Article written by Adam Luckett

Twitter: @AdamLuckettKSR

4 Comments for Kentucky and Michigan State’s Impending Recruiting Clash



  1. dan1965
    2:31 am February 18, 2020 Permalink

    Any names of kids in particular who UK may go head to head against Mich. St. on ?



  2. peaches76
    9:15 am February 18, 2020 Permalink

    Apparently trying to poach Clinkscale now!!



  3. Brutal Hustler
    12:38 pm February 18, 2020 Permalink

    The Ohio part shouldn’t be that bad. Cleveland is practically a whole different state compared to the Cincinnati/Dayton/Youngstown area we normally recruit. We’ll probably have more of a challenge in the Cincy/Dayton area from Luke Fickell and UC than we will MSU. The Detroit part is troublesome though



  4. satcheluk
    3:02 pm February 18, 2020 Permalink

    He was hired to displace UK as the #2 option to OSU. If we out recruit him over the next three years, then he’ll probably get canned and we won’t have to worry about him.