Lansing – Mark Dantonio made it clear on Friday – recruiting Michigan is still important to Michigan State.
The Spartans coach was at the Lansing Center for the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association clinic, a three-day event that features presentations from high school and college coaches from around the state.
“Michigan is the backbone of who we are,” Dantonio said. “Tough, hard-working, good athletes that play a high caliber of football. And we’ve been very, very successful with those guys throughout the years. And the majority of our players come from, I would say 85 percent of our players, come from basically what we would call Level 1, which is Ohio, Michigan, Chicago -- states that touch our state.”
Michigan State has had its share of gems from its home state since Dantonio’s first recruiting class in 2007. That group includes current Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, as well as wide receivers Keshawn Martin (Patriots) and Bennie Fowler (Broncos), who face each other in the AFC championship game Sunday.
It all makes taking time out to connect with the coaches closest to home important for Dantonio.
“Yeah, it’s difficult (during recruiting) but we always make time,” Dantonio said. “Set your priorities. … I think it’s always good to give back and make sure you make time for people.”
Dantonio’s appearance at the clinic came as he and his staff continue to put the final touches on a 2016 recruiting class that currently ranks as high as No. 8 in the country, according to both 247sports.com and Scout.com. Rivals.com has the Spartans with the 10th-best class in the nation.
This weekend will be a big one as Michigan State will host most of its committed recruits as well as a handful it hopes to add to the class that will sign on Feb. 3 – National Signing Day.
Philadelphia Preparatory Charter defensive tackle Karamo Dioubate, a recent Penn State decommitment, will be on campus, as well as Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy offensive tackle / defensive end Prince Sammons and Columbus (Ohio) Walnut Ridge athlete Malik Harrison. Michigan commit Michael Onwenu, who was offered by Michigan State this week, is also expected on a visit along with Detroit King’s Lavert Hill and Olentangy (Ohio) Liberty offensive lineman Luke Campbell.
“We’ll have opportunities to bring in a couple guys, but we just keep recruiting, we don’t force the issues,” Dantonio said. “Everybody right now, they try and gauge recruiting and they try and rank the recruiting, and I think that’s sort of a mystical ranking. The bottom line is: What you do with it? What does that transition to, what kind of a record do you have? How you play, all those different things go into recruiting.”
Much like the Rose Bowl season of 2013, Dantonio said he’s seen a surge in interest surrounding the Michigan State program as he’s been out recruiting.
It’s been an impressive run over the last six years – five 11-win seasons, three Big Ten championships, four bowl victories and a spot this season in the College Football Playoff.
The result is Michigan State is pulling in higher-rated recruits.
“All I can tell you is the record sort of speaks for itself in terms of what we’ve been able to do,” Dantonio said. “You can evaluate a recruiting class subjectively. But you evaluate the recruiting class at the end of their senior year, and for the last three years our seniors have won more games than the previous senior class, which is more than anybody’s ever won at Michigan State.”
And with those sorts of results, Dantonio has no plans of changing the way he recruits.
“No sleepovers,” he said with a smile. “Just dealing with my own problems.”