Trieu: Early visits help MSU build relationships

Allen Trieu
Special to The Detroit News

The first time Cody White visited Michigan State as a recruit, he was only a freshman. At that point, he had not played varsity yet and was a quarterback.

It may have been hard then to predict he would be starting for the Spartans as a freshman in college four years later, but that early starting point with MSU made a difference in his recruitment.

White would have many other scholarship offers to choose from by the time he committed to Michigan State. He visited campus at least 10 more times after that day, and built a comfortable relationship with head coach Mark Dantonio and his staff.

White’s father, Sheldon White, was working as vice president of pro personnel and then as the interim general manager of the Detroit Lions during that time. Now the executive director of player personnel and recruiting at Michigan State, White remembers how important those early visits were to his son and applies that to how the Spartans approach recruiting.

The process is twofold. The recruit gets to spend time with Michigan State and their staff, and the Spartans get to know the player and his family in a way film cannot provide.

“Coach Dantonio is huge on meeting family and players,” White said to Spartan Nation’s Hondo Carpenter. “It’s not easy for us to get him to pull the trigger on offers. You better have tons of information to present to him. If he likes what he sees, he makes the call on whether he wants to offer the player or not.”

Drafting seven rounds of players and scouring for free agents in the NFL is different than recruiting a class of 20 or so high school athletes, although there is naturally some overlap in assessing talent. White has made a smooth transition from the pro to college game with the help of Dantonio, his coaching staff and their recruiting staff.

“There are some differences,” White said. “One is the development of the players. Obviously, when you look at a 14-, 15-, 16-year-old kid versus an almost fully developed player on the way to the NFL, it’s different. The levels of competition vary widely in high school. In the NFL, you draft a player you want or in free agency, most of the time, you pick up a player because you say, hey, we have $200 million more than this team, but at the college level, it’s a big-time opportunity to sell the university — what makes Michigan State different than other schools we’re competing with, and making sure we have a great presentation and other things that are involved in that as well.”

In regards to rankings on recruiting sites, White says “we don’t even look at that.”

That should be apparent given the number of recruits the Spartans have signed who were unranked or lower-ranked, or had very little to no interest from other Big Ten schools.

“With our coach, he evaluates players,” White said. “He wants to see the player, so the more exposure he has to them and the more evaluation information that we can give to him to allow him to make the best decision for MSU, that’s what he’s looking at. He doesn’t care about the rest of that stuff. He doesn’t care who else is recruiting him, doesn’t care about stars, he cares about whether they’re MSU-worthy in his opinion.”

White added that the staff highly values in-person evaluation. That includes summer camp, where the staff can work with a player and assess, not only physical ability, but ability to absorb coaching as well. Also, gameday visits, a chance for the student-athlete to see a game at Michigan State, allows the staff to see what a player looks like physically.

As Michigan State looks to close out the 2018 class and look more toward the 2019 and 2020 classes, those young players have had more opportunity to get to campus. White remembers how the staff treated his son on those early visits, and is making certain that he, and a team of rising young staff members, is ready to give recruits the same experience.

“I work with Butler Benton, Garrett Briningstool, Simone Proulx, Jairus Jones, some student workers, and we will be adding people to the staff, potentially later,” White said. “We’re grinding film, setting up official visits, unofficial visits, pregame presentations, postgame presentations, everything involved in recruiting and presenting what’s best for the university. They’re a hard-working staff. They’re up-and-comers. You may not know their names now, but you’ll know them later on.”

MSU offers 2 in Ohio

Mentor defensive end Noah Potter and Springfield defensive back Moses Douglass are the two latest offers for Michigan State in the state of Ohio’s 2019 class.

Potter is a 6-foot-6, 240-pound prospect who also has been offered by Ohio State and Penn State. He will be in Columbus visiting the Buckeyes this weekend when the Spartans come to town.

Douglass is the son of former NFL defensive back Moe Douglass. He is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound prospect who has been recruited and offered by major programs since his freshman year. Michigan, Iowa, Kentucky and Pittsburgh are among his other offers.

Sophomore DT offered on visit

Denver Warren, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound sophomore from West Aurora (Ill.) visited Michigan State last weekend and went home with an offer from the Spartans.

Warren said Dantonio offered him prior to the game against Penn State.

Syracuse, Iowa State and Central Michigan also have offered Warren, but he referred to the Spartans as one of his top offers.

More information

Noah Potter profile

Denver Warren profile

Moses Douglass profile

Allen Trieu began covering the state of Michigan for 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