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Tyrone Sampson hearing from Spartans
Michigan State couldn’t have been any clearer about what positions it is eyeing for the final two spots in its 2018 class.
Coach Mark Dantonio’s phone rang during his early signing period news conference Dec. 20. “Must be a defensive lineman,” he quipped, then silenced it upon seeing that it wasn’t.
So that’s clearly the top priority. Later that day, offensive line coach Mark Staten spoke about the need for a wide receiver, making a vague reference to Samuel Clemens (Schertz, Texas) wideout Tommy Bush, a 4-star prospect in the 247Sports’ composite ratings, without breaking any NCAA rules by mentioning his name.
Two spots left. Two positions of need. But recruiting never works out as simply as planned. If the right player at a different position presents himself, Michigan State has to be ready to reel him in.
So don’t forget about 4-star Detroit East English Village center Tyrone Sampson. Ranked the sixth-best senior in Michigan, he’s the lone unsigned prospect in the top 10. Michigan State’s contact with the former Syracuse commit has been inconsistent, but soon after the Spartans’ Holiday Bowl win, wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel reached out to Sampson’s coach, Rod Oden.
“They waited to try to gain new academic information and told me that they’re definitely interested,” Oden said of Michigan State. “They’re not sure what they’re going to do. I think they have two spots left available, and I know center is a need with the graduation of the one that they have, but so is defensive line.”
Sampson called Michigan State “the home team” in an interview with Rivals’ Josh Helmholdt. Though he said closeness to home wouldn’t affect his decision, Sampson hasn’t yet been given the opportunity to play in-state Power Five football. Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan have offered, but not Michigan nor Michigan State.
Regardless, 4-star Michigan State cornerback signee and fellow Detroit native Kalon Gervin told Land of 10 he would be pursuing Sampson just as he is going after Bush. There’s a long way to go in the process, despite the regular signing period starting in just more than a month on Feb. 7.
“I think they are talking about setting up a visit in the next week or two as we get ready to go back to school, but that hasn’t been set up yet either,” Oden said. “But there is some interest from them. I’m not exactly sure how strongly Tyrone is interested in it, but there is a level of mutual interest between the two.”
Sampson, who is 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds, had initially planned to enroll early at Syracuse. With the process lengthened, the nation’s No. 7 center will no longer do that. He told Helmholdt that Ole Miss is showing interest as well as several others.
Is Sampson likely to end up at Michigan State? Probably not. There have been no offers, and the offensive line doesn’t appear to be a top priority. He could potentially make a switch to defensive tackle, but center is his specialty. He’s been holding down that role since he was 7 years old.
“Being kind of the quarterback of the offense with the ball in his hand every snap, he’s become accustomed to that,” Oden said. “I think he could play anything on the offensive line. Center is just where he found his home.”
Michigan State’s future at center
If not Sampson, who’s next for Michigan State at center? The Spartans have lost senior Brian Allen, who started the final 28 games of his college career. Now they’ll turn to his brother Matt, who just completed his redshirt freshman season.
On the first day of the early signing period, Michigan State signed a pair of players who might fill that role down the road. Staten knows right where he wants both 3-star early enrollee Dimitri Douglas of Saline (Mich.) and 3-star Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) senior Jacob Isaia when they arrive on campus.
“I see them both at center,” Staten said on Dec. 20. “Start snapping, because since August, we’ve got Matt Allen who’s snapping and expected to be the heir apparent. But then nipping on his heels, you’ve got [freshman walk-on] Blake Bueter and you’ve got [starting guard] Tyler Higby.
“So they’ve been snapping for some time now, and it’s just a matter of who’s gonna win it come spring. We’ll go into spring ball with a No. 1. That’ll all be generated off this next section of winter workouts and through these bowl preps, and we’ll see what happens.”
Under Staten, Michigan State has thrived on producing versatile offensive linemen who can play multiple spots. If they add another, we would likely see a few players shift their positions. But there won’t be a commitment at least until there’s an offer.
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