February 7, 2014 at 9:50 am

Allen Trieu

Low-pressure recruiting helps Michigan State to fantastic finish

Mark Dantonio on Signing Day
Mark Dantonio on Signing Day: MSU coach on this year's recruits.

Michigan State closed its 2014 recruiting class with a flurry, vaulting from No. 6 in Scout.com’s Big Ten rankings to No. 2, and from outside the national top 30 to a top-20 class.

The reasons for that rise: late additions of defensive linemen Malik McDowell and Craig Evans, offensive tackle Miguel Machado and safety T.J. Harrell.

“When you close down the stretch it's difficult sometimes,” head coach Mark Dantonio said, “but one thing that I've tried not to do in the recruiting process -- and I think our coaches have done a great job with this as well -- is we really haven't pressured people.”

McDowell made headlines after he announced Wednesday morning he was committing to the Spartans, but after failing to get his mother’s signature, he has not yet sent in his letter-of-intent. He still counts toward the MSU class, however.

Evans, a Wisconsin commit for nearly a year, announced Tuesday that he and the Badgers had parted ways and he would be signing with the Spartans. He had visited the MSU campus several times. Scout analysts have compared his build and skill set to Jerel Worthy, and Dantonio said at his National Signing Day press conference that Spartan fans should expect to see Evans on the field this fall.

“Craig Evans was in our camp,” Dantonio said. “Very powerful guy. He's got a lot of explosiveness. He's got great change of direction for a big man. About 6-foot-3, 310 or so -- probably will be an immediate contributor on this year's football team.”

Harrell took his official visit in November and seemed destined to be a Spartan from that moment on, despite visiting other schools afterward. He waited until Signing Day to announce and Dantonio is thrilled to have him.

“Very highly-recruited young man,” Dantonio said. “He's playing in the International Bowl on Friday. He's a very exciting player.”

Machado committed to the Spartans on Wednesday night but was not able to send his letter-of-intent until Thursday morning. Since his and McDowell’s were not received at the time of the press conference, Dantonio was prohibited from speaking about either.

The late addition of Machado gives MSU more depth at offensive tackle. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound Pasadena City College product will have two years of eligibility remaining.

With those for late additions, it was clear this season helped the Green and White sprint down the home stretch of this recruiting cycle. And while this class may have a more national feel and may be ranked higher than past classes, the Spartans did it without compromising any of the values that brought on the success.

“I think we've tried to do it the right way,” Dantonio said, “and we'll continue to that in that fashion as we go forward. But sometimes you do have to, as a program, take a stance sometimes. But I was excited about the way we came down the stretch and the players who made their decision to come to Michigan State.”

Spartan walk-ons

In addition to the signees on full scholarship, several players have accepted invitations to be preferred walk-ons at Michigan State. Wyandotte Roosevelt wide receiver Brandon Sowards was committed to Grand Valley State, but changed his mind when the Spartan opportunity presented itself. Joining him are Orchard Lake St. Mary’s tight end Nathan Conrad, Bethel Park (Pa.) offensive lineman Casey Scrheiner, Hun School (N.J.) lineman Andrew Foster and Goleta (Ca.) Don Pueblos wide receiver LeShon Bell.

More information

Craig Evans profile

Malik McDowell profile

Miguel Machado profile

Allen Trieu began covering the state of Michigan for Scout.com in 2005 and began managing the entire Midwest in 2009. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan State recruiting column appears every Friday at detroitnews.com. For more on MSU recruiting, visit michiganstate.scout.com.

Mark Dantonio thinks Craig Evans will be an 'immediate contributor' at Michigan State. / Photo courtesy of Allen Trieu