Michigan State entered the 2014 recruiting cycle with a pair of needs higher than the rest. It was a pretty simple: Load up in the trenches.
With defensive end Darius Slade joining the class Friday, eight of 20 commitments are on either the offensive or defensive line – in addition to two walk-ons and a ninth recruit (tight end Montez Sweat) that could project to defensive end.
The Montclair (N.J.) standout is the fourth player on the defensive line in the class and joined Robert Bowers (Columbus Walnut Ridge) at the defensive end spot.
He brings a winning mentality to the program as a two-time state title winner, but the biggest thing Slade's commitment says about Michigan State is the lasting impression the program made on him.
The first time I spoke with Slade he was floored by the knowledge of defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who sat with his high school coach and drew up plays to counter what his coach presented. It impressed Slade and stuck with him.
Talking to him about his commitment, the phrase "I'm coming home now" was said more than five times. That's how Slade felt about Michigan State during his visit and since then. The feeling resonated so much that he said he was thinking about Michigan State a couple of days after making his Nebraska commitment.
The impression didn't waver with an offer from Ohio State the day before his commitment to MSU and Slade picked the school that he felt was the best place for him for a long time.
He also brings in another player from the talent-rich pool of New Jersey, which the Spartans continue to work to tap into.