Preps Talk

How Michigan State is dominating recruiting in Chicago


How Michigan State is dominating recruiting in Chicago

In case you haven't been paying attention, Sparty has set up camp in Chicagoland.

One of the biggest national college football recruiting stories so far this summer has been how Michigan State has invaded the Windy City.

Over the past month, Michigan State and head coach Mark Dantonio have added verbal commitments from five Chicagoland Class of 2016 recruits, including four top 15 state-ranked players.

In February, the Spartans added Hinsdale Central’s three star-ranked offensive center Matt Allen. Within the last few weeks, they also added three star-ranked Fremd safety Kenney Lyke and Hinsdale South’s four star-ranked defensive end Josh King. And on Monday, the Spartans added three-star ranked Mike Panasiuk and Evanston's four-star ranked Naquan Jones, both of whom are the top two in-state defensive tackles.

So how has Michigan State cleaned up so far in Chicagoland?

"They are starting to capitalize in recruiting from the on the field success," according to Midwest Recruiting Expert, Josh Helmholdt. "That, along with a combination of old school recruiting, hard work plus a new understanding of how to approach kids, coaches and parents is another big factor."

[MORE - Hinsdale South DE Josh King commits to Michigan State]

One of the biggest additions to Michigan State’s staff over the past two years has been Curtis Blackwell. Blackwell, who is the Spartans Director of College Advancement and Performance has a deep background in working with players and parents. He was a high school coach before becoming co-director of the Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy out of Detroit.

"Adding (Curtis) to the staff gives Michigan State a new perspective and a much better understanding of how to relate to kids and parents. He's been working on the other side of the process and brings a new approach. He understands kids, parents and high school coaches extremely well."

But the Spartans have also worked hard at building one-on-one relationships with its top recruits, something that has been a mainstay for Dantonio and his staff during his tenure. Seldom (if ever) will you see Michigan State extend an early scholarship offer, unless the prospect visits the East Lansing camps.

"Michigan State coaches are genuinely down to earth guys who believe in getting to know the prospects and building up that relationship and trust," Helmholdt added. "Coach Dantonio will visit schools in person and talk several times one-on-one with his recruits. That old-school recruiting style and approach still makes a very strong impression with kids and the parents."

Yet, there's still another factor. Momentum.

The Spartans went from having one verbal commitment in mid-April to now having 14 known commitments. The Michigan State Class of 2016 is currently the fourth best recruiting class in the country, according to the latest team recruiting rankings.

[MORE - Michigan State building a foundation of Chicagoland recruits]

Michigan State started off its recruiting push when Wayne High (Huber Heights, OH) four star-ranked quarterback, Messiah deWeaver (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) pledged to the Spartans. Since his commitment, deWeaver has been a valuable recruiter for the school.

"(Messiah) deWeaver has been a dynamic recruiter and communicator for Michigan State. He really started it off and he's a terrific kid and communicator. Kids talk and that momentum in Illinois started with someone like Kenney Lyke. Kids want to play with other talented guys and once they get together and talk, that momentum is huge."

The hype for this so-called recruiting “Dream Team” is there. But how will all of this play out on the football field? Time will tell. But one thing is certain these days on the ‘recruiting’ field: it's a pretty good time to be a Michigan State Spartans fan.

Preseason Preps Basketball Power Rankings: No. 6 St. Viator

NBC Sports Chicago

Preseason Preps Basketball Power Rankings: No. 6 St. Viator

St. Viator

2017-18 record: 24-6, 9-0 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference

Postseason results: Lost to Niles North in Class 4A regional finals.

Players to watch: The Division I backcourt of point guard Trey Calvin (Wright State) and guard Jeremiah Hernandez (Kent State) will be one of the best in the state this season as both players can take over a game with their scoring. Junior Connor Kochera also impressed with his shot-making ability this summer while junior Michael Huene provides size on the interior.

Why they're in the power rankings: Unbeaten in a very tough conference a year ago, St. Viator has one of the state's best backcourts and emerging juniors in Kochera and Huene. The Lions have a lot of offensive firepower with this team, as they'll be the favorite once again in the ESCC.

Did you know? St. Viator returns to Class 3A this season after spending last season in Class 4A. When the Lions were a 3A team during the 2016-17 season, they won a sectional title. 

Preseason Preps Basketball Power Rankings: No. 7 Oak Park-River Forest

NBC Sports Chicago

Preseason Preps Basketball Power Rankings: No. 7 Oak Park-River Forest

Oak Park-River Forest

2017-18 record: 23-6, 12-0 in the West Suburban Silver

Postseason results: Lost to Lincoln Park in the Class 4A regional finals.

Players to watch: A senior-laden Huskies team returns plenty from last season's campaign. Guard Dashon Enoch has been a varsity player since freshman year while forward Charlie Hoehne, wing Anthony Roberts and guard Chase Robinson are also capable of making plays. And keep an eye on sophomore Isaiah Barnes, as he's generated Division I scholarship offers already after a good summer.

Why they're in the power rankings: With four experienced seniors returning and the addition of a potential breakout sophomore in Barnes, the Huskies are as balanced as any team in the area this season. While no one player should carry OPRF through the year, the Huskies are one of the few teams in the area with multiple players who can win them a game.

Did you know? The Huskies are coming off of back-to-back West Suburban conference titles, including an undefeated record in the conference last season.