East Lansing — For the bulk of Michigan State’s 2014 recruiting class, it will be a few months before they make the move on campus and adjust to college life.
For two members of the class, that already has taken place.
Tight end Matt Sokol of Rochester Adams and linebacker Chris Frey of Upper Arlington, Ohio, have enrolled and are getting used to not only being a college student, but to the atmosphere that surrounds Spartans football.
And at Michigan State, that means diving into the offseason conditioning program of strength coach Ken Mannie.
“The weightlifting program Coach Mannie has us all on is nothing like I’ve done before,” Frey said on Wednesday as the rest of the class signed their letters-of-intent. “It’s crazy. But I’m getting used to it after 8-9 lifts and I’m settling in and able to get through more without struggling as much.”
Sokol, who was a quarterback in high school but will begin as a tight end at Michigan State, said he and Frey have been so worn out that when they are done with workouts and classes, there is usually only time for a little television before they are both asleep.
But he’s quickly understood the approach it will take to be a contributor on a team that finished 13-1 last season and defeated Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
“Since I’ve been here I’ve realized what it takes to be a football player here,” Sokol said. “It’s been 110 percent from day one, there is no easing into it. Every single guy gives everything he’s got and the toughness factor is like an aroma in the air. It’s expected and every guy is trying to meet those expectations. There is no room for anything else.”
Defensive end gets away
While coach Mark Dantonio brought in arguably his best class since taking over at Michigan State, there was at least one player that got away in the final hours.
Defensive end Darius Slade, who committed to Michigan State in mid-January after decommitting from Nebraska, changed his mind again and ended up signing with Ohio State. After Slade pulled out of the Nebraska offer, it was Michigan State and Ohio State that pursued him, with the Spartans winning out at that point.
Michigan State also came close to flipping offensive lineman Jamarco Jones, who had committed to Ohio State but took one final visit to Michigan State. He decided late on Tuesday to stick with the Buckeyes.
It’s just the latest in a series of recruiting battles between the teams that met in the Big Ten championship game and will now see each other on a yearly basis as part the East Division.
“They’re real, and I think they’ve always been real,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “But I think we’re more nose to nose with them quite often in recruiting. I’ve got a lot of respect for the way they do their business and that’s an adversary.
“That’s one of our teams we’re nose to nose with right now in recruiting. We don’t win them all because I know we lost a couple, too. But that’s a real battle right now.”
OK on quarterbacks
Michigan State did not recruit a quarterback in the class after Chris Durkin of Youngstown, Ohio, flipped to Virginia Tech in mid-December. Dantonio said when it happened made it difficult to add a quarterback this season, but he was content entering the season with the current quarterbacks on the roster.
“I think with the timing it was kind of hard,” he said. “I feel very good about our quarterback situation right now and it also gives us an opportunity to look towards 2015, as well.
“I feel very, very comfortable with the three quarterbacks we have right now. They’re all excellent. Obviously Connor Cook had a huge year, but Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry are two guys I think have excellent ability.”
Dantonio announced that redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Mark Scarpinato will graduate at the end of the year and will enter medical school, forgoing his final two years of eligibility.
“When you have goals, whether it’s goals in football or goals in any other areas of life and you can accomplish those goals, we want to congratulate him and the job he’s been able to do here,” Dantonio said. “At this point in time, it’s his decision. We want to congratulate him as a program entirely.”
The 6-foot-3, 286-pound Scarpinato played in all 14 games last season and was expected to be a starter next season next to Damon Knox. He finished with 15 tackles and a sack.