Each year when I compile my ratings for the incoming recruiting class it is an exhaustive effort and this year is no different. I try very hard to call coaches who coached for or against, and to do as much research as possible including speaking to multiple different (non-MSU) division one coaches to help me analyze each kid.
Why so much emphasis on recruiting? One NFL coach when talking about his time as a college coach expressed it better than anyone I had ever heard when he said, “It is like getting 25 first round draft picks each year.” What a great analysis! Now MSU doesn’t sign 25 a year, but you get the point.
Please take into account that I do not use other rating systems, stars, or whatever may be available. A recruit’s true value is based upon need of the program, his ability to fill that need, his character, and finally what other schools offered him. For example, Jim Tressel told me that he has never been around a coach that can evaluate talent like Mark Dantonio. Dantonio’s track record at OSU, UC, and here at MSU proves that.
As far as character issues, there are definitely some kids that would come in and fill a need and have lots of hype, but cannot stay on the field or even in school because of character or academic issues. Mark Dantonio told me, “We recruit character first. If a guy can’t stay, he can’t play here.” They may be a detriment in the locker room or get arrested thus being a complete loss.
How hard are the rankings? When Glenn Winston arrived we praised his character. Glenn has had two much publicized off field issues after he was at MSU. Coaches from MSU to high school talked about what he had endured and what he had overcome to become a top-flight recruit. You simply can never be certain.
Even coaches can’t be certain in the end where a kid will fit. They do all they can to recruit character and talent and then as kids develop they make their fit.
When LeVeon Bell arrived, many bemoaned Dantonio taking a no star kid. No one knew how big LeVeon’s heart was. Now he has departed early for the NFL. Because of how Spartan Nation rates players, we looked good because we had him more highly valued than traditional ranking services.
Character and academics are of major importance with this staff. Will they get it wrong sometimes? Without a doubt, but unlike the past they won’t take kids KNOWING they are rolling the dice.
The 2010 class was Dantonio’s first that they had been able to build true relationships with for many years and we can see that by the stability, character, and contribution of the group. I look at 2010 moving forward as the true test of Dantonio.
Lastly, what other programs have wanted the kid? Does a kid come from a school with a proven track record of developing talent? Do they take unheralded players, make them stars, and put them in the NFL as high draft picks? When I see a kid that is an OL or a RB and he had an offer from a school that is proven there, he gets great points in my system.
So after hours of work and effort, we here at Spartan Nation excitedly present to you the 2013 MSU football recruiting class.
1. Jon Reschke MLB 6’2” 230# Bloomfield, MI Reschke is the REAL deal. Call him Max Bullough 2.0. Smart, tough, and has a motor that doesn’t stop. Doesn’t play football, he lives it. A Coach’s take, “We wanted Jon badly, and thought we had a shot. His parents didn’t push MSU, but you talk to him once and you knew he was green. As good, if not better than Bullough as seniors in high school.” Weakness: Even at all-star games Reschke is the best player on the field. He is able to use brute force to succeed. At the next level he will need technique even more than brains and brawn.
2. Shane Jones LB 6’1” 225# Cincinnati, OH Super smart and able to do amazing things on the football field. Athletic, fast, and moves in space very well. Can play out in coverage and rush the QB. Coach’s take, “Made a hard push for Jones. He would have none of it. The Spartan coaches did a really good job of building relationships with Shane and he never budged. He will play in the NFL.” Weakness: Football has come easy for Jones. At the next level everyone will be good. How will he handle the deeper parts of the game like an expanded system and a lot of tape? If he falls in love with the details of football, he is a stud.
3. Dennis Finley OL 6’6″ 295# Detroit, MI Finley is a dominating stud. So strong and fast he has meat hooks for hands. Once he gets them on you, you are done. Left to right, backward, or forward, he can move. I am not into ballet, but if those little dancers can move their feet like Finley than I understand why people love it. Coach’s take, “When you see him on tape he is always blocking his second and third assignment. He disposes of people like a Hollywood actress does boyfriends. Nice kid, but plays pissed off.” Weakness: Finley has decent technique, but didn’t need it. If he works hard you can almost pencil him in to the two deep for 2014 after a red shirt year.
4. Darian Hicks CB 6’ 175# Solon, OH Fluid body motion as corner with great hips. If he grows, his sense of physical football and no fear of hitting will let him play S as well. Coach’s take, “We saw him as a safety because he is so physical. I know Mark loves big corners, so he got one. He can flip his body and accelerate like a gazelle and step up and deck a running back like a rhino. We thought we had a shot with him. This has to be your best recruit for 2013.” Weakness: Hicks will have to stay home and not bite on QB pump fakes or play action. He loves to come up and in high school he was fine. In college he will have to get better at reads. Not because he can’t, but because he hasn’t had to yet.
