EAST LANSING, Mich. — Mark Dantonio made sure if people didn’t hear him the first time, they got his message the second time. Wednesday was National Signing Day and the Michigan State head coach was introducing his Class of 2017 recruits to the assembled media inside Spartan Stadium.
And while he’s got 23 new players going on scholarship, plus a few more who will be preferred walk-ons, Dantonio didn’t talk much about 40 times, bench presses or other measurables. Instead, his repeated message was about the intangible.
“These guys committed early on and (we) held on to all of them,” Dantonio said. “All of these guys have held to the fact that they took no visits through the process and remained completely committed to Michigan State, which I think is probably a little bit abnormal the way recruiting goes at some point in time. We asked them to do that. They stayed committed.”
Every college football coach likes his new class of recruits. They usually love their class. Some coaches are actually sincere about their feelings.
Dantonio has built a reputation of sincerity in his many years coaching football. There’s no BS in Dantonio’s sales pitch to recruits about Michigan State. What you see is what you get with Dantonio, and what a player hears is what he’ll get when signs with Michigan State.
Michigan State National Signing Day 2017 — a commitment that goes both ways
“I feel he’s been real with me the whole time, and actually the whole class,” said CB Josiah Scott, an early enrollee from Fairfield, Ohio. “Stuff hasn’t changed at all since he was recruiting me until now. It hasn’t changed at all. Some coaches will say what you want to hear during the recruiting process but when you get there it’s the total opposite. He’s been the same the entire time.”
Scott has been on campus for nearly a month now, getting a head start on classes and workouts with the team. Wide receiver Hunter Rison and TE Jack Camper also enrolled early. Those are three of the 17 players Michigan State offered scholarships to and who then gave their verbal acceptance. It’s a non-binding agreement in both directions. Players and programs can decide to back out of those agreements at any time until National Letters of Intent are signed.
Michigan State’s 3-9 season in 2016 would certainly be a reason for any of those players to back out.
Yet, only one player out of that group of 17 didn’t sign his letter of intent with the Spartans. That would be DL Donovan Winter, who was reportedly arrested on Monday night and charged with two felonies in Orlando, Fla.
Winter’s extreme situation aside, there is a loyalty and trust built up between Dantonio, his staff and recruits that’s tough to match in a day-and-age of pulled scholarships, over-recruitment and flip-flopping.
“It might be more uncommon around the country but it’s a very normal thing here,” said Jim Bollman, tight ends coach and co-offensive coordinator. “You get to know these guys and they’re going to stick with you. We never had any thoughts about any of those guys wavering throughout the year. They were good that way.”
The dust will settle soon and the recruiting rankings will come out. They’ll evaluate what Michigan State got and didn’t get in this class, and then give a final synopsis. Various recruiting sites will give various rankings. Those sites are good as a guideline to the overall talent level of a class as it stands today. But they can’t measure player development, and they can’t measure intangible characteristics such as loyalty and commitment to one’s word.
Dantonio has 10 years of cache built up at Michigan State. That’s why it’s easy for a player who has said he wants to come play in East Lansing to sign his name on the dotted line when the time comes, even after 3-9.
“I understood the fact there are ups and downs in a program, and that you’re not going to win them all,” said Camper, a tight end from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. “My relationship with the coaches had a lot to do with (signing). Dantonio will get this program back on its feet and it will be for a long time.”