Receivers among recruits getting special attention by Spartans

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Oliver Martin tweeted: “I am proud and excited to announce my commitment to play football for the University of Michigan! Go Blue!”

East Lansing — One silver lining to missing out on a bowl game is the fact the Michigan State coaching staff got to spend the better part of the last few weeks on the recruiting trail.

Yes, they certainly would have preferred to do so while also practicing for a bowl game — or the Big Ten Championship game, something that has been fairly routine in Mark Dantonio’s 10 seasons at Michigan State. But the reality is the Spartans’ staff was able to focus during the latest evaluation period on final targets for the 2017 class.

With 17 players already committed and three of those with signed Big Ten tenders and ready to enroll in January — CB Josiah Scott, WR Hunter Rison and TE Jack Camper — Michigan State’s coaches spent plenty of time visiting those already planning to sign with the Spartans on Feb. 1, and with those they’re still trying to convince.

Among that last group, a lot of new names have cropped up in recent weeks. And after the evaluation period ended on Sunday, Michigan State extended several new offers, including to three-star receiver Maleek Barkley, who is committed to Arkansas, and three-star safety Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who is committed to Virginia.

“I think they went on the road during the eval period, and while a lot of schools throw out offers during that time, they were approaching with caution a little bit and wanted to get back into the office and sit down as a staff and kind of go over all the information they collected,” said Allen Trieu, who is the midwest recruiting manager at “I think that’s why you see a lot of the offers (Monday) as opposed to throughout the eval period. It’s definitely a careful approach, so that’s why you kind of have the avalanche at one time of all the offers as opposed to as they go along.”

It’s also become clear, according to Trieu, that Michigan State is targeting several specific positions — receiver, defensive line and safety — heading into national signing day on Feb. 1.

The Spartans are making a push for one more receiver after missing out recently on four-star receivers in the likes of Detroit King’s Ambry Thomas, who chose Michigan, and KJ Hamler (IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida), who committed to Penn State.

The Spartans’ primary targets include four-star receivers Oliver Martin (Iowa City), and Jaylen Harris (Cleveland), who recently made an official visit to East Lansing.

Four-star receiver Tarik Black commits to Michigan

Also, four-star athlete Lynn Bowden (Youngstown, Ohio) has been talked about a lot.

“(Bowden is) still I think at least on the radar — maybe not as heavily so,” said Trieu, who also believes Bradley is interested in Michigan State, despite being committed to Arkansas.

Michigan State is also making a push at defensive line, recently extending offers to three-star linemen Victor Dimukeje (Baltimore), and Kofi Wardlow (Washington D.C.)

The Spartans also continue to show interest in three-star safety Jordan Ulmer of Belleville High.

“Not to say those are the only positions they’re going to recruit down the stretch, but those are a couple where there are more new names popping up at receiver, defensive end and safety than other positions,” Trieu said.

It also doesn’t mean Michigan State has pulled back on a handful of other targets they’ve been pursuing all along.

Junior college linebacker Marquise Blair, a four-star recruit, was supposed to be on campus for an official visit last weekend but was unable to make it because of the snow storm. The Dodge City (Kansas) Community College standout is still expected to visit in January.

“I think he remains a guy that could easily join the class,” Trieu said.

Four-star defensive end Deron Irving-Bey (Flint Southwestern High) has been recruited a lot. Trieu believes the courtship has been heading in a different direction for the Spartans, but they’re still pursuing Irving-Bey, who will make his commitment at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 17 in San Antonio.

Johnathan Lovett is a three-star running back from New Jersey who is on the Spartans’ radar, according to Trieu. Lovett decommitted from Rutgers in November and Trieu believes Michigan State will try and get him on campus in late January.

Naytron Culpepper, a three-star cornerback from Miami, is also in the mix.

“I know he’s been on the radar for a long time,” Trieu said. “They play really late into the year in Florida and his team won the state title, so he was actually still playing this past weekend. So that’s affected his ability to visit some schools, so I think he’ll try to get to Michigan State as soon as the dead period ends.”

Trieu also believes the Spartans have a shot at four-star outside linebacker Jaquan Henderson (Georgia), who is a Tennessee commit. And they continue to go after four-star outside linebackers Drew Singleton (Paramus Catholic, New Jersey) and Antjuan Simmons (Ann Arbor Pioneer High). Trieu believes Singleton is trending more toward Michigan, while Simmons is also considering Notre Dame and Arizona.

The Spartans could also might add a running back considering three-star commit Weston Bridges (Akron, Ohio) has a torn ACL and will need surgery this week. In addition to Lovett, the Spartans visited Michigan commit Kurt Taylor (Georgia) and have shown interest in 240-pound Alonzo Booth (Columbus, Ohio), both three-star backs.

Even if Michigan State misses out on top targets like it did with Thomas, Trieu said this is old hat for Dantonio and his staff.

“Michigan State has made a living off of circling the wagons,” Trieu said. “One of the very first big recruitments for this staff was Keith Nichol and they lose him and they replace him with some guy no one knew named Kirk Cousins at the last second.

“Fans keep asking ‘Why haven’t they offered more guys?’ And I think this is the staff saying ‘We’ve been down this road and we didn’t find the Kirk Cousins and Le’Veon Bells and Darqueze Dennards of the world by just spraying out a bunch of offers.’ You’re panning for gold when you’re looking for those kinds of kids, so I think that’s why you see more of a selective process down the stretch to fill these last few spots here.” @mattcharboneau