The Michigan State Spartans wrap up their 2016 football recruiting class as National Signing Day has finally arrived. Will there be any surprises?
Mark Dantonio’s Michigan State program is in the midst of some very good times. While this past season certainly didn’t end the way the MSU faithful had envisioned, it did result in a College Football Playoff berth — something only three other teams in the country can claim. That is some rare air. MSU is now coming off its third straight top-six finish and there is plenty to be excited about — namely the 2016 recruiting class.
National Signing Day has become an event unto itself in recent years with high-profile recruits holding out until the last-minute more and more often. 2016 looks to be no different, with 10 of the top 20 recruits (per Rivals.com) still yet to make their college selection.
Luckily for Spartan Nation’s collective blood pressure, most of MSU’s recruiting class is set. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some big fish to reel in, however. Dantonio and company have a few remaining scholarships and are looking to fill them with some marquee players. Who are they, you ask? Calm down, I’ll tell you. First let’s look at the class as currently constructed.
The operative word with this class is balance. The incoming group covers every position group on the field with the exception of halfback and punter. When you consider the Spartans have rising sophomores at both positions — three redshirt sophomores in the case of the halfbacks — you can see why their concentration has been on other parts of the roster.
Deciding the biggest strength is tough because there are three groups that could easily take this cake… and two of them are the offensive and defensive lines, so it would be a VERY big cake.
We’re gonna go with the d-line because, as we saw with Alabama, it’s hard to come up with answers for a deep and talented defensive front, no matter how good the blockers are.
The group is headlined by the Spartans highest-rated recruit, defensive end Josh King. The Darien, Ill native checks in as the top recruit in Illinois, #55 overall prospect and #6 defensive end in the nation. King is listed at end but is entering college at 6’6” and (at least) 230 lbs and has the frame to play both inside and out. MSU has had great success with versatile pass-rushers in the past and if he lives up to the considerable hype will find a way to get King on the field regardless of position.
Fellow four-stars Auston Robertson, Naquan Jones and Mike Panasiuk round out a formidable group. With the departures of Shilique Calhoun, Lawrence Thomas and Joel Heath and the uncertain futures of Craig Evans and Montez Sweat, it would not be a surprise to see one or two of these young men play this fall.
It’s no secret the MSU passing game is going to look a little bit different this fall. Gone are the best Quarterback in school history (Connor Cook), a record-setting receiver (Aaron Burbridge) and a three-year contributor (MacGarrett Kings, Jr.).
RJ Shelton returns as the assumed go-to guy but after that there is almost no experience to speak of among the pass-catchers. That’s where this recruiting class has a chance to make a name for itself right away.
MSU sports four four-star wideouts (Cameron Chambers, Donnie Corley, Trishton Jackson and Justin Layne) in arguably the most impressive receiver haul in the nation. While it would be a surprise to see all of them play, it’s not unfair to expect at least two of them to bypass their redshirt seasons. The smart money is on Chambers and Corley. Both are already on campus and going through winter conditioning. These extra few months in the weight room and the playbook could pay massive dividends come fall.
Dantonio has never been shy about playing True Freshman, so keep an eye on these guys as we get into spring and fall ball.
This designation doesn’t necessarily apply to this year, but long-term.
Since he became the third member of the 2016 class back in April of 2015, Quarterback Messiah deWeaver has been instrumental in building what is probably Dantonio’s best class. He has openly recruited players like Layne, Corley and Chambers — among many others — via social media and while on the camp circuit. Players gravitate towards him and when you watch his film you can see why.
Between his first three seasons at Trotwood-Madison and his senior year at Wayne High School, deWeaver accounted for a staggering 90 touchdowns and 7,660 yards through the air. You can understand why so many top receivers want to be catching his passes for the next four years.
He doesn’t have a rocket, but does possess a smooth delivery and nice downfield touch on his throws. deWeaver will redshirt this year but has the chance to be a three-year starter if he can win the job when incumbents redshirt-senior Tyler O’Connor and redshirt-junior Damian Terry graduate.
The Spartans have a pretty good track record with three-year starters under Dantonio (Kirk Cousins and Cook) and should he win the job in a few years, deWeaver will have a chance to put his name next to those Spartan legends.
SIGNING DAY COMMITS?
Scholarships are tight in East Lansing but there are a few possible commitments to be made. These are four of the prospects MSU is in the hunt for that may don the Green and White hat today…
Sammons is another four-star recruit MSU has their eyes on. The main competition here is looking like Duke and Auburn, but the Cincinnati native may prefer to stay closer to home. At 6’6” 260, he could end up playing either offensive or defensive line, which is surely part of his appeal to the coaching staff.
MSU already has several recruits on both lines, so adding a talented “swing man” would provide some great versatility and options down the road. This could be a great win-win for both sides.
Diaboute checks in as the 12th rated strongside defensive end and 164th player in the nation. The former Penn State commit opened things up a few weeks ago and teams flocked to get him on campus. MSU was able to do that this past week and by all indications all went well.
He does have serious interest in Temple. The Owls had a renaissance season this past year and are right in the Philadelphians backyard. However, the lure of a program that competes for championships year-in and year-out is big time. Landing an impact player like Diaboute — and flipping him from a rival in Penn State — would be a major win for MSU.
This is the big one. Hill is another former Penn State recruit and one of the top defensive backs in the country. This past years team was not up to MSU’s sky-high standards, but the Spartans have a deserved reputation for developing great defensive backs which certainly has to appeal to Hill. Add in the fact that he played high school football at Detroit King with Corley and you have to like MSU’s chances.
However, MSU’s main competition in this case is Michigan, where Hill’s brother, Delano, plays. If blood is thicker than water, he ends up in Ann Arbor but the latest rumblings are that this is about as 50/50 as it gets. This only adds more spice to an already bitter rivalry.
Cochran was offered just a few days ago but don’t let that fool you. MSU sees him as Jamal Lyles type — something they do not have in this class. Defensively, he could become an outside linebacker but he also has the hands to play a little tight end.
If MSU lands all three of the players above they may not have space for Cochran, but should he jump at his offer early or should one of Hill, Diaboute and Sammons choose a different school he could easily end up Spartan.
These are just four of the names to look out for. If 2016 is anything like 2015 when MSU landed the Dowell twins —Andrew and David — Mufi Hunt and Cassius Peat in unexpected flips, we could be in for a wild day.