We started earlier this week with our annual in-depth analysis of the 2017 football recruiting class. Today we continue with part three by addressing the defense. Tomorrow we will continue with the remainder of the defense & the rest of the class.
Each year when I compile ratings for the incoming recruiting class it is an exhaustive effort, and this year is no different. I try very hard to call coaches who coached for or against, and to do as much research as possible including speaking to multiple different (non-MSU) division one coaches to help me analyze each player.
Why so much emphasis on recruiting? One NFL coach, when talking about his time as a college coach, expressed it better than anyone I’ve ever heard when he said, “It’s like getting 25 first round draft picks each year.” What a great analysis! Now MSU doesn’t sign 25 a year, but you get the point.
So without any delay here is part one of our defensive breakdown of the 2017 class:
14) Antjuan Simmons 6’1” 205# OLB Ann Arbor, MI Simmons is a stud. Part Denicos Allen and part Greg Jones, he has super vision and a high football IQ. He was a great get for the Spartans. A coach’s take: “We really thought with Michigan State’s troubles last year that we had a chance to pick him up. He does a lot of things right. Not the least of which is zero concern for his own body. Should be a great player.” Weakness: Simmons has been able to rely on his natural God Given talent. He has not had to develop technique like he will at the next level. Has a very good work ethic and is very smart, so there is no reason to doubt that he can or will; it is a matter of how fast. Dantonio says, “Antjuan Simmons from Pioneer High School, Four Star outside backer, was also a tailback for them. And ESPN 300, 294, for whatever this gets you. No. 1 outside linebacker in the state of Michigan, Dream Team guy, highlights go on and on and on. Tremendous person. Works with special needs kids at Pioneer High School. Actually works in a classroom setting. Wants to major in special education here. And I think he'll be a dynamic leader for us. So decided to commit to Michigan State a little bit later in the process but certainly he's one of the guys that we jumped at and very, very excited that he's going to be a Spartan. Has great ball skills, outstanding football teams.”
15) Darien Clemons 6’1” 205# OLB Piqua, OH Clemons approaches the game of football like a Bullough. He is a special player. There are guys that are bigger, faster, and stronger, but the tape doesn’t lie. He makes plays. He has what no one can teach and that is all heart. Spartan fans better learn his name, because he is a special player. Look for him to impact special teams early if he doesn’t break the two deep. Hard to keep guys like him off the field. A coach’s take: “Darien gets down on himself when things don’t go well. He will benefit from being on a team with great players, but that young man plays with his heart. That guy is an old school Big Ten downhill backer and a blue collar stud.” Weakness: No doubt he has all of the intangibles. The young man must stay healthy. Dantonio says, “Darien Clemons from Pickler High School. The guy committed early in the process. Was a recruited tailback in high school. Stayed out junior season, had over 1650 yards as a tailback, 24 touchdowns in 2015. 150 yards a game. When you watch his highlights film you can see the things he can do as a tailback. We recruited him as an outside linebacker, he's a great player. His junior season was cut very short -- or senior season cut very short this year, and after one game, he had a season ending knee injury, he's on the rehab from that, and should be very -- at full strength when summer comes, as it was early in his junior year. We'll look for him to be an immediate contributor, possibly at linebacker. He does give us that flexibility of putting him at tailback, as he's got great feet, great vision, runs behind his pads, and has the ability to be a punt returner, kick returner, as well. And he and Antjuan are very skillful players for outside backers. I think that's what you're seeing right now, you see linebackers that really look like running backs. They really are probably running backs in high school, and they got a tackle running back. So I think it's very unique. And Chris Tomlin mentioned that to me at a Pro Day, from the Steelers, how more and more in the NFL you're seeing those type of linebackers show up. He'll go 220 pounds or so, and I think he'll be an outstanding player for us, in a variety of positions.”
16) Noah Harvey 6’3” 210# OLB Hartland, WI I loved this kid from the first time I saw his tape. I said it throughout the process when we thought he was going to be a gray shirt. Tough as nails and when Dantonio describes him you will see why. A Kyler Elsworth type tough player that will be a great teammate and contributor for Michigan State. You wonder about every player when you project over five years. You don’t have to wonder with Harvey. A coach’s take: “We thought he was a Big Ten guy all along and thought we would steal him. A great pick up for Dantonio and his crew. He is so tough and so driven, that I can’t imagine him spending five years up there and not being a starter and captain.” Weakness: Harvey has had to do so much as a player, that at times he can be out of position trying to cover for other people. That is why on film you can catch some mistakes, but when you look at why you see the heart. At MSU he will just have to do his job and I can tell you that he is going to SHOCK people when his career is over. Dantonio says, “(Noah Harvey) he's a guy that tested very, very well in our camps. He long jumped almost ten feet and vertical -- well into the 30s, and four sixes, a big body guy, standing six four, 230 pounds. Out of Arrowhead, Wisconsin, and we're looking forward to him impacting this program, like a Kyler Elsworth did. I think about the Rose Bowl, and thinking about the guys that come in in this capacity. And I look and say Andrew Gleichert, big catch in the Rose Bowl, Kyler Elsworth, MVP, Conner Cruse starts at offensive line. We've got guys that have come here and done that. And it's always very -- it's a unique thing, it's almost exhilarating when you see a guy that's come from so far make plays like that. And I think Noah has that type of ability. As he moves forward he's going to be a guy to watch.”
