Preps Talk

Michigan State building a foundation of Chicagoland recruits

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Michigan State building a foundation of Chicagoland recruits

Is it too early to call Michigan State’s 2016 recruiting class the “Dream Team?”

Spartans fans are beginning to think that way, given what head coach Mark Dantonio and the rest of the Michigan State coaching staff are putting together. The epicenter of that team seems to be centered in Chicagoland.

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

The Spartans added two more verbal commitments Monday: Lake Park’s three star-ranked defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk (6-foot-4, 280 pounds) and Evanston’s four star-ranked defensive tackle Naquan Jones (6-foot-4, 286 pounds).

"Growing up, watching (Michigan State) and having them be my dream school was a big factor," Panasiuk said Monday at a press conference surrounded by teammates, coaches and family. "Plus, they are not too far away and not too close. When I visited, I fell in love with the campus and the coaches. I've been talking to a lot of the commits. I knew it was time."

Jones, who also had a similar ceremony at his school, noted that the strong relationship he's built with the Michigan State head coach, Mark Dantonio, is a main factor in his pledge to the Spartans.

"What stood out to me is that with all the coaches that came to visit, Coach Dantonio told me straight out from the beginning that 'You must be a special player because I don't get out to too many schools and I came out to your school,'" Jones said. "Coach Dantonio was the only head coach who came into this school and talked to me about me as as an athlete, academics and your work ethic and all that stuff. So that right there showed me that he cares about me a lot."

Panasiuk and Jones join a Chicagoland-heavy Michigan State Class of 2016, one that so far includes Hinsdale Central three star-ranked Brian Allen, three star-ranked Fremd safety Kenney Lyke, and four star and nationally ranked Hinsdale South defensive end Josh King.

[MORE: Dantonio highlights in-state recruiting struggle for Illini, Cats]

Both Panasiuk and Jones also pointed towards the strength of the Michigan State recruiting class as a big factor in the decision process.

"Getting those guys that are in-state was a big factor," Panasiuk said. "Talking to Kenney, talking to Josh, all those kids it was a big-time factor."

"From what I saw from Mike (Panasiuk) at the opening camp, with that much talent on the defensive line it opens up things significantly," Jones said. "With Auston Robertson (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and Josh King coming off the edge and me and Mike coming through the middle, that just opens up a lot, and creates better opportunities for making plays."

Michigan State now boasts 17 verbal commitments in the Class of 2016.The Spartans also now have the fourth best recruiting class in the nation according to Rivals.com’s latest team recruiting rankings.  

89 Days to Kickoff: St. Charles East

89 Days to Kickoff: St. Charles East

NBCSportsChicago.com 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: St. Charles East

Head coach: Bryce Farquhar

How they fared in 2017: 8-3 (4-2 Upstate 8 River Conference), St. Charles East made the 2017 IHSA state Class 8A playoff field. The Saints defeated Oswego East then lost to eventual 8A state champion Lincoln-Way East in second round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Rock Island

Aug. 31 @ Carmel

Sept. 7 vs Glenbard North

Sept. 14 @ Wheaton South

Sept. 21 vs Geneva

Sept. 28 @ St. Charles North

Oct. 5 vs Batavia

Oct. 12 @ Wheaton North

Oct. 19 vs Lake Park

[MORE: 90 Days to Kickoff - Warren]

Biggest storyline: The Saints have had impressive campaigns the last two seasons. Can they continue to prosper in the newly-formed DuKane Conference?

Names to watch this season: RB/LB Justin Jett and OL Dylan Barrett

Biggest holes to fill: The Saints will look to reload at a few key spots including at quarterback, as Clayton Isbell has moved on to Illinois State. Replacing RB/LB Nick Garlisch (South Dakota St.) will be key as well.

EDGY's Early Take: Coach Bryce Farquhar's Saints have produced playoff seasons in back-to-back years. Now, their regular season ramps up a bit with the newly-formed DuKane Conference. The new league features some former Upstate Eight conference foes in St. Charles North, Batavia and Geneva, plus former DuPage Valley members Wheaton Warrenville South, Wheaton North, Glenbard North and Lake Park. Look for the Saints to rely on some experience up front. Three starters are back on the offensive line, including junior OG Dylan Barrett. He has already added several FBS level scholarship offers. 

90 Days to Kickoff: Warren

90 Days to Kickoff: Warren

NBCSportsChicago.com 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: Warren Township

Head coach: Bryan McNulty

Assistant coaches: Jim Voutiritsas, Brandon Schild, Justin Van Schaik, Tayler Erbach and Mark Mika

How they fared in 2017: 7-4 (5-2 North Suburban Conference). Warren Township made the IHSA 8A playoff field. The Blue Devils defeated Bolingbrook then lost to Maine South in second round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule

Aug. 24 vs Barrington

Aug. 31 @ Glenbard North

Sept. 7 vs Waukegan

Sept. 14 vs Libertyville

Sept. 21 @ Lake Forest

Sept. 28 @ Zion-Benton

Oct. 5 vs Lake Zurich

Oct. 12 vs Stevenson

Oct. 19 @ Mundelein

Biggest storyline: Can The Blue Devils make it back-to-back postseason appearances and challenge for the North Suburban Conference title?

Names to watch this season: DL Zack Pelland, DT Willis Singleton and RB Martin Walker

Biggest holes to fill: The Blue Devils will need to find a new pass/catch tandem to replace graduated QB Ian Schilling and a strong group in the skills department, led by WR Micah Jones (Notre Dame).  

EDGY's Early Take: The Blue Devils had a nice 2017 season. After starting seven sophomores on the varsity level a year ago, head coach Bryan McNulty has the rare combination of youth and experience this fall. The defense will be a definite strength going into the season. The offense will rely on the running game, which features four starting offensive linemen back in the fold along with senior RB Martin Walker. If the passing game can come along, this team can once again challenge in the North Suburban Conference race and also in the overall 8A picture.