There's really nothing like college football recruiting in any other American sport.
The amount of kids on scholarship at schools and the amount of work coaching staffs have to put in is really unparalleled. Every year, you have to find about 20-25 guys from across the region or country, and when you're not a blue-blood program, you have to work that much harder.
If there is one thing we've learned about Mark Dantonio, it's that he can get the most out of players, especially the lower-recruited ones. Just this past season, Kirk Cousins, Jerel Worthy, B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Trenton Robinson all came to MSU with three recruiting stars or fewer, but all could be selected in the upcoming NFL Draft. Football recruiting is an inexact science, as we've seen in the past. I've never been a fan of recruiting rankings, and I've opined regarding this before.
However, that doesn't mean fans shouldn't get excited or pay attention to recruiting. It's still extremely important. There's a reason Alabama, USC and Ohio State are almost always among the top teams in the nation every year. But there's also a reason Notre Dame and Florida State aren't there. It's a combination of recruiting to needs and coaching up those recruits. Dantonio has found a solid balance. MSU fans can be excited about their recruiting class without having to feel inferior to the uber-amazing class Brady Hoke is bringing in this season. Dantonio has built a foundation and has proven he can get the most out of players. He's not bringing in scrubs, either.
With that, I'm excited to join the staff of The Only Colors to focus on football recruiting. We'll start out by looking back at the players who have already verbally committed to MSU's 2013 class. Yes, I know the term "verbal commitment" in the Big Ten has recently changed, but Se'Von Pittman wanted to go to Ohio State all along. Dantonio and the coaching staff have learned their lesson and don't expect Urban Meyer to be changing commitments left and right this time around.
First up: OL Caleb Benenoch (6-foot-6, 321 pounds)
From: Katy, Texas
Ratings: Rivals (NR), Scout (3 stars), 24/7 (3 stars), ESPN (4 stars)
Other notable offers: West Virginia, Ole Miss, Kansas State
With Hokeamania running wild over the last two recruiting seasons, it's really incredible that Mark Dantonio has been able to pull in enough kids to give scholarships. But seriously, Michigan already has five offensive line commits for 2013 and there really aren't many good, uncommitted offensive linemen in the Midwest left. A combination of missing out on some recruits and the MSU-offensive-lineman-hating god of the past means MSU needs to get some offensive linemen in the 2013 class. So the MSU coaches went deep into the heart of Texas to pick up the second Lone Star State recruit in the Dantonio era (the first being Nick Foles).
As far as verbal commitments go, Benenoch hadn't visited campus as of the time of his commitment a week ago, but he told Rivals he really wanted to go to MSU, and "could not wait any longer."
The first thing that jumps out about Benenoch is his size. He projects as either a tackle or a guard, but at 6-foot-6, I really can't see him playing much guard, although the aforementioned god has changed MSU's plans before. In his highlight tape he played both left tackle and right tackle for the Seven Lakes Spartans (I know, right?)
As you can see, a guy with his size gets a lot of push, especially in single coverage. However, at 321 pounds, he's going to need to get in a little better shape, which is not uncommon for offensive linemen. But Benenoch is not exactly a lug out there. Most offensive linemen redshirt their first season anyway. Assuming those measurements are correct, Benenoch would be the heaviest offensive lineman and one of the tallest from the moment he steps on campus. You can't coach size, and Benenoch has that.
For the first time in what seems like a long time, MSU will have a lot of experience on its offensive line for 2012. Only one starter (Joel Foreman) and one backup (Jared McGaha) graduated. It will be a good mix of veterans and youth. Chris McDonald, Fou Fonoti and Blake Treadwell will be seniors, Dan France will be a junior and Travis Jackson and Skyler Burkland will be sophomores. Ethan Ruhland, John Deyo and (I believe) Arthur Ray Jr. also will be seniors, and Micajah Reynolds will likely stay on defense. So there will be a lot of holes to fill after next season. In the 2012 recruiting class, MSU brought in three offensive line recruits: Zach Higgins, Kodi Kieler and Benny McGowan.
Offensive line might be the most difficult position to judge when it comes to recruiting. That size advantage that most players get away with in high school isn't much of an advantage in college. So it comes down to skill, drive and coaching, and MSU has plenty of the latter, with offensive coordinator Dan Roushar having been the OL coach before his promotion. As for the other two? The skill seems a bit raw (he plays a little high, using his arms a lot), but it's there. We won't know about the drive until he gets to East Lansing.
The Spartans will need to get a few more good offensive line recruits in the 2013 class, and they're going anywhere they can to find them. Getting Benenoch out of Texas was a good start.
(Update: Benenoch has decommitted from MSU. Isn't recruiting fun? Back to the drawing board on the offensive line.)