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East Lansing — When Mark Dantonio announced on Feb. 4 that he was stepping down as Michigan State’s head coach, just a day before national signing day, Jordon Simmons was surprised.

The three-star running back from McEachern High in Powder Springs, Georgia, had committed to the Spartans in October and had been on campus for his official visit less than two weeks before Dantonio’s announcement.

The sudden shift forced Simmons to delay his planned signing as he reevaluated his choice, saying he wanted to wait and see who the Spartans would hire.

As it turns out, Mel Tucker was the right move, one Simmons said this week that he liked. On Sunday night, Simmons backed up that feeling by signing his letter of intent to play at Michigan State, becoming the first recruit for Tucker, who was hired on Wednesday to replace Dantonio.

Simmons posted photos on Twitter of him and his family wearing Spartans green and white while signing his letter of intent.

“It’s official,” Simmons wrote.

The signing brings Michigan State’s 2020 class to 22 players and Simmons is the second running back, joining three-star Donovan Eaglin of Manvel, Texas.

Tucker’s hiring seemed to bode well for the Spartans’ chances of landing Simmons as he and his family know Tucker well. Simmons listed Colorado — Tucker was the Buffaloes' head coach in 2019 — as one of his finalists in the recruiting process and Simmons’ brother, Tyler, was a wide receiver at Georgia when Tucker spent three seasons as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator.

When Simmons delayed his signing, he said Michigan State was still being considered. In the meantime, he continued hearing from MSU assistants, as well as a handful of programs around the country.

As a senior in high school, Simmons ran for 1,093 yards while averaging better than 7 yards per carry with 16 touchdowns. He also had 259 receiving yards with a touchdown. As a junior, he gained 1,107 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.

Running back was a position of need for the Spartans after three players — Connor Heyward, La’Darius Jefferson and Weston Bridges — entered the transfer portal during the 2019 season. That left Michigan State with just three scholarship running backs — Elijah Collins, Anthony Williams and Brandon Wright — all heading into their sophomore seasons.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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