On the banks of the Red Cedar, recruiting never stops. We’re here every step of the way to keep you informed with our daily notebook. Recruiting questions? Comment below or direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll do our best to get them answered.
Michigan State’s rebuild goes through Ohio
Eighteen players have committed to Michigan State football’s 2018 class, and each one has done so with a leap of faith.
None of the current players chose Michigan State after the Spartans upset in-state rival Michigan. None of them made the call after Michigan State earned a return to the AP Top 25 and the Amway Coaches Poll.
They had three Big Ten championships and four bowl wins under Coach Mark Dantonio to point to, but they also saw a 3-9 record in 2016, numerous issues off the field and an uncertain future. Still, they pledged to the Spartans.
“They didn’t need to convince us,” said Olentangy (Lewis Center, Ohio) defensive end Zach Slade, a 3-star prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings. “We know we’ve got a really good class coming up, and the program is gonna get better. I just know it’s gonna get better.”
That turnaround is well underway. It’s been done with defense, and it’s been done in large part with defenders from Ohio. Starting linebackers Joe Bachie, Andrew Dowell and Chris Frey all hail from Ohio, as do defensive backs David Dowell, Justin Layne and Josiah Scott.
Ohio kids got the 2018 class rolling as well. Nine of the first 14 players to commit to the Spartans came from the Buckeye State. No other Power 5 school has landed as many players from the state.
— Maureen kline (@MaureenMckline) September 23, 2017
“It’s awesome,” Slade said. “I know quite a few of them now that I didn’t know right when I committed. We’re all really close now. We’ve hung out a couple times. They’re awesome guys.”
Michigan State has thrived on the overlooked, the Ohio State fan growing up who never landed an offer from the Buckeyes. Bachie and Frey both rooted for the Scarlet and Grey, which sure made getting amped for the Michigan rivalry easy.
Take 3-star Dublin (Ohio) Coffman linebacker Jeslord Boateng, a 6-foot-2, 213-pound menace on the football field and a standout sprinter on the track. His length and athleticism immediately stood out, and his skills continue to catch up, as shown in the film below.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot better physically, knowing what I’m doing in my assignments, executing to the best of my ability,” Boateng said. “I think I’ve gotten a lot better with that.”
Seven of Michigan State’s nine commits from Ohio project to play defense at Michigan State, continuing the trend that has been so clear over the years. Linebacker Greg Jones? Cincinnati. Defensive tackle Jerel Worthy? Dayton. Cornerback Johnny Adams? Akron. Linebacker Denicos Allen? Hamilton. The list goes on.
For Michigan State to build its program back up, Ohio had to be the focus. And it was.
“We got the opportunity at Michigan State and took it right away because it was the school we wanted to go to,” Slade said of he and his brother, 3-star DT Jacob. “It doesn’t matter if there’s any other offer. Michigan State was the school and the place we wanted to be.”
What about 2019?
There’s been plenty of talk about how much in-state talent Michigan State could land in 2019. It’s already reeled in commitments from 4-star prospects Spencer Brown and Dwan Mathis.
But again, Ohio has to be a focus. It always is. That said, no clear top targets have emerged. The Spartans have offers out to 5-star DE Zach Harrison and 4-star DT Jowon Briggs, the top two players in the state, but those two seem unlikely to end up in East Lansing.
So far, Michigan State has only offered five players from the state: Harrison, Briggs, 4-star Michigan OL commit Nolan Rumler and 4-star linebackers Cade Stover and Jamir Thomas. More surely will come later.
Michigan State may not land half of its class from Ohio like it very well could in 2018, but the state should and likely will continue to be a top priority.
In focus: Michigan State commitment highlights
Every week during the high school season we round up some of the top plays from Michigan State commits for you. In keeping with the theme of this notebook, we’ll show you what the players from Ohio did this weekend.
1. Sandusky (Ohio) quarterback (and projected receiver) Javez Alexander pulled a Brian Lewerke, taking a QB sneak for a big gain, and in this case, a score.
4. The aforementioned Zach Slade easily broke through the line for a big tackle for loss.
Miss any of The Green Room? Check out our archive here.
Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.