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Drake Harris still committed to MSU, but opens recruitment

MSU 2014 commit intends to play only football in college now.

Christian Petersen

Welcome to recruiting with the big boys, Michigan State.

MSU commit Drake Harris, recently named by Tom Lemming as the top receiver in the nation, is looking around at other schools.

An Ohio State offer -- and visit from Urban Meyer -- seems to have been the match that started the fire.

Lemming, ironically, said this about Harris: "Hopefully he'll stick with Michigan State. I get tired of those guys who commit early changing their mind."

Originally, Harris committed to Michigan State with the intent of playing both football and basketball for the Spartans. After a historic junior season with a state record 2,016 yards receiving on 91 receptions for 23 touchdowns, Harris has decided that he will just play football in college -- and his stock is only going to go up.

Makes sense, right? When you make a commitment, let's say ... marriage ... the next natural step is to start shopping around for an upgrade.

Then again, who remembers being 17 years old? I definitely do. When I was 17, I decided on a whim in late April to not go to Grand Valley State -- which was the plan my entire senior year -- and go to Michigan State instead. That's just how the mind of a 17-year-old works.

And these days, a verbal commitment is as binding as a twisty-tie on a loaf of a bread. As easily untied as it was tied.

So, what does this all mean?

Tom Izzo has been dealt another brutal blow in recruiting, first off. After missing on Jabari Parker, losing a Top 100 2014 recruit isn't good news.

After all, Izzo is the one who encouraged Harris to continue playing football in high school. That is a hard pill to swallow.

In the football realm, Dantonio and his staff finds itself in a dog fight, battling uphill against all the big dogs on the block, and from other blocks.

Harris said to that the schools he may look at for football include Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Florida State.

This isn't the first time MSU has been in this battle. The staff went through competing with the biggest schools for Will Gholston, too. Gholston, of course, wound up picking MSU -- and that was before back-to-back 11-win seasons. At the end of the day, recruits pick schools for their own reasons -- whatever they may be.

When it comes to Harris, even with his plan changed, the initial reasons that he committed to Michigan State remain.

When he decided on MSU in June, Harris believed Michigan State's offense was a good fit for him -- more so than Michigan's.

"I’m going to go to the place where I can get the ball," Harris said. "State, they pass the ball a lot. They run the pro-style offense. That actually helps me out in case if I maybe could go professionally, I’ll already be playing in that type of offense.", June 28, 2012

The offense still is a good a fit, despite the way it looked through 2012 -- spare a few drives. MSU was No. 3 in the Big Ten in pass attempts, after ranking at the top in 2011. On the other hand, Ohio State was last in passing attempts in 2012.

Reality is, Harris opening up his recruitment has a lot less to do with what MSU didn't do last season, and a lot more to do with what Harris did do -- he became one of the top prospects in the nation, especially at receiver.

Bear in mind, the same MSU offensive system was dynamic in 2011 -- with Dan Roushar at the helm. It produced B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin, both of whom were drafted in the 2012 NFL draft. That doesn't hurt when it comes to recruiting.

The system Harris committed to remains a selling point.

Harris also cited location and playing in his home state and even tradition.

"The tradition they have at Michigan State stands out," Harris said. "The atmosphere of playing in your home state. It’s not too far from Grand Rapids. It’s only about 25 minutes."


Even more, he emphasized the importance of coaching stability.

"(Izzo) just talked to me about the family there," Harris said. "He said it is a family structure and Izzo and Dantonio are not going to be leaving anytime soon. I believe that they will be there when I am there and years on."


The campus hasn't moved and neither has Dantonio -- nor the rest of the coaching staff. In fact, Michigan State is one of only five schools to have the same coaching staff heading into 2013 that it had at the start of 2011.

Unfortunately, the biggest recruiting pull to East Lansing -- Izzo -- has likely been all but removed from the equation with Harris' decision not to play basketball in college anymore.

Michigan State was Harris' choice because it provided him the best option to play both basketball and football, which was his plan. Izzo was, and is, the only college basketball coach Harris will play for, but it looks like that means little now.

The bottom line is this: If Michigan State wants to be a top program, this is how recruiting goes. The best, top-tier programs are going to be in on the recruits like Harris. If the Spartans want to be a consistent Rose Bowl contender, eventually you have to beat the Alabamas, Ohio States and Michigans for these types of players. Not all of them, but a player like Will Gholston or Harris needs to come to East Lansing sometimes.

The staff knows this, and for fans, it would serve people well to understand that reality, as well.

If you want to be big time, this is how recruiting goes. Welcome to the next 13 months, everyone.