Spartan Pupdate is in the spring evaluation period

Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

Football recruiting is gaining speed as coaches head out to visit recruits at their schools and see them work out -- not to mention phone calls.

The Spartans have been putting defensive backs in the NFL annually with Mark Dantonio at the helm, and the work the former collegiate defensive back has done at MSU stands out.

One of the most recent players to notice is Chicago St. Rita's Lamar Dawson, who visited MSU on Saturday and received a scholarship offer.

"I really like the defense," Dawson told me. "The cornerbacks play a lot of man and press (coverage). They communicate well and on the same page.

"Coach (Mark) Dantonio was a defensive backs coach before, so he knows how to coach those guys. And Coach (Harlon) Barnett played in the NFL as a defensive back, too, and at MSU."

Dawson, who said he fits the Big Ten style of play as a physical cornerback, said he grew up a fan of MSU.

"I always wanted to go there when I was kid," he said. "I just like them. I don't really know why, I just always did. I liked watching MSU-Michigan and MSU-OSU, those always seemed to be the best games."

Going into the visit, Dawson didn't have an offer -- but knew one was coming.

"I was really excited (to get an offer)," he said. "They told me (one was coming) before I went up, but they wanted to see me in person. I had asked Coach Barnett what the chances of an offer were, because it's a three-hour drive, and he told me '99 percent'"

What stuck with Dawson the most from his visit was not the stadium, facilities or scrimmage, but the health care for athletes.

"What really stood out to me was, most schools have trainers, but MSU has a doctor," Dawson said. "If you get sick or anything, you don't have to go to the hospital, you can just get looked at there. I had never seen that before."

Dawson said Coach Ron Burton was supposed to come see him Monday, but MSU elected to wait and send his position coach (Barnett) to see Dawson twice during the spring evaluation period.

Dawson plans to make his decision before his high school football camp season starts up in late June. In addition to MSU, he has offers from Central Michigan and Western Michigan. He also is hearing from Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Iowa State and Vanderbilt.

-- Michigan State has been looking more and more to New Jersey in recent years and St. Peter's Prep is a powerhouse that the MSU staff has been recruiting hard.

One of the latest top prospects from St. Peter's is 2015 cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, who said he was "really excited" to hear from the Spartans.

"My coach called me in and said they said they are gonna offer soon," Fitzpatrick told me. "They are going to come out and see me and see my grades, see me in the weight room and on the field and everything should be good."

The spring evaluation period, which starts today, allows coaches to visit players at their schools and see them workout in person.

The 6-foot, 180-pound corner mentioned that one of his teammates -- and a one-time MSU target for 2014 -- Shamir Bearfield was one of the players telling him a lot about MSU.

"I have heard a lot of great stuff," Fitzpatrick said. "I have been talking to friends who have heard from them or were interested in them."

"They have good defensive backs and play physical -- and a good defense overall," he added. "They produce a lot of good defensive backs."

The sophomore, who holds offers from Rutgers and Connecticut, said he plans to visit Michigan State and Michigan early in the summer. He said he is hearing a lot from Penn State, South Carolina, North Carolina and Vanderbilt, while Florida is coming up to see him Tuesday.

-- The Spartans may or may not take a tight end in the 2014 class, but a player that could interest MSU is athletic Rochester Adams tight end Matt Sokol.

Sokol visited East Lansing for the third time last Friday and said "it was an awesome experience to see a great program hard at work"

"I can see the tight end position is a really important one in their offensive scheme," Sokol told me. "All their tight ends are really big guys, extremely athletic and hard working with good speed.

"I was given the chance to sit in on the tight ends position meeting with Coach (Jim) Bollman. He is a very knowledgeable and experienced coach and I liked the tempo he brought to each position drill during practice."

Sokol said the "organization and high intensity" of the practice and drills stood out to him. He also said there are great coaches and people around the program.

Sokol has offers from Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan and plans to camp at Michigan State this summer. He also visited Northwestern and Northern Illinois over the weekend.

-- As the 2015 class begins to emerge, a name to watch is Cary-Grove offensive lineman Trevor Ruhland.

Ruhland, whose father player on the defensive line at Iowa, made his first visit to East Lansing on Friday.

"It was a great experience," Ruhland said. "I liked it a lot. The whole complex just wowed me ... the weight room and the practice field right next to each other was really nice.

"I really liked the campus how close everything seemed together."

Ruhland also said he likes Michigan State's tradition of winning. He added he wants to come back to MSU again -- either for a visit or a camp. He also said he will be trying to get up to a camp this summer.

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