MSU coach Mark Dantonio talks about the 2018 recruiting class. Matt Charboneau
East Lansing — When Detroit Cass Tech defensive back Kalon Gervin was in seventh grade, he took a picture with Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio.
Before Gervin committed to play for the Spartans, he texted that photo to Dantonio, reminding him of that day when Dantonio talked about dreams coming true.
Not long after, the top-ranked player in the state committed to Michigan State, and on Wednesday, he and 19 others signed their national letters of intent to play for the Spartans.
“Kalon is a great young man,” Dantonio said Wednesday. “Prior to committing, he sent me a picture of him when he was in the seventh grade in a Spartan jersey standing behind me, talking about dreams are going to come true. That was something he’s been dreaming about for a long time obviously. It’s exciting when you see people’s dreams come true.”
Gervin (5-11, 179 pounds) is the top-ranked player in Michigan State’s class, and had offers from nearly every major program in the country.
“He’s fast and to play corner here you have to be fast,” said Harlon Barnett, MSU’s defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator. “One of the things you must have to play corner here is you have to be able to run. We pressure you so much that you have to be able to run and he can do that. Also, I’ve seen him move around in different camp situations, his transition and change of direction is really good. He has some toughness to him and by him coming early he’ll give himself a chance to play.”
Fellow classmates were pushing for Michigan State to land Gervin, too. In late August, Cass Tech played Pickerington (Ohio) Central. Defensive back Xavier Henderson and tight end Trenton Gillison both play at Pickerington Central and urged the coaches to keep pushing for Gervin.
“Both those teams had a lot of players that are going to be recruited next year by major colleges, then also recruited this year, going to major colleges,” Dantonio said. “There’s a lot of competition on that film. Actually, our guys told us, ‘You got to get him, he’s a great player,’ and helped recruit him.”
Gervin is just one part of a strong defensive back class. Henderson is a four-star who was the first member of the recruiting class. They’re joined by Davion Williams of Belleville, Michael Dowell of St. Edward High in Lakewood, Ohio, and Chris Jackson of Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter.
Michigan State only landed three offensive linemen in the class, but one is hardly lacking in size.
James Ohonba of Woodland High in Stockbridge, Ga., stands 6-4 and weighs 366 pounds.
“I think I could have curled up and took a nap in his shoe, size 18 shoe,” Dantonio said. “Big guy. Had a knee injury at the end of the season. He’ll have to rehab that knee, but outstanding student. Played soccer and basketball early in his life, in his athletic career. He’s got some athletic ability. Looks like he’ll be a dominant offensive lineman for us as we move forward.”
Ohonba is a four-star player, according to Rivals.com. He had offers from many major programs, including Clemson, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
Seven players are planning to enroll in January, including Gervin and Henderson.
Joining them are WR Javez Alexander, QB Theo Day, OL Dimitri Douglas, WR Julian Major and LB Edward Warinner.
Michigan State also expects to add another player or two before the traditional signing period which begins in early February.
“A defensive lineman probably,” Dantonio said. “If you are out there listening, defensive lineman would be a great, great find right now.”
Later in the press conference, Dantonio’s phone rang.
“Must be a defensive lineman,” Dantonio said.
He then looked at the phone.
“No such luck.”
Bowers off team
Dantonio said junior defensive end Robert Bowers is no longer with the team and hasn’t been since the Ohio State game on Nov. 11.
“Separated from the team,” Dantonio said.
Bowers appeared in eight games this season and had two tackles. In 15 career games, Bowers had 14 tackles and a half sack.
Dantonio also announced freshman defensive end Lashawn Paulino-Bell and redshirt freshman defensive back Austin Andrews have been suspended for the bowl game. Dantonio said their suspensions were not related to academics, but offered no other details.