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Mel Tucker making Michigan State football 'wide open' to NFL scouts to evaluate players

Mel Tucker making Michigan State football 'wide open' to NFL scouts to evaluate players

Mel Tucker said he opened his Michigan State football program to NFL scouts to give players, like tight end Connor Heyward, exposure for the draft.


EAST LANSING — Connor Heyward received an invitation to the Senior Bowl on Monday, and coach Mel Tucker said his senior tight end will get a good evaluation by NFL scouts about his future.

In part because Tucker extended invitations to pro scouts and personnel departments to visit the Michigan State Spartans anytime they want.

“We want it to be a very inviting place for the NFL so that they can evaluate us, so they can see us, so they get they can get good information and accurate information on the guys,” Tucker said during his weekly news conference. “And that helps our players, because the NFL and in the process of evaluation and stacking the board for the draft, they don't like unknowns. They want to know everything.

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“And so that's why we're wide open. It makes their job easier, so they can get better information. And it's better for our players, because they get the exposure.”

MSU’s streak of having a player selected in the NFL draft ended in April after 80 consecutive years, though defensive tackle Naquan Jones has emerged as a starter for the Tennessee Titans after signing as an undrafted free agent. Seven Spartans were taken in the previous four drafts.

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Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel on a recent podcast said Tucker — who spent 10 years coaching in the NFL — has taken the approach Nick Saban has at Alabama with pro personnel directors and scouts. Thamel called Mark Dantonio, MSU’s all-time winningest coach “the single-worst coach in college football to NFL scouts” with how much he limited access to his program.

“He treated every one of them like they were bank robbers coming to there,” said Thamel, who said Michigan and Jim Harbaugh are now the worst in college football for NFL access. “It would be like the business school not letting Apple come recruit their students. It's the single dumbest thing college football coaches can do.”

Heyward, a fifth-year senior who shifted from running back to tight end this season, ranks fourth on the Spartans with 26 catches for 229 yards with a touchdown. He also has emerged as a solid blocker on both run and pass plays, similar to his father Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, who played fullback in the NFL. Heyward’s brother, Cam, is a defensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“(Connor) is being invited to the Senior Bowl, and obviously people are evaluating him. (Senior Bowl executive director) Jim Nagy and those guys are looking at him, all of the NFL, are looking at him as as a prospect,” Tucker said. “So absolutely, God willing, he'll have an opportunity to show what he can do.”

Heyward, like others, could choose to return to MSU for another season thanks to the COVID waiver from 2020. With the 13th-ranked Spartans holding senior day Saturday at their 3:30 p.m. regular-season finale against Penn State, Tucker said some players could choose to participate in ceremonies but still potentially return and play next season.