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.

65 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

65 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Elmwood Park

Head coach: Dylan Mack

Assistant coaches: Gabe Ostrander, Tim Eberhard, Mario Fiorito, Chad Nardi, Joe Kraft and Dwayne French

How they fared in 2017: 6-4 (4-1 Metro Suburban Red Conference), Elmwood Park made the Class 4A state football playoff field. The Tigers lost to Genoa-Kingston in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs St. Joseph

Sept. 1 vs Foreman

Sept. 7 vs Ridgewood

Sept. 14 @ St. Edward

Sept. 21 @ Fenton

Sept. 28 vs Leo

Oct. 5 @ Guerin Prep

Oct. 12 vs Chicago Christian

Oct. 19 vs Bishop McNamara

[MORE: 82 Days to Kickoff - Ridgewood]

Biggest storyline: An encore performance. Can the Tigers make back-to-back playoff appearances this season?

Names to watch this season: FB/DE Luciano Martino and WR/DB Kris Diallo

Biggest holes to fill: The Tigers will need to replace eight graduated starters on defense this fall.

EDGY's Early Take: Elmwood Park head coach Dylan Mack is looking to keep the winning momentum found last season going into 2018. The Tigers will rely on an experienced offense with eight returning starters back in the fold and if the defense can gel sooner rather than later, look for Elmwood Park to once again challenge for another state playoff bid this fall. 

66 Days to Kickoff: Rich Central

66 Days to Kickoff: Rich Central preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Rich Central

Head coach: Terrell Alexander

Assistant Coaches: Quincy Woods (OC), Vince Brown (OL), Art Schuldt (ST), Les Hampton (DB), Jerrell Bibbs (DB), Steve Henley (DC), Jeff Spikner (WR), Derrick Goard (LB) William Pass (DL) Chuch Robinson (Skills), Guy Smith (RB) and Shawn Mitchell (Skills)

How they fared in 2017: 8-3 (4-1 Southland Conference). Rich Central made the Class 5A state football playoff field. The Olympians defeated Marion then lost to Dunlap in second round.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Hillcrest

Sept. 1 vs Lemont

Sept. 7 @ Kaneland

Sept. 14 vs Rich South

Sept. 21 @ Crete-Monee

Sept. 28 vs Rich East

Oct. 5 vs Kankakee

Oct. 12 vs Bloom Township

Oct. 19 vs Christ the King

[MORE: 67 Days to Kickoff: Hillcrest]

Biggest storyline: The Olympians have reached the IHSA playoffs three consecutive seasons-- the first such streak in Rich Central history. Can they stay on a winning track and make a deeper playoff run this fall?

Names to watch this season: WR/S Mehki Miller (Miami of Ohio) and RB Sean Tyler (Western Michigan)

Biggest holes to fill: The Olympians will need to replace their entire starting offensive line from a season ago.

EDGY's Early Take: Rich Central and head coach Terrell Alexander has brought winning and stability to the Olympians football program.  The 2018 team has some firepower back in the aforementioned Miller and Tyler; however, the development of their underclassmen group this summer will determine just how far this team will go. The ingredients look to be there for another IHSA state playoff caliber team.