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Recruits ‘sad’ about Mark Dantonio’s departure but committed to Michigan State program

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit News Dream Team offensive lineman Dallas Fincher and Gibraltar Carlson athlete Ian Stewart were sad to hear the news of Mark Dantonio stepping down as Michigan State’s head football coach on Tuesday, but they plan to remain with the Spartan program starting with the 2020 season.

Fincher, who played multiple positions during his career at East Kentwood, got a call from Dantonio around 4 p.m., telling him of the news and comforting him with the fact he’ll remain close to the program.

Dallas Fincher

“Obviously, it’s really sad, legendary head coach who has done a lot this past decade, a lot of huge signature wins,” said Fincher of Dantonio, who guided the Spartans to a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl win over Stanford in 2013 and another Big Ten title and a spot in the College Football Playoff in 2015. “I’ve grown up watching him at Michigan State. He got a hold of me as soon as I got home, around 4. He’s a great guy, I know he’s going to be around the program a lot. But it’s really sad he’s no longer the head coach. Unfortunately, things like this happens.

“He said the program is in good hands, that it’s bigger than any one person, it’s bigger than all of us. That’s the main thing that he pointed out, and that he’d be around the program too. I trust they will bring in another guy that they trust who will be great for us. I’m staying – for sure.”

Fincher, No. 12 on The Detroit News Blue Chip list, was asked about MSU defensive coordinator Mike Tressel, who has been named acting head coach and is considered a possible successor to Dantonio.

“He’s a great guy,” Fincher said of Tressel. “We don’t really talk a lot about football because he coaches linebackers and I’m an offensive lineman, but I have a great relationship with him. He’s always been cool to me and I’ve always loved being around him. I’ve seen him at my school and I’ve had a great talk with him there a couple of times. If Coach Tressel is our head coach, I have trust in him.”

Stewart – No. 20 on The Detroit News Blue Chip list – learned of the news on a phone call from his brother in the afternoon, saying just before 3:30 that he was preparing himself for a call by Dantonio or a member of the Spartans’ coaching staff.

Stewart, recruited by Dantonio and his staff as a receiver, was set to play a basketball game for Gibraltar Carlson Tuesday night.

“I just found out about 10, 15 minutes ago,” said Stewart. “First my brother called and then my phone just went crazy. I’ve yet to hear from them (Dantonio, MSU staff), but I’m sure I will very soon.”

Ian Stewart left

Stewart’s heart has been with MSU for a long time, especially since committing on May 18, the same day he went to his prom.

“I signed back in December,” Stewart said. “I’ve been in contact with Coach Dantonio pretty often since I committed. I talked to him about a week and a half ago; he came to my school two weeks ago. They had me locked in as a receiver, that’s my most natural position. I was excited when he came to the school, and honestly I hate to see him go. I don’t know what led up to it, but I’m sure Coach Dantonio is making the best decision for himself.”

When asked if he still planned to go to MSU, Stewart replied: “Yes, right now I’m a Spartan and I hope to keep it that way.”

More: 'Respect the legacy': Michigan State students express shock over Dantonio news

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Stewart talked about his relationship with Tressel: “We used to always joke since he seen a little film on me on defense. If he’s the interim head coach I know he’ll do a great job with it.”

Fincher, whose father Mark played tackle for the Spartans under George Perles in the mid-1980s, said the 2020 recruits have had a group chat.

“Yes, so the majority of us have signed,” Fincher said. “Everyone was kind of sad in the group chat, but at the same time lots of people were taking a really mature approach and we’re ready to take the next step in this process of being a great team and taking this program to where it needs to be.”

Dearborn tight end Tommy Guajardo, also a member of the MSU 2020 recruiting class, did not immediately respond to messages for comment on Dantonio’s departure.