Let’s be clear: Michigan State’s 2018 football recruiting class is not done. The Spartans still have work to do before National Signing Day on Feb. 7.
But with 20 players already signed after the early period, and seven of them already on campus, the vast majority of the class has been finalized. And though there won’t be nearly as much turnover from 2017 to 2018 as there was from 2016 to 2017, there will still be opportunities for some of these players to make an early impact.
Here are five signees you could see on the field next year for Michigan State.
Cornerback Kalon Gervin
The No. 1 player in Michigan in the final 247Sports composite rankings, 4-star recruit Kalon Gervin would have a shot to play early for just about any program in the country. Sure, Michigan State’s secondary is stacked, with starters Justin Layne and Josiah Scott and backups Josh Butler and Tyson Smith all set to return at cornerback. But Gervin has the athleticism and tackling ability to find his way onto the field on defense or special teams, especially since he enrolled early and will have more time than most to learn the system.
“We offered him when he was a junior,” coach Mark Dantonio said in December. “He had major visits. He went on across the country. I think he’s a guy that will have an opportunity to play pretty quick. I think he’s a dynamic player. We’re very excited to have him.”
Tight end Trenton Gillison
Like Gervin, Trenton Gillison has the odds stacked against him because of the depth at his position. Matt Sokol, Noah Davis and Matt Dotson all return. Jack Camper comes off a redshirt season. Tight end won’t be an easy spot to break in, but there’s a reason Gillison is a 4-star recruit and the No. 11 tight end in his class. He’s a powerful player with good hands, and though he won’t enroll early, he’s been committed to Michigan State since Jan. 29, 2017, so he knows exactly what he’s getting into.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity with him being the athlete that he is,” Dantonio said. “We’re going to put the best players on the field. It’s going to be a competitive situation. He’ll find his way onto the field. I think he’s a ballplayer. He didn’t come off the field for [his high school].”
Defensive back Xavier Henderson
One of the only members of this 2018 class to be committed to Michigan State longer than Gillison is his Pickerington (Ohio) Central teammate, Xavier Henderson. A 6-foot-1 defensive back, he’s as versatile as they come, with the ability to play cornerback or safety while being a threat in the return game. He even took a hefty load of carries at running back late in his senior year. As one of the seven early enrollees already on campus, he’ll be able to get ahead and give himself an even better shot to contribute.
“He’s an excellent tackler, has great change of direction and has outstanding safety skills,” Dantonio said of the 4-star defensive back. “He also has shown the ability to excel at running back, receiver and as a returner. He was named the [Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Division 1] co-defensive player of the year in the state of Ohio while helping his team win a state title. He has good size and really can do it all. He will compete for an opportunity to play immediately.”
Running back La’Darius Jefferson
There won’t be quite as big an opening at running back in 2018 as many expected, but there’s still plenty of room to break in. LJ Scott is coming back, joined by Madre London and very little experience after that. La’Darius Jefferson was a prolific, record-setting quarterback at Muskegon (Mich.) High, and even though he likely won’t be behind center, Michigan State has every intention of putting the ball in his hands. His versatile skill set will allow the Spartans to get creative on offense.
“We’re always going to play the best players,” Dantonio said. “I just think he’s an extremely good football player. I think he needs to touch the football. … I think there’s opportunity there for him to get involved very quickly. He’s an outstanding football player who does so many different things. He could be successful with anything on special teams or across the board.”
Linebacker Chase Kline
It’s a bit exhausting just to watch Chase Kline play. He goes all out on every down and somehow manages to never take a play off. With a motor like that, he should give himself a chance to contribute early at Michigan State. With his pass-rushing ability, he could end up playing mike or money linebacker or even defensive end. With Demetrius Cooper on his way out, the Spartans could use someone to make an impact at DE. There’s a place for Kline. It just remains to be seen where that is.
“Chase is a big, physical and active player,” Dantonio said. “He plays at 100 miles per hour with a sense of urgency. He’s a great pass rusher and tackler who can really run and attack. He had an outstanding senior year and was named the Division 3 Defensive Player of the Year in the state of Ohio.”