Yesterday, I wrote an introductory article about where Michigan State’s 2018 recruiting class currently stands. Following that up, I am also going to feature individuals from the class.
Kicking of this series is Trenton Gillison, a four-star tight end from Pickerington, Ohio. Gillison is currently the highest rated recruit in the class, according to both 247Sports, and Rivals’ SpartanMag.com.
I had a chance to speak with Gillison, and albeit a brief conversation, it was easy to tell that he has the right attitude, and a down-to-earth and humble demeanor. He seems to be a high-character guy who also has plenty of talent on the gridiron.
When asked why he chose Michigan State over the various other schools that offered him a scholarship, or showed interest, Gillison had this to say:
“I chose MSU because they showed interest in me since I was a freshman. I love the facilities, campus and also I like the people up in East Lansing. Coach Ken Manning was my dad’s high school strength and conditioning coach so there's a family connection as well.”
Standing 6-feet-5-inches tall, and weighing in at 230 pounds, Gillison runs a 4.8-40 yard dash and a 4.4-second shuttle drill, according to his Hudl account. The profile also shows a 30-inch vertical for Gillison.
His 247Sports.com composite score of 0.9129 boasts a top-10 ranking nationally among 2018 tight ends, and puts him as the eighth-highest ranked player at any position in the state of Ohio. While 247Sports’ own ratings have him at No. 12 for both the tight end position and his state.
Looking at other digital recruiting media websites, by way of Scout.com, Gillison ranks second amongst tight ends in the Midwest. Rivals.com lists him as the No.4 tight end overall. Additionally, ESPN gives him a score of 80, which ranks eighth at his position.
Luckily for Spartans fans, Gillison elected to play in East Lansing on Saturdays during his college career, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the overall recruiting process was always smooth.
“The recruiting process is both exciting and nerve racking at the same time,” Gillison said. “I say that because some of the colleges that I've seen play on TV since I was little are showing interest in me and it's just an amazing experience. On the other hand, it's tough when fans of different schools want me to go to their college instead of me going to the college that's best for me.”
Gillison’s connection with the Michigan State program, the fact that MSU had targeted Gillison early in his career and the coaching staff all played pivotal roles in pulling in the four-star recruit.
However, another strong reason Gillison may have decided to wear the green and white uniform is because of his strong connection with another 2018 commit, cornerback Xavier Henderson.
Henderson, who is also rated as a four-star recruit, is the high school teammate of Gillison at Pickerington Central. Henderson was the first to commit in the 2018 class, doing so last September. Gillison and Henderson have a close relationship.
“Knowing that I'm going to be going to college with one of my closet friends is amazing,” Gillison said. “I feel like I'm going to be comfortable knowing that someone who I've been close with my whole life is also going to be with me so it's going to take the nervousness (about the transition) out of the way.”
Let’s not discount the fact that Gillison now has the chance to learn from head coach Mark Dantonio as another key factor for choosing Michigan State. As most of us already know, Dantonio has led Michigan State to three Big Ten Championships, five seasons of 11 wins or more and a College Football Playoff appearance. He also has more than 30 players he has coached at MSU currently active in the NFL.
Gillison understands the value that Dantonio brings as a leader and a coach, and he connects with his philosophies and mentality.
“My relationship with Coach Dantonio has grown over the few months since I have committed,” Gillison said. “He's been asking me about my baseball season and we've been communicating a lot now. I like his coaching style and his philosophies on how we should treat women, how we keep our faith, keeping our grades, and also how we treat each other as family.”
Still, though, Michigan State has a lot of work to do. Coming off of a down year – or really a disastrous year – the football program finds itself in unfamiliar territory after enjoying six straight seasons with a winning record, with a Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl victory, prior to 2016. After an abysmal 3-9 campaign last season, where do the Spartans go from here?
When I asked Gillison about it, he had nothing but confidence that the team will right the ship, and get back to its winning ways very soon.
“I think that we will bounce back and be the same MSU that everyone knows that we can be,” he said. “The '17 class was looking very nice during the spring game and I'm very excited to see what they can do this year. The '18 class is just going to add to the firepower.”
Of course, Gillison and the rest of the 2018 recruits still have a whole season of high school ball left, and he has not let the excitement of playing college football and moving to East Lansing hinder his focus of his current goals at the high school level.
“I know that I have to lock in and give everything I have to have the best senior campaign that I can have and lead my team deep into the playoffs.”
As you can see, this young student athlete knows exactly what he needs to bring to the football field in order to ensure his team’s success. I am extremely excited to see what he can do for the Spartans in the coming years, and I wish him the best of luck.
Check out Gillison’s highlights from his junior year below (courtesy of Hudl). You’ll notice he has great hands and can line up all over the field, but he also has some tenacity to him while blocking.