Football Recruiting: The State of the Class

Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

With seven months til signing day, here is a look at the Spartans' 2014 class.

After missing on a major target this week in Chicago De La Salle offensive tackle Jamarco Jones, it is easy to be dejected about Michigan State's recruiting efforts this year.

The Spartans have missed on major targets through the cycle so far, with the gut-wrenching loss of Drake Harris and the Crystal Ball meltdowns of Lawrence Marshall and Dareian Watkins.

And yet, as the incomparable Lee Corso loves to say, "Not so fast."

This recruiting class is arguably the best to-date of a Mark Dantonio class. The 2013 class would make a case, as would the 2009 class, but this group is a special one -- and isn't done yet.

At the least, it has the potential to be the best of the Dantonio era, which is saying something.

The class consists of many "Plan A" guys like Brian Allen, Chris Durkin, Gerald Owens, Enoch Smith Jr., Deon Drake, Byron Bullough and Vayante Copeland.

It has its fill of underheralded, solid prospects such as Chase Gianacakos, Matt Sokol and Chris Frey Jr. -- the latter of which shot up rankings shortly after his commitment and subsequent camps.

It features as a pair of players who proved their worth in a grueling week of camps in Jalen Watts-Jackson and David Beedle -- who were all but locks to MSU, so the staff had to be certain upon offering them a scholarship that they had the skills to play at a high level in the Big Ten.

So, things aren't that bad, and, sure, things could be better. A Jones or Harris would be the cornerstone and take this class from good to great. A Watkins or Marshall adds more star-power -- if you're into that -- and talent at positions without a commitment thus far.

Thus, the class stands at 12 commits and has a bit of flair for itself -- courtesy of Smith Jr.

The group has grown close, having a Facebook chat group for the committed players in which they communicate who is talking to which uncommitted players and get to know each other better. Now, that's some initiative we haven't seen from MSU recruits before.

And coming off a short span in which MSU added four commits, the class is ready to see its number and also talent increase as the current commits are hitting the recruiting trail hard.

Where do we go from here?

The staff sits well with other "Plan A" targets such as Sun Prairie (Wisc.) Craig Evans, a Wisconsin commit, and Niles (Ill.) Notre Dame Prep Chris James, who has grown close with other MSU commits.

The question of offensive tackles remains relevant and grew more pertinent as Fairfield (Ohio) OT Danny Burns committed to Louisville on Thursday and Westerville Central (Ohio) OT Nick Richardson looks headed to Kentucky.

The Spartans have to target a junior college OT -- and already have offers out to two -- to compensate the possible loss of Skyler Burkland (curse you AMSUOLHG). If Burkland is done, the Spartans will be starting two new OTs next season (Jack Conklin and ?).

Defensive line is an area of need, too, especially at defensive end. Players such as Darius Slade (Montclair, N.J.), Robert Bowers (Columbus Walnut Ridge, Ohio), Terry Ramsey (Northmont, Ohio) ... have a particular affinity for MSU and could wind up in the class. Winton Woods (Cincinnati, Ohio) defensive tackle Daniel Cage also likes MSU quite a bit.

In any year previously, those are players MSU fans would kill to have in a class. Are they ranked as three-stars? You betcha. Are they fantastic players that the MSU coaches covet? YOU BETCHA.

Projections

For many, it is a matter of getting to campus and visiting in order for a decision to come about, or at least get closer. Players from the Northeast like Slade and Everett (Mass.) Lubern Figaro need to make the trek to MSU.

St. Joseph Regiona (Wayne, N.J.) safety Kiy Hester has an official visit slated for the MSU vs UM game. Tampa Catholic athlete T.J. Harrell is aiming to attend the same game for his official visit.

Pope John XXIII (Sparta, N.J) athlete Noah Brown, Mt. Lebanon (Penn.) offensive tackle Alex Bookser and Mountain Pointe (Phoenix, Ariz.) wide receiver Jalen Brown have MSU in their top group.

Will MSU land those guys? I think Slade and Figaro are realistic, with Hester and Harrell as the next tier of possibilities. The final three, not so much.

The group is at 12 currently, but should wind up around 20-24.

Look for the trenches to remain the focus. A few more defensive lineman, likely three (2 DE, 1 DT), would be great to add. At least two more offensive linemen should be in the fold (keep an eye on Berrien Springs OT Nick Padla, who had great camps and is hoping for an offer).

One thing that the coaches at MSU have proven time and time again, they won't add a player at a position of need just to add someone -- they make sure they are adding the most talented player to that spot. Exhibit A: 2013 offensive line recruiting. Dennis Finley was the lone commit. Were there other options that MSU didn't offer? Sure. The staff shows a firm stance on not reaching for a player to address a position of need, but make sure to find the right quality.

So how does it appear the class will wind up? Assuming it has 22 players, this is the breakdown I expect.

QB: 1 (Durkin)

RB: 2 (Owens)

WR: 2

TE: 1 (Sokol)

OL: 4 (Allen, Gianacakos)

DL: 5 (Smith Jr., Beedle)

LB: 4 (Bullough, Drake, Frey Jr.)

DB: 3 (Copeland, Watts-Jackson)

Again, if the staff feels a second tight end is a better player than a fifth defensive lineman, they will take the tight end.

Don't worry, just breathe

While the class lacks the one big star, which many would love to see, this class has the potential to trump the rest of Dantonio's as the best player for player group at MSU.

Layer this group with the 2013 class, which features Damion Terry, Delton Williams, Shane Jones and Jon Reschke to name a few, and the future is looking bright -- and very talented -- in East Lansing.

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