Matt Charboneau, John Niyo of The News talk about Mark Dantonio's decision to step down and who might replace him while talking MSU's loss in hoops. The Detroit News
West Bloomfield three-star defensive end Sterling Miles enrolled early at Cincinnati, taking six classes while getting comfortable with the Bearcats players and coaching staff.
Miles already has encountered some adversity during his young college career, as defensive line coach Chad Wilt, who he built a strong relationship with, departed to take a similar job at Minnesota.
Now the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Miles – ranked No. 36 on The Detroit News Blue Chip list – is hearing that Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell could be Mark Dantonio’s successor at Michigan State.
“It’s a business,” said West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy of Miles. “I tell the boys all the time, don’t fall in love with the coaches because they recruit you today and they could be gone tomorrow. Respect them, but just understand there’s a possibility that these guys could leave for other jobs.
“I try to be brutally honest with them. Sometimes it’s not what they want to hear. Right now, I’m going through it with Donovan (four-star junior running back Edwards). He’s a 16-year-old kid and everything sounds good. … Go where you want, but also go where it’s a good fit – the campus, the players.”
Miles, who plans to major sports administration, admits he was heartbroken when Wilt left for Minnesota.
“I had never really experienced anything like that,” Miles said. “It caught me off-guard because he had been there the whole time, through my whole recruiting process. So I was a little upset, but it’s a business and I’ve learned that.
“Coach (Bellamy) preaches that you shouldn’t choose a school because of the coaches, but it’s still nice to be close to coaches, especially the ones that are recruiting you. I’m a big relationship guy and I felt I was close to him.”
Miles, who is playing a hybrid linebacker/defensive end position, is rooming with three other Cincinnati freshmen and they have talked about Fickell being the rumored frontrunner for the MSU job.
“I’ve definitely got a lot of questions about that lately,” said Miles Wednesday night. “The timing was kind of odd. I think he (Dantonio) caught everyone off-guard.”
Miles says he is not surprised Fickell is considered a candidate at MSU. Fickell has been very successful at Cincinnati, taking over a team that went 4-8 (1-7 American Athletic Conference) in 2016 and leading the Bearcats to 11-2 in 2018 and 11-3 in 2019, their best showing since Brian Kelly guided them to a 12-0 record and No. 4 ranking in 2009.
“I figured that Coach Fickell’s name would be in that conversation,” Miles said.
Miles and his roommates were all three-star recruits, a reason Cincinnati’s 2020 recruiting class was ranked No. 40 nationally by 247Sports, best in program history and better than MSU (43) and Pittsburgh (44).
Miles was asked if he would transfer from Cincinnati if Fickell left for MSU.
“I’m sure he’ll make the best decision for him and I’ll do the same,” said Miles, who had 13 offers, including multiple Power Five offers such as Minnesota and Washington State.
Bellamy has developed some of the top teams and talent in the state the last several years with West Bloomfield playing in the Division 1 state championship game in 2017, then in regional finals the last two years and sending receiver Trishton Jackson to MSU (transferred to Syracuse), linebacker Lance Dixon to Penn State, receiver Tre Mosley to MSU and now safety Makari Paige and linebacker Cornell Wheeler to Michigan.
“Dantonio was here just a week ago, so it’s (retirement) surprising,” said Bellamy. “Donovan said he talked to him a couple of days ago so something happened.
“Some of these kids are so used to this. When Tre Mosley signed with Michigan State last year, Dantonio shifted the staff around, so Mosley went to Michigan State with the intention of playing for Terrence Samuel, who was the longtime receivers coach, but Dantonio made him defensive backs coach after Signing Day last year. Mosley was like, ‘What? I only came here because I thought this guy would be coaching me and now he’s not coaching me.’
“Well, I texted him (Mosley) yesterday and we talked, and he was like, ‘Coach Dantonio was a great man, the year and a half I’ve known him I was honored to have him as a coach, but it is what it is, can’t say I’m shocked.’”
Bellamy thinks highly of Fickell, saying: “I’ve had the chance to know him with him making a couple of visits to the high school. He’s an impressive guy and he has Big Ten lineage, obviously as a former player (at Ohio State, 1993-96) and then interim head coach at Ohio State (2011) and former coordinator at Ohio State (2012-16).
“He’s a guy who knows the Big Ten and he’d do well at Michigan State since he recruits the city of Detroit and has come into the Metro Detroit area and snatched up a few top prospects. He’s young (46), with a bright future, definitely a rising star in the coaching profession. I think a lot of high school coaches would echo what I’m saying.”
Fickell brought in Detroit King three-star, two-way standout Ahmad Gardner, who had a TD reception in King’s Division 3 state championship game win over Muskegon in 2018, and Gardner had three interceptions with a team-high eight pass breakups as a true freshman with Cincinnati.
From Belleville to MSU
Belleville became a pipeline for MSU during the past few years with Dantonio making frequent trips to the school to talk with Belleville coach Jermain Crowell and his talented players.
First it was defensive back Davion Williams, then offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs and receiver Julian Barnett, with defensive tackle Jalen Hunt the most recent Belleville player to join the Spartans.
“He came here a week ago,” said Crowell of Dantonio. “I thought he had another year in him. When he came here he was telling us how the other (Belleville) kids were doing. He said they were doing good and he was excited about Hunt.”