5. Damion Terry QB 6’4” 220# Erie, PA What is there NOT to like? He can do it all. Terry is fast, he has a great arm, and he is unbelievably football smart. He is a star. Coach’s take, “We recruited Damion and Tyler O’Conner your 2012 QB. They are very similar in a lot of things. Damion likes to run more and doesn’t put his body at risk as much as O’Connor, but both are top flight quarterbacks. The question for MSU is what will Mark do with two backs of that skill set? They are your backs for the next five years. Who will transfer?” Weakness: He trusts his arm and he should, but at the next level he won’t be able to make some of the throws he makes in high school. He will need to remember that the level of DB he faces in college can intercept the ball.
6. Demetrius Cooper DE 6’5” 220# Chicago, IL I wouldn’t be shocked that when Cooper’s career at MSU is over, if he rests at #1 on this list. He was on his way to being the #1 overall recruit in the entire 2013 class for the nation as a sophomore. An injury stopped that. He worked hard to get back and as recruiting for 2013 came to an end many of the nation’s top programs were back calling. He never listened and loved that MSU never wavered on him. Coach’s take, “The fact that he worked back to the level he did showed all you need to know. He has heart and talent. We backed off after the injury, but before we did he was the top DE on our board.” Weakness: He played angry in 2012. He was trying to make everyone look stupid. He has to finish the rehab process and that means Ken Mannie. If he embraces Ken Mannie he has 1st round draft pick potential and star power.
7. Gerald Holmes RB 6’1” 209# Flint, MI He has speed and power. Holmes has superior balance and great ability to move laterally. I will be shocked if he redshirts in 2013. He runs with a purpose and punishes people. Coach’s take, “You don’t bring him down with one man. He is so powerful and so strong and then you add speed to the mix. Not 40 time speed, but football speed.” Weakness: Holmes is a punisher. In college he will face LBs and defenders who can also dish punishment. He runs with his pads low which helps, but he needs to try to run away when he can and not run over.
8. Delton Williams ATH 6’2″ 215# Erie, PA This is another young man who could end his career at the top of this list. He is a great defender at LB and S. He can play WR and RB. He can return kicks and punts. He is a true definition of an athlete. Will start out with a chance to be a RB. Coach’s take, “We loved Delton. What can’t he do? He is a kid you recruit because he can do about 10,000 things and you know he will be a player. He is so fast and so tough we thought he would compete for a starting outside linebacker job as a true freshman on our ball club.” Weakness: Versatility. I know, I know, how can that be? Sometimes a young man can be so versatile that he bounces from side to side and spot to spot and doesn’t get a chance to settle on a spot.
9. Jalyn Powell S 6’2” 185# Marion, OH I keep saying this, but yet again a player who could end at the top of this list. Powerful, great vision, great motion, and flips his hips like they rest on swivel. Star power for sure. Coach’s take, “Our only hope was to get him to commit early. We were one of his first offers and we thought if we could get a commit he wouldn’t break. He is a high character kid. Once he didn’t commit early for us we knew it was over. He was too good to not go Big Ten/SEC.” Weakness: Patience. He is a playmaker extraordinaire. He is always around the ball. He will have to wait for the play to develop and sometimes come to him.
10. Devyn Salmon DT 6’1” 293# Plant City, FL I really like this class, but love Salmon. He plays with passion. He plays with a purpose and he plays with a motor. Another that could lead this list, Salmon doesn’t just play football, he loves it. A super kid. Coach’s take, “Salmon is a kid who will do anything he is asked. He is a great kid. He is a young man you want in your locker room.” Weakness: Salmon is a man who plays and lives in emotion. When football becomes a grind and when the days arrive at 5 A.M with no emotion, will he continue to show up, how will he respond?
11. James Bodanis DT 6’5” 299# Toronto, Canada Big upside kid. You can’t teach size and motor. He will benefit from Ken Mannie’s house of love. All the tools, can Bodanis learn what he really has and play at this level. Coach’s take, “A great project. He has everything and most projects don’t. We liked the risk. He is a high reward guy. He comes with some risk, but not much.” Weakness: He is blessed with everything you ask and want from a football player. The intangibles are drive and how he will respond to much better coaching. If he has drive and can take far superior coaching, he has the tools to be a star.
