East Lansing — Michigan State has grabbed its share of recruits from within the state, but during Mark Dantonio’s tenure, the Spartans have truly made their mark beyond the borders of the Great Lakes state.
Often landing talent from Ohio, Michigan State is starting to show its getting the job done closer to home. Of the 15 players who have committed to the 2019 class, eight are from the state of Michigan. If that number stayed the same by the time the class is signed, it would be the most homegrown talent the Spartans have landed since 2010 when 11 of the 22 players signed came from Michigan.
However, it doesn’t appear that it is because of any sort of shift in recruiting philosophy.
“I think the philosophy has always been to recruit in-state talent hard, but this year there is a deep group and MSU has had success in getting commitments,” said Allen Trieu, a national recruiting analyst who covers the Midwest for 247sports.com.
“I think the number of in-state offers is around the same as always, it just happens that many in this 2019 class are choosing MSU.”
It’s a trend that has been slow to develop. After landing 11 or more state-grown players in three of his first four seasons, the most Dantonio has landed since was seven in 2014. That came a year after the 2013 class had just three players from Michigan while the Spartans grabbed four from the state in both 2015 and 2016. The 2017 class included five in-state players before six came in this year.
The quick turnaround from the three-win season in 2016 has helped. Instead of taking time to rebound, Michigan State won 10 games last season, beat Michigan and won the Holiday Bowl. It enters the 2018 season once again in the mix to win the Big Ten East.
It’s made a difference on the recruiting trail.
“I think it definitely helped,” Trieu said. “I think you saw the dip in in-state commits the year before where some kids left the state but things are back up now after last season.”
The early commits for 2019 validate that belief.
Of the eight who are from Michigan, five rank in the top 15 in the state, according to 247Sports, including five-star offensive lineman Devontae Dobbs of Belleville. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder is also rated the No. 17 player in the nation in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
“I’ve been going up there at Michigan State since I was in the seventh or eighth grade, really the first school I was introduced to,” Dobbs said in the spring. “I really like the stability at Michigan State. They get players and really develop them, even if they’re not four- or five-star guys. They just win games. Coach Dantonio does some unbelievable stuff with what he’s got, just a real good coach.”
Joining Dobbs in the 2019 class are four-star cornerback Julian Barnett, his Belleville teammate, as well as defensive ends Michael Fletcher (Flint Carman-Ainsworth) and Adam Berghorst (Zeeland East), offensive tackle Spencer Brown (Walled Lake Western), linebacker Marcel Lewis (Clinton Township Chippewa Valley), wide receiver Tre Mosley (West Bloomfield), and athlete Tate Hallock (Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central).
The commits will continue to hear from other teams — Michigan included — but it doesn’t seem like they’re wavering.
“I feel like that’s my home, like I can go there and play, get a good education and I’ll be led to the right path,” said Barnett, who had offers from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and Notre Dame. “I’ve been going there a lot since my freshman year.”
And the push for in-state players continues.
The Spartans were hosting a large group of in-state recruits this week, including all eight who have committed to the 2019 class.
One top remaining target is Canton defensive end Darius Robinson. He has Michigan State in his top group, but recently said he will back off of a planned Sept. 13 commitment date in order to take more visits. Syracuse, Maryland, Rutgers and Colorado make up the rest of his top five.
This week’s recruiting push comes as preseason camp is set to open on Thursday. Of the six in-state freshmen in the class, three enrolled early, including cornerback Kalon Gervin (Detroit Cass Tech).
“He’s very instinctive, reacts very well, tackles effectively, plays well to the edge and he can really run,” Dantonio said of Gervin, “so I think there’s no question that he’s going to be a player here for us.”
Also, running backs Elijah Collins (U-D Jesuit) and La’Darius Jefferson (Muskegon) will likely get an early shot to prove they’ll be included in the group of in-state recruits who make a difference for the Spartans.
Michigan State is on pace to land its most in-state recruits in almost 10 years. Here’s a breakdown during coach Mark Dantonio’s tenure
Year; In-state; Total
2007 — 8, 23
2008 — 13, 21
2009 — 12, 23
2010 — 11, 22
2011 — 5, 21
2012 — 5, 20
2013 — 3, 17
2014 — 7, 22
2015 — 4, 20
2016 — 4, 20
2017 — 5, 24
2018 — 6, 22
2019 — 8, 15*