Prospects looked peachy for Michigan State’s 2017 recruiting class back on July 31.
With 3-star cornerback Josiah Scott’s commitment, the Spartans had taking 16 individual parts and put them together into an impressive start to their class. In the Big Ten, only Rutgers had a larger class at that point.
But since then, the Spartans have gone cold. As top targets with longer offer lists began to make their decisions, they spurned MSU: Ambry Thomas, KJ Hamler, Tyler Johnson, Deron Irving-Bey, etc. The only addition since Scott has been 3-star athlete Connor Heyward.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given the Spartans’ 3-9 season coupled with the excellence of recruiting competitors Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. Recruits like results, and many seem to see Michigan State’s performance this season as more indicative of the future than the several years that came before it.
Christmas might be Sunday, but MSU hopes the presents will keep on coming until National Signing Day on Feb. 1. But what would have to happen for this recruiting class to be the recipient of a heavy heaping of coal?
1. Michigan State does not retain all of its current commitments
This has to be the No. 1 priority of the coaching staff, and it was seen during the live recruiting period when the coaching staff traveled for in-home meetings with the current members of its class. Maybe MSU has not reeled in the targets it needed to this fall, but it still avoided losing any pledges from current commits.
The 4-star commits — offensive lineman Kevin Jarvis, tight end Matt Dotson and wide receiver Hunter Rison — have never appeared to waver, and Rison is even enrolling early, as will Scott and tight end Jack Camper. You don’t have to worry about those guys bolting, and likely not any of the other 14 either.
2. Michigan State doesn’t add multiple additional defensive linemen
It’s an issue of bodies. The Spartans lost several linemen just prior to the start of the season, and now Malik McDowell has announced his intention to enter the NFL Draft, forgoing his senior season. Michigan State does have DL commitments from Jacub Panasiuk, Lashawn Paulino-Bell and Donovan Winter, but it needs to add more depth still.
MSU may have missed on Irving-Bey and Johnson, but talent still remains, and the Spartans need to seize the opportunity. Koby Cumberlander, a recent defensive end offer, has been floated as a possibility, and DE Victor Dimukeje could be another answer.
3. Michigan State doesn’t significantly bolster its secondary.
At no spot on the roster will freshmen likely have the opportunity to play immediately more than in the secondary. MSU had hoped Ambry Thomas could be the guy at cornerback, but the 4-star Detroit King cornerback opted to commit to Michigan instead.
Scott, Heyward and safety commit Dominique Long could potentially be big contributors, but more targets remain. Landing 3-stars Yusuf Corker or Ameer Speed at cornerback and Naytron Culpepper at safety would be massive, though seemingly unlikely. Maybe a lesser-known name comes along. Star ratings ultimately won’t matter. MSU needs production.