Trieu: Spartans look at top JUCO talent again
Michigan State may look to the junior college ranks to fill a number of spots in the 2016 class. The Spartans have had success recruiting junior colleges before.
Two former JUCO recruits, Miguel Machado and Drake Martinez, are currently on the roster and names that should be very familiar to Spartan fans -- like Fou Fonoti, Anthony Rashad White, Devin Thomas, Domata Peko and Deandra Cobb -- all came from junior colleges before becoming major contributors in East Lansing.
The Spartans hope Snow College's Garett Bolles is next.
He played linebacker and defensive end at Westlake High in Lehi, Utah, before serving an LDS Church Mission for two years just before enrolling at Snow. It was there that he added 25 pounds, moved to offensive tackle and became a national recruit.
Now a 23-year-old who is set to get married in less than a month, his relative inexperience at the position is balanced by his age and maturity, as well as his size, athleticism and the quickness with which he has adapted to the technical aspects of being a blindside protector.
He will take three official visits, with the Spartans getting the first chance to make an impression last weekend before Oregon and Arkansas get their attempts. Coming from Utah and a smaller campus like Snow, he was looking for a similar feel for his first time in East Lansing (or in the Midwest for that matter). He found it and then some.
"Everyone was real loving and friendly," he said. "It was a great time to see that so far away from home. I think just the small-town feel (made it seem like home). My campus at Snow is a real small country town. And then being with the players and players make it homey. The O-line group was great. I could see how they play and see what do daily leading up to a game. It felt like it was home and I fit in well with them. It was a great opportunity."
Bolles is considering other programs like Arizona State, Utah and more beyond the three schools that will host him for official visits.
He plans to make a decision by the end of January.
While Lonnie Johnson's journey has not been as long as Bolles', he is also ready to get to a Division I campus. Hailing from Gary (Ind.) West Side, a school that has not produced many college athletes, Johnson's versatility and athleticism drew programs his way as a junior in high school.
By the time his senior season rolled around, he was an Ohio State commit. When that fell through, he committed to Western Michigan. When that fell through, he made his way to Garden City Community College.
Similar to Bolles, Johnson experienced a position switch. He had played defensive back and wide receiver in high school, but most schools saw him as a safety if he stayed on defense. At Garden City, he moved to cornerback, where his 6-foot-3 frame and ball skills made him an all-conference selection. He intercepted five passes, but it was the first one that may have been the most important.
"I played it in high school, so it was hard adjusting right back to it at first, but once I got started and got the first pick, it came right back to me," he said.
Currently holding offers from Middle Tennessee State, South Alabama, Alabama-Birmingham, Toledo and Texas Tech, Johnson also visited Michigan State last weekend (unofficially) and is hoping the Spartans are the next to be added to that list. If that happens, it will be an easy decision for him.
"If Michigan State offers, I'm going to commit there," he said. "Right now, I'm just waiting to see what offers come in."
Will Johnson or Bolles be the next JUCO product turned All-Big Ten performer as a Spartan? Time will tell, but both are high possibilities.
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.