17) Jacub Panasiuk 6’4” 280# DL Roselle, IL Jacub is a terrific player and person from an amazing family. Not as strong as his brother Mike, yet he is more athletic. Very coachable and brings a passion for the game. A coach’s take: “No doubt he was headed to MSU or I think he would have had a lot more attention. Just a no frills player, no drama, just load that kid up, packing him a lunch and let him go play football for four hours.” Weakness: Panasiuk is NOT his big brother Mike who is the Spartan starter of the DL. That isn’t a slam. Each of us has our own unique set of gifts. He admires his brother and was able to overpower people in high school like Mike, but Mike doesn’t have his athleticism. Has to learn to use that athleticism more at this level, but you have to love the effort. Dantonio says, “Jacub Panasiuk from Lake Park West. He's a three-year starter for Coach Roll up there. Obviously we've got Mike here, so it's always great when you have a guy that -- I think it's a statement when you have one young man from that family playing and they make a decision as a family that that next guy in line will come here, as well. Extremely highly recruited guy. Really can transition speed to power. Big guy, 265 pounds right now, could be 280 by the time he walks in here. Could play defensive end. I think he'll be an impact guy for us. A guy that can get on the field for us. Extremely gifted with his hands and his feet. Plays with a high motor. And Allstate First Team, AA, Allstate First Team in Chicago, 55 solo tackles, 14 TFLs, and six sacks. And really excited about him, and I remember making a mistake with him when he did commit. I said you'll be playing on this field next year. So I'm looking forward to that opportunity for him.”
18) Lashawn Paulino-Bell 6’4” 225# DE Ft. Lauderdale, FL You could call LPB a steal, but that isn’t fair. He is a great player with national attention; he just didn’t mile the process for attention. Committed early and stuck to it despite numerous schools trying to flip him as the Spartans struggled. Great technique and very solid football player. A coach’s take: “LaShawn is really a guy in that MSU defense and the way they like to stay on the cutting edge that could turn some heads. Really athletic and fast, I bet if old Mark Dantonio runs any 3-4 you can see him stand up and beat the hell out of some quarterbacks up there.” Weakness: LPB suffered an injury while on vacation this past off season so our hopes and prayers are for a complete recovery. There is no reason to doubt that, but until he is 100%, that is what is most important. Once he is healthy, back, and in shape look out. A real weapon. Dantonio says, “Lashawn Paulino-Bell out of St. Thomas Aquinas, which is the home of Madre London. Outstanding football player in that high school program. He's another young man that won a state title. A guy that committed early in the process and stayed true to his commitment throughout. And you go to St. Thomas Aquinas, daily that you've got college coaches, head coaches and college coaches. And when you see that big body guy with his big hands like that you cannot help but be attracted and say who's that? Who's that guy? Has tremendous speed off the edge. Will impact this football program in a lot of ways, sort of a nationally recruited guy. Coach Snyder was involved with recruiting him, Coach Burton, as well. Very highly successful program. And he's used to success and I think he'll be a great pass rusher for us among other things. No. 25 USAToday rankings as a team, and defensive team process, No. 41 by scout, No. 53 by ESPN, which again, whatever that gives you. But I think Lashawn is an outstanding player. And I appreciate all of our guys as they went through this process, their commitment lasted. They didn't waiver, they didn't go back and forth, there wasn't a situation where we had to recruit a guy. They stayed the course. And that's been a fixture for most of our classes since we have been here, almost all of them.”
19) DeAri Todd 6’4” 250# DE Ft. Lorain, OH Todd is super athletic with a high motor. He can embarrass people with that athleticism, but he also has heart. You can’t teach athletic passion and that kid has the heart coaches crave. His long term projection is very solid. A coach’s take: “We thought that kid would fall through the cracks. He is raw enough that we thought some teams would move off of him and we could get him. Michigan State got a real good one.” Weakness: A physical freak and athletic to the point that it is embarrassing what he does to opponents. At the same time, he is raw. I love his heart and motor and once he can master his craft within the framework of his athleticism look out. Dantonio says, “DeAri Todd. And DeAri is out of Lorain, Ohio. Jim Bollman, primary recruiter. DeAri is a guy that we looked at as the season came to the end and a guy we continued to recruit. We didn't know much about him, didn't have him in camp, so we continued to watch him play basketball, do the various things we had to do as the recruiting process continued. Recruited as a defensive end, but has the ability to roll into a defensive tackle. 245, six four. Very athletic guy, could play tight end, great hands, plays on the basketball court. Is a fluid basketball player, not just a banger. We watched him a long time and made some decisions on him as we went through the process. I think he's got a great upside. A great future here at Michigan State. Good student. Very, very solid person. And Ron Burton and Jim Bollman were very much involved in that recruiting process over the point in time.”