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MSU stays the course with solid recruiting class

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Rocky Lombardi

East Lansing — As National Signing Day finally arrives for college-football teams and prospects across the nation, Michigan State still is hoping to add a few pieces to the puzzle.

The Spartans entered the final week with three players already on campus and another 18 committed to the 2017 class with hopes of a couple more jumping into the mix by the end of the day. Whether any of those prospects knock anyone’s socks off is hard to determine, but there certainly still are targets for a class that ranks as high as No. 19 in the nation by and as low as No. 31 by Both Rivals and ESPN have Michigan State slated at No. 29.

Those rankings indicate a class that has become fairly standard for head coach Mark Dantonio — one that includes players that fit the Michigan State system even if short on a few stars.

“I just think it’s a solid class,” ESPN national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said. “Would I call it an elite class at the top? No, I’d call it a very good class at the top. But the one thing I always balk at and it applies to this class as well, that the Michigan State roster is always built off two-star and three-star guys. That’s not true at all. It’s been built off many, many four-star players and very high-end three-star players that over the course of the development have become great players over time. And I think that’s a credit to their process and not deviating from it.”

The 2017 class has plenty that fit the bill, like quarterback Rocky Lombardi, a three-star by most who got four stars from ESPN. Luginbill calls him a standout in the class, one he likes because Michigan State focused on filling needs.

“They’ve addressed the offensive line, the defensive line and I really like the quarterback, Rocky Lombardi,” Luginbill said of the West Iowa City standout. “In my opinion he’s got a chance to be really, really good and could end up being, over time when it’s his turn, a long-term solution for them that’s very, very successful. This is a team that needed more weapons on the perimeter and addressed that in multiple numbers offensively at wide receiver.”

The Spartans have been working hard the last couple of weeks to add another receiver to the class to join four-star Hunter Rison, who already is enrolled, and Cody White from Walled Lake Western along with Georgia athlete Connor Heyward, who appears likely to be a slot receiver. The Spartans were recruiting four-star Oliver Martin of Des Moines, Iowa, but on Monday night he announced he was committing to Michigan.

A late push for Purdue commitment C.J. Hayes of South Warren High in Bowling Green, Ky., paid off Tuesday when he flipped to Michigan State after a visit over the weekend.

“Michigan State is a school he really, really wanted an offer from and before that he just didn’t have one,” said Allen Trieu,’s Midwest manager. “They came in late, had a good visit and I think he’s just kind of torn between sticking with where he’s been and making the switch to Michigan State.”

Michigan State also is looking at some off-the-radar prospects, such as wide receiver Laress Nelson of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and safety Emmanuel Flowers of Chino, Calif.

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The Spartans also are making a final push at linebacker as Bowling Green commitment Noah Harvey from Hartland, Wis., is a possibility along with three-star Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Bethel High in Hampton, Va.

The Spartans have commitments from two linebackers — four-star Antjuan Simmons from Ann Arbor Pioneer and three-star Darien Clemons from Piqua High in Ohio — but adding a player like Owusu-Koramoah, a former Virginia commitment, would help.

“It’s either Michigan State or Notre Dame,” Trieu said. “That one sounded like for a while was headed toward Notre Dame and now it sounds kinda headed back to Michigan State. So he would be a minor surprise but one that Michigan State is definitely still a possibility.”

Michigan State has also been pushing at add another running back. It has a commitment from Akron, Ohio, three-star running back Weston Bridges, but he injured his knee during his senior year at Copley High and the Spartans are looking to add depth to a position they did not recruit in 2016 after landing four-star LJ Scott in 2015.

The Spartans missed out on three-star John Lovett of Cherokee High in New Jersey. The one-time Rutgers commitment Monday night opted for Baylor over Michigan State. Lovett’s recruitment went back and forth, and as of Monday morning it looked good for Michigan State.

There’s also a chance the Spartans could still land four-star Cordarrian Richardson of Memphis, Tenn. He’s been considering Ole Miss as well as UCF but reportedly will push his commitment to after National Signing Day and will take one more visit to Michigan State.

“Then I'm deciding for sure,” Richardson told 247sports. “This is my last one. After dead period, everybody’s questions will be answered.”