As Michigan State prepares for its third season under Mel Tucker, expectations for the program continue to soar. The head football coach has previously said the Spartans are aiming higher than their 11-2 in 2021, and it’s clear the program is aiming for the championships.
Cornerback Ameer Speed, who transferred to Michigan State after graduating from Georgia last year, is a player on MSU’s 2022 roster who is familiar with competing for championships. The Bulldogs fell to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, but avenged that loss by eliminating the Crimson Tide in the National Championship.
A week into spring training at Michigan State, Speed said the Spartans were capable of reaching a College Football Playoff and playing for a title themselves.
“I think we’re close,” Speed said. “We brought in a few more people to help us. We had a very good season last year, so I think the pieces come together. We just have to put them together.
Speed has already started sharing their experience of playing for a national championship with their new teammates.
“A lot of people are like, ‘Dang, you went to the natty.’ And I’m like, ‘Shoot, let’s do it again,’ Speed said. “Why not do it again? I just feel like it’s a state of mind. I was telling them, you have to think, you have to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to the national championship.’ Last year in Georgia, we had this idea in mind like this time last year: “We’re going to the national championship.” So, I feel like that’s what you have to do now. You have to put that in your head and tell yourself that we can do it.
Hearing that must be music to Tucker’s ears – the head coach has preached about having a ‘relentless’ mindset since the day he set foot in East Lansing. Now he has one of his new players spreading the same message on the training ground.
“We have to play like that, build like that – it’s more than physical, it’s about the national championship. You have to believe in it too, so I think with the culture we’re building, the people we’ve brought in, we can do it.
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Obviously, winning college football’s biggest prize won’t be easy. Former head coach Mark Dantonio proved Big Ten titles were within reach for Michigan State – he won three in 13 years – but the Spartans haven’t won a national championship since 1966 .
In fact, since the sport moved to the Bowl Championship Series in 1998 and then the College Football Playoff in 2014, the only Big Ten program to have won national championships is Ohio State (2002, 2014).
During that span, the Southeastern Conference has won 14 national championships, with six different SEC schools claiming the highest crown in college football.
Asked about the talent gap between the SEC and the Big Ten schools, Speed didn’t waver in his belief in Michigan State.
“I wanted to go somewhere where there would be good competition. I know the SEC and Big Ten are here,” Speed said, making a level gesture with his hands. “I feel like it wouldn’t be too far with the competition. I want to be able to get the best job possible because I know it’s only going to get harder from there. So, I feel like it wasn’t too far. We are really here.
Tucker also brought his SEC experience to East Lansing, having worked under Alabama’s Nick Saban and Georgia Kirby Smart. After just a week of workouts, Speed can see the similarities between Tucker’s workouts and those in the Deep South.
“Really, just consistency and work ethic and detail in everything,” Speed said. “Like, I feel like the details are the main part of getting where you want to be and being where you want to be. Because you have to detail how you do things, why you do things, and when you That’s one of the main things I enjoyed and the reason I like being here in this program because it’s not too different.
The 2022 season is just getting started, and there’s a lot of work to do between now and the season opener against Western Michigan on Sept. 3, but once again Tucker has put together the pieces that Michigan State needs to compete at the highest level.
When it comes to a national championship race, players like Speed make the Spartans think, “Why not us?”