Mel Tucker has been around a lot of talent in his coaching career.

When he was with the Chicago Bears, Matt Forte was in town. When he joined Nick Saban’s Alabama staff in 2015, his defense was seeing Derrick Henry in practice every day. As Georgia’s defensive coordinator from 2016-18, he saw Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and D’Andre Swift every day.

The Michigan State head coach knows what good running backs look like. So on Tuesday evening, during an appearance on ESPN’s College Football Playoff rankings reveal show, when Tucker offered up unmitigated praise of Spartan running back Kenneth Walker III, it carried some serious weight.

“He’s special. He’s as good as I’ve been around,” Tucker said. “He’s a great person, he’s a hard worker, he’s just a great teammate, he’s very unselfish, he’s a humble guy.

“From a talent perspective, I can’t say I’ve been around a player that’s better than K9.”

In his first season in East Lansing, Walker has been unstoppable. He leads the country in rushing yards (1,473) and rushing touchdowns (17). His 6.5 yards per carry ranks third among qualified Big Ten running backs, but he leads the league in touches by a healthy margin. Walker’s on pace for the best rushing season by a Spartan tailback since Le’Veon Bell’s 2012 campaign.

Michigan State has jump-started a Heisman Trophy campaign for the tailback, and Tucker’s praise Tuesday night should only further fuel that buzz.

Walker and the Spartans (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) have a chance Saturday for a signature win when they travel to Columbus to play No. 4 Ohio State (9-1, 7-0 Big Ten). Their clash is scheduled to kick off at noon ET on ABC.