12. Justin Williams DB 6’1″ 180# Port St. Lucie, FL Big size and big play potential are what this young man has. Speed, speed, and more speed is the word on Williams. Coach’s take, “With all of his speed and athleticism you have to take the chance. Is a project, but did I mention his speed and athleticism?” Weakness: Williams has a set of raw tools that would make almost anyone drool. Like Bodanis, how will he respond to top coaching? He has been allowed on talent to play almost effortlessly. The next level will take a ton of effort, and does he have the love of the game to be great? If he falls in love with football, he has the tools to play in the NFL.
13. R.J. Shelton RB 5’11” 190# Beaver Dam, WI He loves the game, he has speed, and he can play. A north south runner, his secret is that he can’t be beat in a foot race. He just sees the hole and goes. Reminds me a lot of Edwin Baker. Coach’s take, “Super young person and a super-fast straight ahead burner. No issues in the locker room and a passion for the game.” Weakness: He is used to running away from people and facing competition that he was far superior to. How will he handle the next level where linebackers can catch him? He hasn’t taken the beating that comes in the Big Ten, and how will he withstand the day to day. If he has toughness, he is a star.
14. Noah Jones DL 6’3″ 280# Fort Lauderdale, FL This could be the steal of the entire class. He is raw. Very raw, but all you have to do is watch. The biggest upside of any recruit in this class. He is very athletic, almost freakish. A project now who could be the LeVeon Bell (not a RB, but a surprise) of this class. Coach’s take, “Noah came on strong this season. He didn’t hit our radar until late because he was a late bloomer. You can see big time potential in that young man.” Weakness: Raw. Very raw. He is a developmental player, but new DL Coach Ron Burton will get this young man as a great first test along with Bodanis.
15. Jay Harris Ath/Spec 5’10” 180# Exton, PA I love how Harris comes off the line of scrimmage and out of his breaks. He looks like he is being shot out of a cannon. He reminds me a lot of former Spartan star Herb Haygood, but faster. He is a special team’s toy for Mike Tressel. Coach’s take, “You want guys on your team who make plays and you can’t get enough of them. Turn on Harris and his tape and it is one big play after another.” Weakness: This one is very simple. He is explosive, but how will he do as an inside slot guy? Does he have the strength to get off of a Taiwan Jones who will cover you in the Big Ten? If he gets with Ken Mannie to add strength and can handle and thrive in the physicality, he is a great get.
16. Michael Geiger K 5’9″ 180# Toledo, OH Geiger is the best kicker in the nation. The Spartans take on the Wolverines in East Lansing this year, and if the offense stays as anemic as it was in 2012 don’t sweat it. He can make the field goals from there. The rumor is that he has to inform NASA before a kick. Coach’s take, “We wanted him as a K and P. Can do both. We thought he was the best K we had seen since 2009. Dantonio got a great weapon with Michael.” Weakness: He is great in high school and at camp. How will he perform on the field at OSU or UM? He is Mr Accurate, but let’s see him do it with the lights on. He has an NFL leg.
17. Dylan Chmura TE 6’5” 238# Waukesha, WI Chmura brings great size and hands to his role as a new MSU TE. He is one of those guys that just finds ways to get open. He can make the plays with his legs and hands. Coach’s take, “We thought Dylan reminded us as a Wes Welker type. Not a WR of course, but just that he gets out on routes and finds green grass. We are not as much a scheme that wants our ends to block so he fits us well.” Weakness: Blocking. Blocking at a Big Ten/MSU level. He did it in high school, but not like it will be expected here. MSU suffered in 2012 when their TE group failed as blockers. Much of the OL issues were compounded with poor blocking from the TE spot. Coming off of an injury, Chmura can get in the weight room and add bulk. He has the work ethic. The issue is blocking. If he learns to block, he has the receiver skills to be special. He could be a Charlie Gantt type player.
18. Trey Kilgore WR 6’1” 180# Cincinnati, OH Power is the name of the game. He played last season as a WR and that is what the Spartans think he is. Played at a high level with great coaching so he is farther along in the process. Loves to use his body. Has some skills similar to B.J. Cunningham, but he has a lot to learn about WR. Coach’s take, “Trey to us was a safety type player if WR didn’t work. Big and physical. We backed off because of his injury, but if healthy he should do well.” Weakness: How will he take the physicality of the game and how healed is he? He is a battler, a warrior, but is he 100%?
This article is reprinted from the February edition of Spartan Nation Magazine.