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Curtis Blackwell’s absence will be felt now … and later
Take a look at the top 15 recruits in the state of Michigan’s 2018 class in the 247Sports composite.
Ten have been offered by Michigan State. Ten have already committed to a school. One, QB Theo Day, has chosen the Spartans.
Michigan State missed on two in-state offensive tackles, Ryan Hayes and Jalen Mayfield, in the last week alone. Both chose Michigan. Since Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines have been a thorn in the Spartans’ side when it comes to attracting top talent within Michigan.
For all of Michigan’s advantages on the recruiting trail, Michigan State would try to combat them with strong relationships on the recruiting trail. Those efforts have taken a big hit, however, with the reported departure of MSU director of college advancement and performance Curtis Blackwell. According to multiple outlets Tuesday, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio opted not to give Blackwell another month-long contract renewal.
Though no reason was given by the university, Blackwell was suspended in the immediate aftermath of the announcement in February of a sexual assault investigation involving three football players and an unnamed staff member, and had been on paid leave ever since. To date, the identity of the staff member under investigation has not been revealed.
His impact on recruiting was heavily felt since his arrival in 2013, and so too will his absence going forward. The Sound Mind Sound Body camp co-founder has been instrumental in building early relationships with in-state prospects, especially those from Detroit.
“I’ve been in contact with Coach Blackwell the most,” one Detroit King standout said of his recruitment in October.
“I’ve known Coach Blackwell since third grade,” another Detroit-area standout later added.
Most relationships wouldn’t end in heavy recruitment, and even fewer in offers. But part of the tedium of recruiting is getting to know just about every in-state talent in case he develops into a Big Ten-caliber player. Blackwell took on the hefty responsibility of making that happen.
“The No. 1 thing is they come to campus multiple times, so we get a chance to know them and they get a chance to know us,” Blackwell said of his recruiting strategy in February, shortly before his suspension. “And by us getting a chance to know each other, we can make sure that the people we have in this program are a fit for our program. And the guys that don’t get a chance to come around as much, we don’t know them as well.”
In short, this decision surely wasn’t taken lightly by Dantonio and his staff. However, Michigan State spokesman Jason Cody told MLive’s Kyle Austin the recently completed Title IX investigation did not involve any staff members, so the reason for this decision coming now remains unclear.
Spartans offer in-state wideout …
Speaking of recruits from Michigan, the Spartans are trying to keep the tradition going of landing Detroit-area wide receivers. On Monday, they offered West Bloomfield junior Taj Mustapha, another player with whom Blackwell had established a relationship.
Blessed to receive an offer from Michigan State university❕⚔️✳️❕ pic.twitter.com/vkb0hviggx
— Taj Mustapha (@taj_m22) May 30, 2017
Mustapha, a 6-foot-2 prospect, has a 3-star rating in the 247Sports composite. He holds additional Power 5 offers from Boston College, Indiana, Iowa and Purdue.
Mustapha is the first wide receiver offered by the Spartans in the 2018 class. He ranks as the No. 23 prospect in the state.
… As another receiver falls off the board
Michigan State got more disappointing, if unsurprising, recruiting news Monday night when the No. 1 prospect in Missouri, 4-star WR Kamryn Babb, left the Spartans out of his top 9.
— Kamryn Babb® (@kamm_o) May 30, 2017
Babb spoke earlier in the spring about his strong relationship with Michigan State receivers coach Terrence Samuel, but that didn’t prove enough to keep the Spartans in his cut list. Now they have to keep on searching.
Though it’s early in the cycle, Michigan State’s recruitment of receivers has been disappointing so far. The Spartans had a commitment from 4-star wideout Joseph Scates, only to see him reopen his recruitment months later.
Who are the top targets now? Apart from Mustapha, the Spartans have a solid shot with 3-star Xenia (Ohio) junior Meechi Harris, who picked up an offer while visiting in February. The same happened for 3-star Pittsburgh Penn Hills junior Julian Major, who visited May 8.
Receiver doesn’t appear to be an immediately pressing need in 2018, as Michigan State isn’t expected to lose any scholarship seniors after the 2017 season. But with all the effort put into recruiting the position, the Spartans need to find a way to add depth and talent out wide.