This series continues with a team who's becoming more consistent on the field, and may be beginning to reap success off of it: the Michigan State Spartans.
Chris Vannini from fellow SBN blog The Only Colors answered a few questions on where MSU is right now, and where they may be headed now that Michigan is again picking up steam on the recruiting trail and between the hashmarks.
BSD: What are your overall feelings of the 2013 class so far?
Chris: While many MSU fans are afraid to show any joy when it comes to recruiting because of what Brady Hoke is doing in Ann Arbor, MSU actually is doing great so far with its 2013 class. Seven commits at this point is really good, but again, MSU fans have been hearing about the monster class Michigan is bringing in so they try to steer the conversation away from recruiting. MSU is filling important positions with solid players and will bring in some more talent with its final spots. Because of a lack of attrition, MSU’s 2013 class is nearly half-full already.
What areas/position groups do you think are most important for the 2013 class? How is this class measuring up to this so far?
Linebacker was a position of need for this class and MSU has already pulled in two solid players in Jon Reschke and Shane Jones. Reschke is a four-star middle linebacker whose father played at MSU, so that was a big factor. Jones is three/four star outside linebacker, but chose MSU over offers from U-M, Penn State, Nebraska and Texas A&M, among others. I know you guys have been known as "Linebacker U," but MSU has some great linebackers under Dantonio, including Greg Jones, Eric Gordon, Max Bullough and Denicos Allen. It has been the most successfully-recruited position under Dantonio.
Another position MSU needs is offensive line, which has been a struggle under Dantonio. They currently have big Texas OT Caleb Benenoch, but his stock has been rising and with more offers coming in, some question the odds of him actually making it to East Lansing.
What recruit in the 2013 class are you most excited about and why?
I’m between Reschke and Jones, but I’m going to go with Reschke because he’ll play in the middle. MSU gives a lot of responsibilities to its middle linebackers, not unlike a lot of places. Dantonio basically will have had two middle linebackers from 2008-13 between Jones and Bullough, as both started in the middle as sophomores. MSU has told Reschke that he fits right in line, as he would have one year to learn under the senior Bullough before possibly moving into the starter role if he develops properly. The defense has become MSU’s calling card and the hope is Reshke could be a future captain of the unit.
Who do you think is the top target left for MSU?
The best player that I’d say MSU has a shot at is Montravius Adams, the No. 1 DT in the Class of 2013. MSU has been recruiting Georgia more (details below) and his former high school teammate, MSU receiver Keith Mumphrey, convinced Adams to make the trip up to East Lansing for the Spring Game last weekend. I don’t give MSU great odds of prying him out of SEC country, but hey, anything’s possible.
One of MSU’s realistic top targets right now is safety/athlete Delton Williams from Erie, Pa. MSU has a commitment from his high school teammate, quarterback Damion Terry, and seems to be in the lead for his services. He has offers from Penn State, Pitt and Nebraska among others. MSU needs some secondary players and Williams would be a huge addition.
A lot has been made in the past about Mike Hart's "little brother" comment in regards to MSU. Recently, the Spartans have proven that this isn't the case on the field; do you think that this sentiment may have an impact on recruiting commits to East Lansing? And, by extension, how, if at all, do you think the coaching change at UM has impacted MSU recruiting?
Winnings always helps recruiting. Winning over the spread offense of Rich Rodriguez helped MSU recruit pro-style players. When U-M hired Hoke, it brought back that pro-style recruiting pitch that MSU had taken advantage of (although RichRod still out-recruited Dantonio, if you go by those rankings). Hoke certainly has hurt MSU recruiting with what he’s been doing, but MSU was never bringing in the top players, anyway. As a result of Hoke’s Midwest success, MSU has been recruiting places like Wisconsin, Texas and Georgia much harder. Wisconsin was a place where basically everyone became a Badger, but MSU is starting to change that. It’s still a bit of an untapped resource MSU is working on.
Dantonio has done a pretty good job of coaching up his players, especially these last few years when you've been in the hunt for a B1G title right up until the end of the season. From a recruiting standpoint, how do you think Dantonio measures up in the Big Ten? What do you think he can do to better compete with the "big two" (Ohio State and Michigan)?
When Dantonio was hired at MSU, he wanted to mold his program after Wisconsin and Iowa. The staples of those programs are the same: Run the football and play strong defense. Neither of those programs ever have highly-ranked recruiting classes. MSU is never going to be able to out-recruit U-M and Ohio State — the results coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons should show that. But that’s just fine. Since Rivals started player ratings in 2002, MSU has gotten just one five-star player — William Gholston. MSU has a coaching staff that is great with player development and finding players that can improve. And the success on the field has been proven. Isn’t that all you can ask for?
It’s not a coincidence that MSU, Iowa and Wisconsin led the Big Ten with six picks each in this year’s NFL Draft. Of MSU’s six picks, five were given three stars or fewer out of high school. These programs can develop players and have proven to be consistent. That’s what Dantonio wanted to build, and that’s what he did.
What class of '12 or '13 player (or players) do you think will have the most impact when our schools next meet up?
MSU and Penn State don’t actually meet again until at least 2015, so the Land Grant Trophy is going to be pretty dusty by then. But one 2012 player I could see having an immediate impact is wide receiver Kyle Kerrick. The early-enrollee made some plays in MSU’s Spring Game, and with the Spartans reloading the entire wide receiver corps, Kerrick could have a shot to earn some immediate playing time.
A few of our targeted players overlap. There are some we've recruited where we have virtually no shot, and others where both teams are in play. Where do you think Michigan State stands on players such as Robert Foster, Dorian Johnson, David Williams, or Derwin Gray?
Honestly, I don’t think MSU is in a great position with any of them at this point. If I had to pick one, I’d say Derwin Gray, as he was at MSU’s Spring Game this weekend. But at this point in the recruiting process, I don’t see MSU being a top school for many of those guys right now.
Is there anything else you would want to add about the current state of Michigan State recruiting?
In Michigan, we’ve rarely ever have had a time when MSU and U-M were both top programs. This leads to the belief among U-M fans that MSU will fall back to a 6-6 team every year because Hoke is killing on the recruiting trail and U-M is back on the rise. It’s the transitive property: If one program is good, the other must be bad. But it’s not going to happen.
U-M will be back among the nation’s elite, but MSU isn’t going anywhere. Like I said in the beginning, many MSU fans don’t like to talk about recruiting, because it’s a conversation U-M rightfully dominates. But they also should have faith that Dantonio has build the program’s foundation and has a proven track record of very few misses when it comes to recruiting. There are going to be a lot of good battles for the Legends Division crown between these two teams in the coming years.
Thanks again to Chris for the insight! For more info on Michigan State football, recruiting, and anything else you could possibly want to know about the Spartans, visit www.theonlycolors.com or follow Chris on twitter at @ChrisVannini.