MSU uses rule change to land star Tyriq Thompson early

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

In years past, if a player wanted to enroll early and begin his college football career in the spring, teams could not talk about it until National Signing Day in February.

That was when players coming in the next season would sign national letters of intent and, in the case of Michigan State and other Big Ten teams, a Big Ten tender.

But a rule change for this season allows players to sign the tender at any time, essentially binding the school to that player and allowing the coaching staff to comment on the player.

That was the case this week when Detroit King star linebacker Tyriq Thompson signed his Big Ten tender to play at Michigan State with plans to enroll after in January after graduating early from high school.

"We had talked about it and so it was something that he was comfortable doing," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday. "So he made it happen. As far as the timing, we just decided that last week we would try and get him the papers, and they were able to get there I think on Monday. So it just worked out now."

This season, Michigan State had two players – linebacker Chris Frey and tight end Matt Sokol – that enrolled early, but it wasn't official until Signing Day. Frey has taken advantage and has seen regular playing time while Sokol is likely headed for a redshirt season.

Where Thompson falls remains to be seen, but Dantonio thinks Thompson will be able to handle the transition.

"I think it is an advantage to come mid-year for some," he said. "If you're mature enough to handle it, if your grades are in order, it gives you an upside. But you have to be mature enough to handle it as an individual because you're going from a high school senior setting to a college setting. So all the social issues, academic issues, the football issues -- they are all going to come right at a person very, very quickly.

"I think sometimes people struggle, so it's not right for everybody but I think in his case this is something he wanted to do and I think he's prepared for it, and I think he's mature enough to handle it. So we are excited about this opportunity for him and for Michigan State football."

Scout.com ranks Thompson (6-1, 220 pounds) as the No. 16 linebacker in the nation for 2015. He made a verbal commitment to the Spartans in August. Thompson is a two-time captain at King and is the top-rated linebacker in the state according to Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247sports.com, and he is a consensus top-10 overall prospect in Michigan.

He is also the son of former Michigan running back Clarence Thompson. But he appears on target to play next fall for the Spartans.

"An outstanding player, comes from an outstanding program," Dantonio said. "Very quick, very explosive, very intelligent."