MSU mailbag: Jackson’s stay likely to be short
Basketball is taking over for most Michigan State fans, and we hit plenty of topics this week, including Jaren Jackson Jr. blocking shots and whether he’ll stick around past this season.
We also get into how long Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio will keep coaching and then, of course, a dip into football recruiting and thoughts on who could emerge next season.
■ Question. How good is Jaren Jackson and is there any chance he stays a second year ala @MilesBridges01? — @TimD56
■ Answer. How good is he? That’s not the easiest question to answer, but I can say Tom Izzo has probably not had a player like him in his 23 years leading the Spartans. He’s had big guys that protected the rim — most recently Deyonta Davis — but none have had the athleticism and overall game of Jackson. The shot-blocking already has been record-setting, as Jackson had a freshman-best eight blocks at Rutgers, a number that matched the program’s single-game record. But his ability to shoot the ball from long range combined with a developing low-post game make him a difficult matchup.
Will he hang around for a second season? Like recruiting, I’ve learned to never try and get in a kid’s head. But my hunch is Jackson is almost certainly a one-and-done. Projections have the 6-foot-11 freshman as a top-10 pick. Hard to pass that up, so appreciate Jackson while he’s here.
■ Q. Any word on Ahrens redshirt? — @Fieldof68Freawk
■ A. Still nothing official but, Kyle Ahrens still has that right foot in a boot, so it doesn’t seem like a return would be imminent. The longer it goes the more likely the redshirt becomes. Again, nothing concrete, but taking the redshirt seems like a solid bet at this point.
■ Q. Here’s one I haven’t heard in a bit. How many more years until Izzo and Dantonio call it quits? Gut feeling? — @AdaMcKay
■ A. That’s about all this would be — a gut feeling. Neither have really indicated they’ve thought much about retiring, but at age 62 for Izzo and 61 for Dantonio, I’m sure it’s something they’ve thought about. One thing I am quite certain of is you won’t see either leave for another job. I believe both are in their last coaching gig.
That said, I’d put Dantonio around five years — again, just at hunch. As for Izzo, another national championship could accelerate that clock. Getting the second title has driven him as much as anything, and when/if that comes, there could be some focus on how much longer he’ll keep doing it. Neither is being pushed out, and both will be able to make the call on their own, so it’s completely up to Dantonio and Izzo.
■ Q. Will JJJ get the single game block record and who will it likely come against? — @TheRealUDJG
■ A. Hmmm. I’m gonna guess he does get it — it’s nine, by the way. Which team it comes against is anyone’s guess. I will predict it doesn’t happen against Purdue. The reason I’m saying he gets it is because he seems motivated to do so. When we asked him about it after the Rutgers game, he said he didn’t realize, at first, that he tied the record. But, he added, he’s after nine blocks in a game now. I wouldn’t bet against him.
■ Q. You think ’Nova leap-frogging MSU in polls is legit? — @hs_math_phys
■ A. Sure. It’s not like Villanova is a bad team. Yeah, the Wildcats struggled against LaSalle last week, but they also happened to beat Gonzaga. Oh, and there’s the fact Villanova happens to be undefeated. Now, I’m not saying that should matter all that much, but honestly, Villanova is still one of the best five or six teams in the nation. Also, Izzo and the players aren’t that worried about it. I asked Miles Bridges about it and he said he’s glad MSU is still No. 2 because it “leaves that chip on our shoulder.” Whatever the rankings say, nothing has swayed me on my opinion that Duke and Michigan State are the two best teams in the nation.
■ Q. Who does MSU finish this recruiting class of with and what positions are our biggest need? —@BrianHi76643923
■ A. Not a lot of room left in the class, which stands at 20 right now. For what it’s worth, Dantonio said last week he expects all 20 to sign next week when the early signing period begins on Dec. 20. But defensive line and wide receiver remain two spots the Spartans are looking. Keep an eye on DT Tennessee Pututau from Salt Lake City and junior college DE Jordan Allen. As for a receiver, four-star Tommy Bush from Schertz, Texas remains a top target
■ Q. Any news on any football players from MSU transferring? — @NathanBrooke
■■ A. Nothing right now. We asked Dantonio about it on Sunday and he said there was nothing to report on that front. However, he did admit there were probably some players evaluating where they might stand at this point. I’d expect any players that might be thinking about moving on would do so after the bowl game.
■ Q. Anyone on the scout team we should expect to see the field next year? — @hogaboom77
■ A. The name to pay attention to could be offensive lineman Mustafa Khaleefah. The 6-foot-5 tackle was playing well in preseason camp before an injury sidelined him. The coaching staff has talked about him often and how happy they were he was back on the field late in the season. Bowl practice could be big for him, and he could be primed for a big spring. Two names on defense actually played this year, but sparingly. Watch for a jump from safeties Dominique Long and Tre Person.