East Lansing — The dates have changed, but the feeling certainly hasn’t.
College football’s early signing period begins Wednesday, a first for prospects who normally would be waiting until early February to sign their national letters of intent. But at Michigan State, regardless of when, it seems like business as usual.
That’s because the 20 players the Spartans and coach Mark Dantonio are expecting to sign fit the mold of most of his recruiting classes — a little light on star power but plenty full of potential.
“I think it’s gonna end up being ranked as a pretty good class,” said Allen Trieu, Midwest recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “I think when you look beyond the rankings, there are a lot of guys they had a chance to evaluate in person, guys they beat out some really good schools for and a lot of talent in the areas I think they needed some bodies. Running back was a big need in the class and they got the best in the state in Elijah Collins. Secondary was a need. They’re bringing in a really strong group of defensive backs. And then they needed some help up front, and think they got that on both sides.
“So a very, kind of, classic Mark Dantonio class. Guys who are versatile, can play a lot of different positions, guys who come from really good high school programs and guys they evaluated in camp.”
Entering the early signing period, Michigan State’s 2018 class was ranked No. 22 in the nation, according to 247Sports. That would rank as one of Dantonio’s best. The 2016 class was rated No. 17 in the nation while the classes in 2009 and 2010 also were rated No. 22.
There are no five stars this time, but there’s plenty of top-end talent who had offers from other big programs. Cornerback Kalon Gervin of Detroit Cass Tech is in that group while others could make a name for themselves well after signing day.
“I think the quarterback, Theo Day, has a chance to be really, really good,” Trieu said. “I think Spartan fans should be excited about him and he’s got everything you need to one day be the guy under center in East Lansing. I think the two cornerbacks at the top of the class — Kalon Gervin and Davion Williams — bring really good skill sets to the table and come from really good high school programs. I think Elijah Collins, he may not be ranked quite as highly as some of those other guys, but I think he has a chance to be one of the best players in the class as well.”
Collins was the top running back in the state, but brings just a three-star rating from 247Sports. So his development might be considered a surprise to some.
It wouldn’t be as much for Gervin and Williams, while Day brings a four-star rating, as well. Other top-rated players in the class include tight end Trenton Gillison, defensive back Xavier Henderson and linebacker Chase Kline.
All, Dantonio has said, are expected to sign Wednesday. Whether there are any signing-day surprises remains to be seen, but the Spartans are still waiting on junior-college defensive end Jordan Allen.
“He’s the only one that can really make this go one way or another,” Trieu said. “I think he’s the only one they’re waiting on for (Wednesday), so I don’t know that he would be a surprise either way. I think everybody thinks it’s kind of 50-50 with TCU and Michigan State right now.”
With all 20 expected to sign, that could mean most of the work over the next couple of months is on the 2019 class. However, there are some names that the Spartans will still be working on leading up to February.
One of those targets is Tommy Bush, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound receiver from Samuel Clemens High School in Schertz, Texas, who is an Under Armour All-American. He has offers from such national powers as Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia and Auburn and just took a visit to Georgia.
That might be a longshot for the Spartans, but they’ll keep their eyes open.
“There’s still some guys they’re gonna work on, and if those guys don’t end up picking Michigan State maybe some new names will emerge,” Trieu said. “But I think that’s the one thing we don’t know about this early signing, is what will the pool look like in January if all of a sudden some guys don’t commit like you expected and who do you have left to take?
“But Michigan State, throughout the years, has always been really good at getting some guys in late that you don’t know about, you don’t expect, like Jack Conklin was one of those guys, last year Laress Nelson was one of those guys. So, you can’t really ever leave out the possibility that one of those guys may, somebody of that type may pop up.”