Five-star prospect Doran Grant might be influenced by the fact his father player for Michigan State. (Sam Webb)
The Michigan State Spartans are riding high with an 8-0 record and ranked fifth in the BCS standings. Scout.com Midwest Regional manager Allen Trieu, Scout.com Ohio analyst Bill Greene, and Scout.com Ohio analyst/SpartanDigest.com publisher Dave Berk say that on-field success is definitely resonating on the recruiting trail this year, but it could reap even greater dividends next year.
Webb: With the season that Michigan State is having this year, have you guys noticed it impacting how highly kids think of the Spartans?
Trieu: "Absolutely. They are being talked about in the race for a national title and that is definitely on the minds of a lot of kids. The one thing to consider here is that they've completed most of their class already. They've done a really good job of recruiting. There are only a handful of 2011 targets left that are going to be affected by this season. I think where you are going to see a lot of benefits out of it is in the underclassman ranks. The juniors and sophomores have had a chance to go out for games and see the winning ways the Spartans have had so far this year."
Berk: "The effect of this season really comes down the road in the next class. That's where you have the younger guys who are really just starting this process that are getting impressed. I think those younger kids now are taking full notice that Michigan State is a viable option and that there is a solid foundation that Mark Dantonio has built over the years."
Webb: Well before we begin talking about next year's targets, there are a few major prospects in 2011 that the Spartans are in prime contention for. What's the latest on them, starting with Saginaw wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett? Didn't he say previously that November would be the likely time frame for a decision?
Trieu: "I think DeAnthony is going to do it now that his season is over. I think it is going to come pretty soon. In fact, I think it will come within the first two or three weeks of November. I think Michigan State is still right there for him. I think it is going to honestly come down between them and Tennessee. We'll see if the distance plays a factor. He certainly has more familiarity with MSU than Tennessee, but I think it comes down to those two teams with MSU still right in the mix."a
Webb: What about Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary cornerback Doran Grant? I know Ohio State is accustomed to locking up the five-star prospects in its state, but in my conversations with him I didn't get the feeling that he was a lock for the Buckeyes. Furthermore, his dad makes no bones about his desire to see his son follow in his footsteps to East Lansing.
Trieu: "I think it comes down to Michigan State and Ohio State. I think Ohio State has been the leader, but I think the season and the family ties have allowed Michigan State to gain a lot of ground. I would still say that Ohio State is the favorite there, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if he ends up at Michigan State."
Greene: "I think the Spartans are definitely elevated in his eyes. Is it going to be enough to land him? I do not know. They've got his attention — there is no doubt about it. I think his decision is down to two. I think it is Ohio State and Michigan State and the rest are all just window dressings — nice official visits. A couple of months ago, I would have thought Ohio State was the easy, runaway choice. I've talked to him in the past two weeks and now I do not know. His dad played (at Michigan State), which certainly has some attraction for him. If I had to handicap it, I would say 55 percent to 45 percent with Ohio State over Michigan State, but with Michigan State closing on the outside fast. I think if they were 2-6 right now, or 4-4 and losing games the way they have in the past, I think this would be over. I think this season has gotten his attention."
Webb: Bill, I know you've covered the big offensive tackle from Cleveland Glenville, Aundrey Walker. Whenever he mentions his favorites, Michigan State is always right there with USC and Ohio State. The Spartans were also his first offer. Might they be closing rapidly in this recruitment like they have with Doran Grant?
Greene: "To me it is totally different. I think he is done, wrapped, and sealed to Ohio State. I think it is over. I think it's been over. The Glenville kids that have Ohio State offers, they go to Ohio State. Until there is a change in that, I'm sticking with that because it works, year after year after year. Teddy Ginn went and visited USC. Christian Bryant loved North Carolina. Marcus Hall loved Miami. In the end they go to Ohio State. (Walker) will take all the visits. He'll enjoy them all. He'll list every place as his leader. When he comes back, he'll sign with Ohio State."
Webb: You guys mentioned earlier that the real dividends to the storybook season the Spartans are having likely will be realized next year. Give me a few names of some top-shelf prospects that you foresee the Spartans being major players for next year.
Trieu: "Ohio is a place that they've done very well. You look right away at a guy like Kaleb Ringer, a middle linebacker from Clayton (Ohio) Northmont who has obvious ties to Michigan State. He is one of the more sought-after junior prospects in Ohio and Javon Ringer is Kaleb's uncle. He is going to be one that they certainly have a great shot at. He's certainly a very good prospect. I think they are looking real good for Corey Smith (Buchtel High School, Akron) at receiver. He's pretty similar to DeAnthony Arnett. I also think within the state of Michigan they are looking pretty good for Kelby Latta (Harper Creek High School, Battle Creek), who is one of the top linemen in the state."
Greene: "Well, they're in a battle for all the defensive ends in Ohio other than (Chris) Wormley. Ohio State is not going to get them all. The kid I really think they can move in on and get would be Se'von Pittman (McKinley High in Canton, Ohio). For the most part Michigan State is going to have a chance to take what Ohio State doesn't take. Michigan State is going to have very few occasions — and Doran Grant may be one — where they go head-to-head with Ohio State and beat them. So they're probably looking to take some of what's left. In the past I think they've done a good job developing some kids that Ohio State passed on like BJ Cunningham and Jerel Worthy. Those guys are good and they're outplaying some of the guys that Ohio State picked over them. I think Dantonio has done a really good job in who he is recruiting. The thing is, there is going to be a lot left on that board next year that is good. Ohio State only has 13 spots for next year and they've got four kids committed right now. That really narrows the field. There are some running backs in this state that can play and Ohio State has already taken two. William Mahone (Fitch High, Youngstown, Ohio), I think, is an absolute star in the making. He's there for the taking for someone. There are a lot of nice quarterback prospects in Ohio for 2012 that really fit in the Michigan State mold. Collin Michael (Lexington High, Lexington, Ohio) and Austin Appelby (Hoover High, Canton, Ohio), they can get in on those kids. There are a lot of guards like Anthony Stanko (Howland High, Warren, Ohio) and Ryan Anderson (Roosevelt High, Kent, Ohio). Zach Higgins (Marlington High, Alliance, Ohio) is another interior offensive lineman. Ohio State just took three guards this year and they need to go after tackles next year. The guard and center spots, Ohio State is going to have to pass on. You can make hay next year in Ohio because Ohio State is limited. They just don't have the spots."
Berk: "I see a lot of guys. Se'von Pittman out of Canton McKinley, who has that long lean body and comes off the edge, is one. You start looking at George "Bam" Bradley, a safety out of Trotwood (Ohio) Madison who is a prototype safety. He has got a big, physical body, can run, and is aggressive. You look at offensive linemen — guys like Taylor Decker out of Vandalia (Ohio) Butler High School who has got that 6-7, 6-8 frame and is still putting on some weight. He is 268 pounds and is a prototype tackle. Once he gets to 300 pounds, you've got a beast of a tackle. Mark Dantonio is really strong in southwest Ohio, especially the Cincinnati/Dayton areas. I think those are the areas that they'll concentrate on again. Maybe a kid like Kyle Williamson, who is an offensive tackle out of Cincinnati Madeira High School. He is 6-5, 275-280 and runs really well. He can be a good interior guy. Ohio is just going to be full of talent that cannot go to Ohio State because Ohio State is limited in scholarships. That's going to be an area where Michigan State and every school that recruits Ohio is going to have a chance to come in and really get some very good players — high-level players that otherwise in other years who would be guys you would sit there and say, 'OK, they're going to Ohio State.'"
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA