Although fans get caught up in star gazing in recruiting — basing judgment on high school recruits solely on the stars they receive from national recruiting services — a lot of different factors come into play in how productive a player will be at the college level.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio has shown a tendency to develop and get the most out of players who entered college as lower-ranked recruits, none more prominent than former two star running back Le’Veon Bell, who is expected to be a high draft pick in April’s NFL draft. Even Holland Christian’s Kirk Cousins, who was just a two star coming out of high school, developed into the winningest quarterback in MSU history.
So Spartans’ fans shouldn’t be too concerned that MSU’s 2013 recruiting class is ranked as just the sixth strongest in the Big Ten Conference and 37th best in the country, according to Scout.com.
“Because of the depth on their roster, they were able to target a smaller number of guys,” said Holland native Allen Trieu, a National Recruiting Analyst for Scout.com. “With the three guys leaving early for the NFL, they were able to add a few guys late in the process to get up to a 18-player class.”
“I’d say MSU is on par, at least, with their most recent classes.”
Relying on the star system that Scout.com assesses, Trieu said the Spartans’ class is strong at the top, with four players ranked with four stars (out of five). Two players that will add to the already-impressive talent on the Spartans’ linebacking corps are Birmingham Brother Rice’s Jon Reschke (6-2, 223) and Cincinnati Moeller’s Shane Jones (6-1, 215).
“Reschke is in the top five, but you could make a strong argument for him being the No.1 player in the state,” Trieu said. “When I first scouted him two years ago, it was his first season at middle linebacker, and clearly, that extra year at that position really benefitted him. He went from good to great. He’ll be one of the better guys that MSU signs.”
“With Shane, playing at an outstanding high school program like Moeller, he faced outstanding competition every week with the difficult schedule they had. He’s a player that could come in ready to compete right away because he’s seen that college-level competition.”
Trieu says quarterback Damion Terry could be considered the “face of the class,” as he’s one of the highest-ranked recruits that MSU has signed at the position in several years. He is one of two players the Spartans added from Cathedral Prep in Erie, Pa., joining outside linebacker Delton Williams.
“Terry is a guy with a great arm and has shown an ability to create on the run,” Trieu said. “I expect him to redshirt his first year, but really make a strong push for a starting job in Year 2.”
Trieu also believes MSU bolstered its offensive line with the signing of 6-7, 305-pounder Dennis Finley of Detroit Cass Tech. Finley bucked the trend of Cass Tech traditionally being a feeder school to the University of Michigan.
“He could be a future starting left tackle,” Trieu said.
Although he may take some time to develop, running back Gerald Holmes of Flint Carman-Ainsworth could eventually fill the shoes of Bell, as they’re both a road-grader type of runner between the tackles. The 6-1, 200-pound Holmes missed most of his junior season with an injury, but broke out with over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns during his senior campaign. He’s one of two running backs in the Spartans’ class, joining R.J. Shelton of Beaver Dam, Wis.
A prospect who could be considered a super sleeper in the class is 6-5, 225-pound tight end Dylan Chmura of Waukesha, Wis. Chmura’s father, Mark, was a standout tight end for several seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
Trieu said he’ll take a wait-and-see approach on whether MSU was able to address its depth issues on the defensive line, as they were able to add just three unsung tackle prospects, including their most recent pledge, Toronto’s James Bodanis.
“If those guys don’t turn out, they could have serious depth issues going forward,” Trieu said.
At defensive end, the Spartans added a nice-looking prospect in Chicago Julian’s Demetrius Cooper, who has tremendous athleticism, but must add weight to his 225-pound frame.