Mark Dantonio has already stockpiled his 2014 recruiting class with three defensive linemen. But he sure wouldn’t mind opening up another slot for one of the most well-rounded defensive end recruits in the nation, Darius Slade.
Since Spartan Nation last caught up with the Montclair, New Jersey native four months ago, Slade has visited East Lansing and watched Michigan State start out the season with a 6-1 record. Slade recently spoke with Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. on Spartan Nation Radio to talk about his recruiting experiences and his thoughts on MSU.
Slade stole the hearts of Spartans fans after his last appearance on Spartan Nation Radio. When delving deep into the life of this young man, it’s not hard to see why.
A senior at Montclair High School in New Jersey, Slade describes himself as “down-to-earth” and “humble.” Coming from a supportive family, Slade calls himself a “Christian man” who relies heavily on his faith. He recognizes his God-given talent but is humble enough to know that he needs to keep working.
“One of the top things that got me recruited was my speed. I try to get faster and faster, and quicker and quicker off that line every week,” Slade said. “I already know that I’m fast and all, but I can’t just rush up the field 24/7, I have to play the downs and be a smart player. I didn’t just want to go into my senior year and play like a lot of other guys, I want to get better and better with my technique and just become a better player before I get to college and take my team to 12-0 and win a state championship.”
His hard work has paid off so far season. Following a state championship run last season, as the Monties are out to a 5-0 thus far. Slade has already notched 18 tackles and 5.5 sacks, leading a Montclair defense that has held opponents to a mere 18 points in five games. Slade’s play has inspired some to compare him to former NFL defensive end Reggie White.
Besides his obvious talent, Slade is unlike many young high school football players searching for a college this year. The class of 2014 recruit is a well-rounded young man with a good head on his shoulders. Slade is exactly the type of player Dantonio loves to recruit.
The veteran MSU coach has indeed shown a great deal of interest in Slade. Since the highly-recruited defensive end is still pondering his college options, the Spartan coaching staff happily brought Slade and his family to campus for a visit during Homecoming weekend, including Michigan State’s game against Indiana.
“I had a great time. Outstanding,” Slade said.
The youngster had an opportunity to meet with not only Dantonio, but also defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi and defensive line coach Ron Burton. Each man greatly impressed Slade, helping to cement Michigan State as one of his top college choices.
Perhaps the most impressive to Slade was Dantonio. Following a lengthy meeting with the seventh-year MSU head coach, the youngster walked away with a good feeling.
“[He’s] a great, outstanding coach. Straightforward. He’s a very respectful guy,” Slade said of Dantonio. “He doesn’t BS you with anything. I asked him questions because I had different concerns and he’s given me forward answers. I’ve heard this is how he’s been throughout recruiting. He’s the type of coach where he’s really going to push you and give you a lot of pressure to come to this school. He wants guys who want to go to Michigan State. He wants guys who want to choose Michigan State, not because of who’s there or what kind of conference they’re in, he wants guys who want to be Spartans. I respected that and I’ve heard great things about Coach Dantonio.”
Slade particularly likes the fact that Dantonio isn’t forceful with prospects. He wants his recruits to come to MSU, but he allows potential future Spartans to make a decision at their own pace without pushing them to a conclusion, because he wants them to make the right decision.
“My mom had a chance to sit down with Coach Dantonio and really talk to him. He’s unbelievable,” said Slade. “I actually got a chance to hang out with all of the defensive line. Taking from what they said, they really love the coaching staff… [Dantonio] doesn’t pressure guys. He wants guys who want to be there and I really respect that.”
Narduzzi also captured the youngster’s attention. The veteran coordinator struck Slade as a smart coach and a good person.
“He’s a high-energy guy,” Slade said. “I’ve heard he’s the best defensive coordinator in all of college football. I’ve been there and seen him in action, in practice when I first got up there, he knows the game. He knows football and he’s a great guy. I got a chance to talk to him, and we had a great conversation: I got a lot of questions answered.”
Of the three, perhaps Burton knows Slade the best. The defensive line coach has been recruiting Slade for quite some time now, and has believed in the defensive end prospect from the beginning. From interacting with Burton, Slade also likes the experienced coach.
“We watched film and did a lot of things over the weekend. Again, [he’s a] high-energy guy, definitely the kind of coach I’m looking for,” Slade said. “And I talked to the players. The players love him, and they think he’s going to be the best fit for them. This is his first season at Michigan State and they’re really confident, they really like him.”
Following his visit to East Lansing, Slade is thinking deeply about Michigan State. Though he’s not ready to decide on one school quite yet, MSU is certainly near the top of his list.
“Michigan State was always one of my top, top schools,” Slade said. “My main concern about Michigan State was how far it was, at first I didn’t know if I wanted to be that far from home. One if my biggest concerns was, if there’s an emergency at home, how would I get home if I didn’t have the financial means? Again, I got a lot of questions answered. Coach said that if there’s an emergency at home, they fly you home at their expenses; they get you home if you have an emergency. On top of that, they get you home at their expenses.
“With that being said, I was excited to be up there. I learned a lot. Once I got up there to see for myself what Michigan State was really about, it moved Michigan State in the ranks even higher. I’ll be taking my visits, but Michigan State is definitely high on my priorities. That visit moved them even higher.”
Luckily for anxious Spartans fans, Slade should have a decision soon. He wants to wait until after all of his visits are over, but he anticipates having a decision before 2014 rolls around.
“I don’t exactly have a date. Again, I have a cousin who plays for the Miami Dolphins [Jared Odrick], and I’m in a family where I can get a lot of support. My cousins and my family really want me to take my time to make my decision,” Slade explained. “I’m glad I did because my first thought was to make my decision before my senior season even started because I really thought I knew where I wanted to go. But taking these visits really opened my eyes and opened my mind to different things. It made me more mature in this recruiting process…Now that I’ve grown more mature in the process, I feel I’ve got a better handle on it now.
“I don’t exactly have a set date as to when I’m going to make my decision. But after these visits are over, I think I’m going to be able to make my decision, so that could be sometime in November or December.”
Regardless of what college he chooses, Slade has a bright future ahead of him. A humble, hard worker with a good head on his shoulders, Slade has the potential for greatness. Hopefully, Michigan State is a good fit for the youngster. Because if the Spartan Nation already loves Darius Slade before he has even put on a Green and White uniform, imagine its delight if the talented defensive end was to make East Lansing his home.