Trieu: Intangibles help make Lyke 'special' talent
Every day, at lunchtime, Kenney Lyke walks down to defensive coordinator Dan Davis' office at William Fremd High in Palatine, Illinois. Of all the choices a high school junior could make at that time of day, Lyke's decision underscores the intangibles he has, in addition to his obvious physical ability.
"We talk life, we talk recruiting and he wants to get better," Davis said of Lyke, the four-star safety who committed to Michigan State last week. "He could be like the other kids going off campus to get lunch or whatever, but he tends to spend that 50 minutes with me every day. He's a special kid in that he just wants to get better."
Miami (Ohio) was the first school to offer Lyke (6-2, 185 pounds) in January and the RedHawks were quickly followed by Mid-American Conference foes Northern Illinois and Toledo. Following those three, more colleges began to take notice. Some, despite being Division 1 programs, admitted they were not in a position to land Lyke after seeing him on film.
Those coaches proved to be prophetic as a recruiting explosion happened two weeks after National Signing Day in February. Former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, now the head coach at Pittsburgh, was actually the first power-five conference head man to extend an offer. Michigan State followed shortly before Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Penn State, Baylor, Maryland, Notre Dame and others all offered in the spring.
"They talk about his length, hand size and ability to run," Davis said. "Plus they like his hip movement. He has an ability to close on guys in space that a lot of kids can't do. Average guys can make a tackle in the box, but in open space, if you look at his film, he does a lot of crossing the field and making the play; he's got a knack for making those plays."
Lyke says the tradition of defensive backs at Michigan State was a large part of his decision to commit to the Spartans. And hearing his coaches talk about his strengths on the field sounds like someone describing past standouts of the Green and White's famed "No Fly Zone."
The recruiting done by, not only the Spartan staff, but by the other members of this class also played a big part, and Lyke is now ready to take his turn as lead recruiter.
"I kind of always had a feeling ever since I went up there," Lyke said, "and all the guys I talk to daily, Messiah (DeWeaver) and Abdul (Adams) -- those guys do just as good of a job too of getting kids. I was talking to some other guys in the area who are trying to make that move too, so it's going to be good."
Those "other guys" Lyke is referring to are Evanston defensive tackle Naquan Jones and Hinsdale South defensive end Josh King, two fellow four-stars from the Chicago suburbs who are set to announce their decision early in June.
The belief is that Michigan State will succeed in landing both, along with highly-regarded Fort Wayne defensive lineman Auston Robertson, who is set to announce his decision next Saturday.
Three players like them certainly would add to a pass rush that is one of the nation's best, and behind them will be a smart, talented safety in Lyke, ready to be Michigan State's next great defensive back.
"What I have seen is his maturity and his temperament on the field is much better," Davis said. "He controls himself on the field and his football IQ has grown a lot. When I talk to coaches that are recruiting him, what they like are his angles, perception and how he attacks plays. He has a natural ability for that and it is just getting better."
Thanks in no small part to those lunchtime meetings.
Canadian one to watch
Chase Claypoolreceiver is a fast-rising prospect from Abbotsford, British Columbia, who recently added a Michigan offer to existing offers from Oregon, Washington and others. At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, he is being recruited as a wide receiver, tight end and outside linebacker. Michigan State has recently taken notice of him and he will visit the Spartans in June when he also attends the Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy in Macomb.
Maryland linebacker offered
Michigan State became the latest program to offer Bethesda (Md.) Landon School linebacker-defensive end Keith Simms. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Simms adds the Spartans to a list that includes Stanford, Maryland, California, Penn State, Wisconsin and others. He does not currently have a visit set to Michigan State yet, but has been in contact with members of the recruiting class.
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 and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at detroitnews.com.