Matt Charboneau and John Niyo of The Detroit News break down MSU's 2016 recruiting class.
East Lansing — It didn’t come with quite the same amount of flash as it did down the road in Ann Arbor, but Michigan State closed its Signing Day just as it expected — filling needs and continuing to build on the momentum of on-field success.
There were no late additions this time and the Spartans missed out on a couple of Signing Day targets, but the 20 players who are now part of the 2016 class rank as the best in Mark Dantonio’s tenure.
The group comes in as the 17th-ranked class in the nation according to Rivals.com, while Scout.com has Michigan State at No. 18 and 247sports has the Spartans at No. 21.
Seven players from the class already are enrolled, and Dantonio had those players at his house on Tuesday night to hang out and shoot some pool. He’s not sure where to rank them, but he reaffirmed they all are the right fit for the Spartans.
“Outstanding young people,” Dantonio said. “Very competitive. Don’t want to lose in cards, pool, anything. But outstanding young people. And they’re grounded.”
It’s those types of players, regardless of ranking, that have lifted Michigan State into the elite level of college football. And it has created classes that are far better when they leave than they were when they signed.
“I don’t think that you can underestimate, everybody has high hopes when they come in, but it’s really how they go out is what’s important,” Dantonio said. “We’ve had our senior classes here in the last number of years have taken our football program to a whole new standard with really accomplishing the highest number of wins in their time of any class previous. The last three classes have done that.
Coach Mark Dantonio talks about Michigan State's 2016 recruiting class.
“So we’ll look for this class to be able to do that as well, but the bar has been set very, very high.”
Matching the run Michigan State has been on the last few years will be difficult with a couple of Big Ten championships, four straight bowl victories before last season and a berth in the College Football Playoff.
But that is what this class is built to do, especially considering it has 12 four-star players, according to Scout.com. It’s heavy at wide receiver with four players rated as four stars, including early-enrollee Donnie Corley, the top-rated player in the state of Michigan.
The Spartans also have four-star quarterback Messiah deWeaver, another early enrollee, while four-star defensive back Demetric Vance (Detroit Cass Tech) signed on Wednesday. Michigan State also loaded up once again on the defensive line.
End Josh King, the top-ranked player in Illinois, signed on Wednesday, as did tackle Naquan Jones of Mount Prospect, Ill. They’re joined by four-star tackle Mike Panasiuk of Roselle, Ill., and end Mufi Hunt, the native of Sandy, Utah, who was first recruited as part of the 2015 class but left a Mormon mission and enrolled in January.
“I think it’s one of the strengths of our recruiting class,” Dantonio said.
Michigan State missed out on a chance to add to the defensive line when Cincinnati’s Prince Sammons signed with Auburn and Karamo Dioubate of Philadelphia narrowed his choices to South Carolina and Temple.
The Spartans also did not get a signed letter from defensive end Auston Robertson of Fort Wayne, Ind., who said on Twitter Wednesday that Michigan State is still his top choice but that he is “re-opening my options.”
A potential reason for the delay could be the fact Robertson is facing criminal charges after being arrested for an alleged misdemeanor battery on Jan. 13.
There were a few more players with the potential to play early that were signed on Wednesday.
Vance is 6-foot-2 and 193 pounds and Dantonio said he’ll start at cornerback but could move to safety or even wide receiver. Early-enrollee Thiyo Lukusa will get a shot on the offensive line and linebacker Brandon Randle of Battle Creek is a player Dantonio called “a five-star player in my mind.”
“We’re competing against very high-quality competition across the nation,” Dantonio said. “Sometimes you’re going to get the guys and sometimes you’re going to lose guys. But as long as we treat people fairly and have good relationships coming with them, whether they come here or not, we’re doing our job.”
It’s a job that never ends, and Dantonio and his staff are already on to the 2017 class. But for one day, they felt like it was a job well done.
“At this point in time it’s just one-day news,” he said. “It really is. As much as I hate to say it, we work extremely hard to get to this point, but we’ll be onto something else.
“But we’re extremely excited about this class and these guys are — you’re going to see these guys play as true freshmen, a lot of them, and that’s what’s really exciting to me because they have the mindset and they have the athletic ability to do so.”