On the banks of the Red Cedar, recruiting never stops. We’re here every step of the way to keep you moving along with it through our daily notebook. Any recruiting questions? Comment below or direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to get them answered.
Few college football programs, if any, know Belleville (Mich.) High better than Michigan State.
Tigers head coach Jermain Crowell, who previously coached at powerhouse Detroit Cass Tech, maintains a strong relationship with the Spartans’ staff. Whenever an opportunity comes to bring in visitors, Crowell gets one of the first calls.
Right now, Belleville has two of the most sought-after sophomores in the nation: OT Devontae Dobbs and WR Julian Barnett. Dobbs received an offer in June. Saturday was Barnett’s turn.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound standout had originally planned to come in Sunday, which would have allowed him to watch both spring practice and the Spartans’ Senior Day basketball game. But film obligations led him to move the visit up a day.
He checked out practice then met with Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, who let Barnett know exactly what stood out from watching his film.
“He said when he was looking at my film, they’ve seen I can play many positions,” Barnett said. “They like that. I can essentially play anywhere. Then on my film, he’s seen me play D-end. Things like toughness got checked off. He said, ‘We like tough receivers.’ Tough is how I play.”
And then Dantonio offered. Like Dobbs, Barnett said no program has recruited him harder. Despite his age, the Spartans have built a strong relationship with him over countless visits. An offer was bound to come, and Barnett appreciated it.
— Julian Barnett (@_OfficialJB1) February 25, 2017
“It felt good,” Barnett said. “I was being patient about the offer, and then when he said I had the offer, I started smiling hard.”
He doesn’t yet know where he’d fit at Michigan State. Many project him as a receiver, which has been his primary position to date. Crowell thinks he would stand out at cornerback, a position he’s been working on leading into his junior season.
Understandably for a talent such as Barnett, Michigan State wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel and defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett want him for their own.
“Coach Samuel wants me to play receiver,” he said. “And Coach Barnett wants me to play DB.”
Increasing his versatility certainly won’t hurt Barnett’s recruitment. His offers include Iowa State, Kentucky and Missouri. Now he’s eyeing one from LSU, a school he rooted for growing up, as well as Florida and West Virginia.
Adding some snaps at cornerback to his film could help Barnett going forward. But he’s not rushing anything.
“My coach was easing me into it, going slow,” he said. “He told me to perfect my receiving craft before I do another position, so that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been working on DB too, and I’m looking real good at it.”
Michigan State lands preferred walk-on
The Spartans grabbed a commitment from a 2017 PWO on Tuesday night when Walled Lake (Mich.) Northern kicker Jack McKenna made his pledge.
Blessed to say I'll be continuing my athletic and academic career at the Michigan state university. Thanks to everyone who helped ??? pic.twitter.com/AqxC0zHE2S
— Jack McKenna (@Jack_mckenna00) February 28, 2017
McKenna handled kickoffs, field goals and punts in high school. However, he told Land of 10 he specializes on kickoffs, which will likely be his spot on the Spartans.
He’ll fill the roster spot voided by Kevin Cronin, who handled kickoffs for the Spartans before finishing up his senior year in 2016.
Check out these highlights of the future Michigan State kicker.
What to make of the last 24 hours
Michigan State fans rode a recruiting mini-roller coaster from Tuesday night to Wednesday afternoon, with quite a deep low followed by an exciting high.
On Tuesday night, 4-star Dayton (Ohio) Dunbar WR Joseph Scates reopened his recruitment after being committed since January. The decision comes days after he took a visit to Alabama and received an offer, though he posted to Twitter that the Crimson Tide offer wasn’t the reason for his decision.
What does it mean? First off, it puts the Spartans back at Square 1 when it comes to recruiting wide receivers, a spot at which it hopes to land multiple prospects. But it also effectively removes them from contention for Dunbar RB Tavion Thomas, Scates’ best friend.
Thomas had spoken of attending the same school as Scates, and recently he has blown up with offers from Alabama and Ohio State, among others. It would be extremely surprising to see him pick Michigan State following Scates’ departure.
Soon after, Michigan State landed another commitment to bring the number back to four in the 2018 class. Lassiter (Marietta, Ga.) cornerback Christian Jackson announced his decision to commit to the Spartans on Wednesday.
Don’t underestimate the commitment just because Jackson is rated a moderate 3-star recruit in the 247Sports composite. He held an impressive offer list that included Michigan, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. The Spartans landed a very highly regarded DB in Jackson.