Trieu: MSU freshman class could pay immediate dividends
Michigan State signed the No. 3 class in the Big Ten last year and the No. 15 class in the entire country, their highest recruiting finish since Scout began ranking recruiting classes in 2003. It is worth noting several classes during that time greatly outperformed their on-paper rankings.
The 2016 class comes in with high expectations, but through fall camp, the true freshmen group has acclimated itself nicely. Head coach Mark Dantonio would only commit to two – Donnie Corley and Mike Panasiuk – playing in Friday’s opener against Furman, but many others are on the depth chart. Here are the five most likely to be seen this season and possibly on Friday.
Wide receiver Donnie Corley
He is a "gimme," the free space on this bingo card. An early enrollee, the former Detroit King star has drawn rave reviews almost since he stepped on campus. His athleticism and ball skills were evident as he helped King win a state title a year ago, but his competitiveness and work ethic have also been praised by the Spartan staff. He will play and play a lot on Friday and this season.
Defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk
Panasiuk was part of a strong defensive line class and he has already risen up the depth chart showing great strength and run stopping ability. A tough, hard-working kid, his intangibles have also helped put him in a position to see the field on Friday. One of the strongest recruits in the country last season, he came in physically ready to compete at a high level and gives the Spartans another rotational option at a key position.
Defensive end Auston Robertson
While it is not a guarantee the Fort Wayne native will play, Robertson is on the depth chart (third behind senior Evan Jones and sophomore Robert Bowes). He was the second highest rated player in last year’s class (behind Corley) and his speed along with a 6-foot-4, 266-pound frame has him ready to take on the challenge of playing this season if the opportunity arises.
Wide receiver Justin Layne
It was a great wide receiver class for the Spartans and all four true freshmen are on the depth chart. Whispers in recent weeks have Layne moving his way up. A 6-foot-3 deep threat who also showed excellent run after the catch skills in high school, he has tools to contribute this season if need be.
Wide receiver Trishton Jackson
Jackson is playing in the slot behind R.J. Shelton and while this high school quarterback has much to learn at the wide receiver position still, he has speed and elusiveness in the open field. He may get some touches to take advantage of those abilities while he polishes his route-running and positional skills.
Visitors for Friday
While many high schools play on Friday night, some kids who play Thursday or Saturday will be coming for the Spartans’ opener against Furman.
This includes commits Hunter Rison (Ann Arbor Skyline) and Jordan Reid (Detroit Cass Tech).
From out of state, Atlanta Greater Christian’s Kyler McMichael, a four-star junior safety with a Michigan State offer, is expected to attend along with sophomore offensive tackle Christopher Hinton Jr., a national level prospect whose father Chris Hinton was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a first-round draft choice. Younger brother Myles Hinton is only a freshman, but already has a scholarship offer from Georgia and will be along on the trip as well.
Belleville offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs is only a sophomore but earned a Spartan offer at camp. He will attend the game with teammates Julian Barnett, a four-star sophomore wide receiver and junior defensive back Patrick Lupro.
Other in-state prospects slated to attend are Gibraltar Carlson juniors Jaylan Franklin and Matt Harmon and Dearborn Fordson senior offensive lineman Zac Darwiche.
Thursday was the first day college coaches could contact junior prospects and Michigan State’s staff was busy, reaching out to many of the nation’s top prospects.
Among them, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s running back Rashawn Allen and linebacker Kyren Cunningham, Decatur (Ind.) Central running back Tyrone Tracy, Fort Wayne (Ind.) Snider defensive tackle Lawrence Johnson, East Lansing (Mich.) defensive back Blake Underwood, Chicago Marist defensive tackle Elijah Teague, Chicago Solorio quarterback Quincy Patterson and Carol Stream (Ill.) Glenbard North cornerback Tyrik Henderson.
All of those players currently hold Division 1 offers. None have been offered by the Spartans yet but all are clearly on the radar.
Allen Trieu began covering the state of Michigan for Scout.com in 2005 and began managing the entire Midwest in 2009. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at detroitnews.com.