Spartan Nation EXCLUSIVE: Michigan State QB Coach Brad Salem Reflects Recruiting and the Excitement that is in the air in East Lansing
The Michigan State coaching staff just finished bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in recent memory, and has already begun working to fill up the class of 2015 pool with promising prospects.
Quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Brad Salem played a big part in that. Alongside the rest of the Spartan coaching staff and director of college advancement and performance/camp director Curtis Blackwell, Salem helped bring in a stellar class of talented young men to MSU this year.
Salem recently spoke with Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr., discussing a variety of recruiting topics.
To begin with, Salem affirmed that this is one of the best classes in quite a while for Michigan State. In fact, it is one of the best Salem has ever seen as a coach.
“I think we obviously feel very good about this class,” Salem said. “You feel positive, you feel you’ve hit on all the positive attributes you need as far as the type of kids you want, and addressing the needs of the team.”
Salem was a major reason for that optimism. His hard work and dedication brought many recruits to East Lansing. Salem has reason to be proud of the result. He and the coaching staff can now be selective when searching for players.
“I really think we’ve created an identity where we want to find kids who fit us,” Salem said. “That comes from the top down from Coach Dantonio. You saw that play out this fall with the type of kids you can win with. You feel like the character, the work ethic, the attitude of this group fits that mold.”
Not only did the MSU coaching staff manage to bring in smart, hard-working players, they attracted excellent athletes.
“You feel really good about the whole scope of the class, specifically the defensive line. You really look at the athletic ability,” said Salem. “Really, a lot of those guys are basketball players. Even [defensive tackle] Craig [Evans] was [athletic] at 325 pounds. They all have the ability to move, and that’s how the game has changed. Whether you’re a cover corner or defensive tackle, you gotta be able to run.
“I think that’s what you try to do, you try to increase your athleticism every year, but you also want to try to increase the competition within the program. You notice that with depth and how many kids we played in the Big Ten Championship Game as compared to our opponent [Ohio State], and we used that opportunity to play a lot of different kids. You just want to keep creating depth and creating competition.”
One position the Spartans were not able to add depth to was quarterback.
After signal caller Chris Durkin decommitted in December, the Spartans had few options at quarterback for the class of 2014. But Salem isn’t worried.
“Obviously in every position, you want to take a kid in every class,” the quarterbacks coach said. “The recruiting structure is a little unique in that if you lose one late in the game, it’s hard to go back and research guys you maybe haven’t seen in campus, and there’s not many left out there, either, because all of them are committed.
“Quarterbacks have been in a unique spot, even since I’ve been here, I think they’ve committed almost a month earlier every year. It’s almost a March, April type of deal that they’re going to commit. But obviously we have a great quarterback situation with three guys who are all capable of playing.”
The Spartan coaching staff must also contend with a recruiting process that has greatly accelerated.
As Dantonio has also pointed out numerous times, Salem marveled at how the process has changed.
“I think back, and it wasn’t that many years ago, that kids took their visits in December and January, or during the season, as a senior to identify where they’re going,” Salem said. “Now we’re at a point where it’s commonplace that kids are going to commit before their senior year. So if they don’t come to campus, you don’t have a chance. Some may not be able to or can’t afford to, so you kind of stay in that 500 mile radius. Yes, you reach out to further places, if it works out for them to come to see you, but you’re in the midst of trying to get them as juniors to your campus, and then you need to make the estimation, ‘Is this kid worthy of an offer ability-wise, does he fit us.’ Yet the rules don’t project that because you can’t call him or get to know him.
“It’s so accelerated and you’re trying to get him to campus so you can get him face-to-face. We’re a people place, we have a head coach that wants to meet you. He will rarely throw out an offer without seeing a kid eye-to-eye, ‘Hey, who are you and here’s who we are.’ And I think that’s kind of what he presented today. In the end, we understand that it’s the kids who have to make the decisions, but we want the opportunity to at least present ourselves. We tell kids, hey at least investigate the Spartans. We got a neat thing going on, we just want kids to be a part of something special.”
In this new hyped-up atmosphere, however, the Spartans have not only survived, but thrived.
As recruiting coordinator, Salem doesn’t like to take credit for the success. He deflects the praise to Blackwell and the other members of the coaching staff.
“You have that label, but as I’ve always said, it’s a label, but it’s a group effort in recruiting,” Salem said. “[I’m] maybe the guy they go to in recruiting and ask questions where we check the NCAA rules. Obviously, bringing Curtis in, you got a guy who can spearhead from the top down and creates a structure where it has accelerated so fast that within the scope of the nine coaches, it’s so hard to keep up with the 2015 [recruits], 2016 [recruits] and even the 2017 [recruits], that it’s almost a separate staff helping to identify [recruits].”
The Spartan Nation is lucky to have such a competent coach leading the charge in recruiting. Salem has helped bring in some of the best talent in years for Michigan State.
But Salem and the Spartan coaching staff won’t be enjoying their spoils for long. As Salem says of recruiting, “It’s a process that never ends.”