Recruiting analyst Allen Trieu talks with Dave Goricki about the early signing period for college football. The Detroit News
East Lansing — It’s hardly a class that will be calling itself the “Dream Team” on social media, but the 20 commitments Mark Dantonio has drawn to Michigan State ahead of the beginning of the early signing period that begins Wednesday is hardly void of potential difference makers.
The fact it might not rate as high as some of Dantonio’s previous classes can be attributed to various factors — namely the fact Michigan State has had back-to-back disappointing seasons, when it was out of the Big Ten race early and ended up in a lower-tier bowl game.
However, with Dantonio’s track record of finding and developing talent, there’s little doubt this group will produce its share of players that could take off at the next level.
“With 20 verbal commitments, I'd probably say half of those guys are upper-echelon, three-star, top-level players,” ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill said. “I don’t see verbal commitments from four-star players just yet, and that might happen as they round out their class either now or the first Wednesday in February.
"But to me, it’s a typical class.”
According to the 247Sports composite rankings, every player in the class is rated as a three-star prospect. Those rankings vary slightly by each site as 247Sports lists safety Darius Snow and cornerback Angelo Grose as four-star prospects while Rivals.com has wide receiver Terry Lockett as a four-star.
Regardless of the number of stars, the Spartans are counting on plenty of this year’s class to make a contribution, and that could mean right away for some in the class.
The most notable name in that group is Snow of Carrollton, Texas. The son of former Michigan State basketball star Eric Snow and nephew of former All-America linebacker Percy Snow, Darius likely projects as a safety at Michigan State.
And while he’s a member of a legendary Spartan family, a commitment to Michigan State wasn’t exactly a slam dunk as offers rolled in from all of college football’s heavyweights, including Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Georgia.
“He was a kid who could have gone a lot of different places,” said Allen Trieu, who covers Midwest scouting for 247Sports and also is a Detroit News contributor. “He didn't have to go to Michigan State and for a minute he did take a look at other schools. … But I think he fits their defense well. He’s a big, aggressive, strong, kid. I think we thought he was just an in-the-box guy, but I had a chance to see him at Michigan State's camp and he covered really well. I think what we're looking for in the next couple of years is just how does his body continue to develop.
“He gives you an option that if nature takes over and he just can't keep the size off he can always play linebacker.
"But I think either way, he's going to be a productive player at the next level.”
Lockett was a late commitment added this week and is one of four wide receivers in the class while Trieu believes the player most ready to contribute is East Kentwood offensive lineman Dallas Fincher.
“I think he's the safest bet in this class,” Trieu said of the 6-foot-4, 274-pounder. “He's extremely technically sound, a three-year varsity starter at his high school, a good high school. And they run almost like a college strength and conditioning program there and he's really taken to that.
“I've seen him change a lot from sophomore year to now. He was maybe the most impressive player at Michigan State's lineman camp in the summer, and I just can't see him not being a starter at Michigan State someday.”
Luginbill also singled out running back Jordon Simmons of Powder Springs, Ga., as well as linebacker Cal Haladay of Catawissa, Pa.
“They dipped in and cast a wider net into other states,” Luginbill said.
As for who might qualify as an off-the-radar type of recruit, Trieu highlighted linebacker Cole DeMarzo of Hilton Head, S.C., as well as wide receiver Montorie Foster from Lakewood, Ohio.
DeMarzo, Trieu said, is the perfect fit for the Spartans.
“He came up to camp, big frame, 6-3, about 200 pounds, really athletic, really physical,” Trieu said. “He’s another guy they're going to move from safety to linebacker and he's I think he's a classic Michigan State take. If I had to pick a guy who I think is going to outplay his ranking, Cole DeMarzo seems like a pretty good bet.”
The 6-2 Foster, of course, didn’t start playing varsity football until this past fall and Trieu said it was good for the Spartans to move quickly on the raw talent from the same school that produced Andrew, David and Michael Dowell.
“They were able to evaluate him pretty quickly and hop on,” Trieu said. “I think if they had waited and he had waited by the end of the season when his senior season film came out he would have gotten a lot more offers.
“But to me, Montorie Foster and Cole DeMarzo, those are not obvious scholarship guys, Big Ten scholarship guys when the season began or when they first start getting recruited. I think that those guys have a lot of upside to where they can be big hits.”
As for any Signing Day fireworks, there might not be many if any at Michigan State like last year when they offered Farmington’s Maverick Hansen the morning of Signing Day and landed the defensive lineman.
That doesn’t mean the Spartans aren’t still working on the 2020 class as they’re pushing hard for Houston running back Frank Brown, who plans to sign in February, as well as a few other pieces.
“They still want to potentially add an offensive lineman to the class if they can find one,” Trieu said. “I think the plan might be to wait and see who's still available in January. They went after some tight ends late in the cycle. … So if there's a tight end that becomes available in January, then I think that a tight end could be added.”