(EAST LANSING, MI) -- John L. Smith needs linebackers. The Spartans new defensive scheme requires linebackers on special teams and to be active in their two-deep coverage's.
Getting into the recruiting game late has hurt the Spartans at this position more than any other. Because linebackers are on the field so much in Smith's scheme -- nearly 65% of the plays -- MSU is desperate to replenish.
While Woodley is listed as the #1 defensive end in the country, he is too small to play at defensive end and wants to be a linebacker. That is where State will play him if they can get the commitment.
It appears, however, that Michigan has the inside track and unless Smith can convince Woodley that there's a Rose Bowl in State's immediate future, they're going to lose out.
Rogers, though, is a definite possibility as is another outstanding prospect, Jameel McClain of Philadelphia. McClain has begun listing Michigan State as his leader and State can definitely use his production.
McClain recorded 111 tackles and four forced fumbles for George Washington last season and was named to the Pennsylvania All-state team. He'll visit the Spartans on January 31st, the last week prior to signing day when MSU hopes to really hit pay dirt with some of their top recruits. McClain will visit Syracuse (1/17), Morgan State (1/22) and Temple (1/24) over the next two weeks.
MSU may have had a real chance with Florida linebacker James Martin, but he took his official visit back in October prior to the Bobby Williams firing. Despite attempts to re-interest him in State it looks as if he's heading to Wake Forest.
With most of the top backers that were interested in State giving verbals to to other schools while the university was looking for a coaching staff, MSU is looking at the leftovers.
Jeff Jansen of Jackson, MI is a definite possibility. There is a chance that MSU could grab this top 100 linebacker away from Michigan and Nebraska with a good visit, but Jansen has yet to schedule a trip to MSU. Sacred Heart (Springfield, IL) linebacker Zack Kettelcamp is available but appears to be only MAC worthy.
A wild card in the linebacker recruiting effort is Robert Claitt of Charlotte East Mecklenburg HS (NC). Claitt wracked up an amazing 173 tackles in his junior season and pound-for-pound might be one of the strongest players at the high school level.
Claitt squats an unbelievable 615lbs and followed up his amazing junior season with a 153 tackle season this year. Claitt listed Michigan State early on as #2 of his five finalists, but hasn't said anything since.
At 5' 11" Claitt reminds many in that area of a young Barrett Green. Green starred at West Virginia and is currently starting for the Detroit Lions. What a double steal if State could pair Woodley and Claitt, that's instant impact.
Coach John L. Smith's Florida ties have drawn interests from a few players of that area, but none are close to committing to the Spartans. The second half of the Miami Norland duo Antwan Barnes (wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is the other) still lists MSU but sources say he's close to signing with LSU. Miami Northwestern linebacker Dorian James has the three Florida universities ahead of Michigan State.
The Spartans will need to land at least a couple of the remaining uncommitted big fish and take a flier on some "diamonds in the rough" to salvage this recruiting class. John L.Smith is already cutting his losses saying he will take only 17 or 18 players and save his scholarships for next season.
Fortunately for State, they have some players returning at this position. Redshirt freshmen Michael Bazemore and Seth Mitchell will likely see some time joining holdovers James Cooper of St. Louis Hazelwood, senior Mike Labinjo of Toronto St. Michael's and Saginaw natives Ronald Stanley and Monquiz Wedlow.