However, the Spartans were stung by the last minute decision of safety Mombroso Washington who signed on instead with Utah. Washington's defection was the latest blow to MSU efforts to bolster their flagging recruiting fortunes.
MSU lost out on at least five players this week that they had offered scholarships. Despite the unexpected loss, Spartans head coach John L. Smith was upbeat about the three who did fax letters of intent to East Lansing.
"These junior college transfers will help us address some immediate needs", said Spartan head coach John L. Smith. "With the loss of Domata Peko and Brandon McKinney at defensive tackle, we needed to find an interior lineman. The toughest recruiting assignment is trying to indentify quality interior linemen. With the departure of three-year starter Eric Smith, we needed to add some maturity in the defensive backfield. Lastly, we're always on the lookout for offensive playmakers."
Let's take a look first at defensive tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo:
Nwagbuo is a 6-foot-4, 280-pound 2nd-Team All-Foothills Conference performer who made 55 tackles, and had 10 sacks as a sophomore on a Southwestern College Jaguar team that was third in the Conference in run defense giving up just 132.7 yards per game. He had career highs of nine tackles in a game, blocked a field goal in a game that was returned for a touchdown against College of the Desert, and recovered a blocked field goal in the end zone for a touchdown vs. San Bernadino in another game.
Smith's take, "O.G. has huge upside. He has not played a lot of football, but he has a great frame, runs well, and is very athletic. O.G. played a lot more basketball growing up than he did football. We're excited about getting him in here early, so we can get him in the weight room before spring practice. O.G. has a great work ethic, so we're confident that he'll fill out that body frame and develop into a solid interior lineman. He's still green from an experience standpoint, but we expect him to compete for playing time next fall."
Looking at wide receiver Devin Thomas:
Thomas is a 6-foot-2, 213-pound wide receiver who has three years of eligibility left. He is ranked among the top 20 JUCO prospects in the country. He was also earned second-team All-Jayhawk Conference honors this year. He had 33 receptions for 674 yards (20.4 avg.) and five touchdowns.
Thomas had 1,161 all-purpose yards, as he returned 15 kickoffs for 339 yards (22.6 avg.), returned three punts for 92 yards, and rushed five times for 56 yards. Had a great game in the playoffs as he was named NJCAA Offensive Player Of The Week when he caught five passes for 167 yards, and two touchdowns in Coffeyville's 40-26 playoff win.
He also attended the same Junior College as current Spartan Kerry Reed. Played high school football at Canton High School in Michigan, and actually began his prep football career at Ann Arbor Huron.
Said Smith, "Devin Thomas has all the wide out skills, so he's definitely ready to step in and contribute. He's big, tall and physical, plus Devin has the speed to run by the corners. He'll make his presence felt right off the bat because he's a playmaker."
Looking at Safety Nehemiah Warrick:
Warrick is a 6-foot-1, 198-pound safety that earned first team All-American honors while at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College and ranked 2nd on the team in tackles with 60 (46 solos, 14 assists), and had two interceptions, and eight pass break ups.
Was named NJCAA Co-Defensive Player Of The Week after making seven tackles, getting two interceptions, and two pass break-ups in a 28-12 victory over Independence.
He also returned a kickoff 81-yards in the same game for a touchdown. He ranked third in Region VI in kickoff returns at 29.7 yards per return. Comes from same high school as current Spartan Sir Darean Adams (Bayshore in Bradenton, Fla.) Also played against current signee Devin Thomas in Junior College.
Added Smith, "Nehemiah Warrick has all the physical attributes that were looking for in a safety: the bigger, the better in this league. He's physical enough to step into the box to support the run, and athletic enough to help in pass coverage. We've had our eyes on Nehemiah for a long time. We've followed him since high school where he was a teammate of Sir Darean Adams. Nehemiah is another guy we expect to play right away."
Certainly the safety position will be interesting. Otis Wiley made some big plays in a limited appearances. He has good anticipation when the ball is in the air, and is physical.
Certainly you would want him to be a little bigger to play in the Big Ten on a regular basis. Cole Corey has great speed barring any off the field legal distractions. Tom Dance was highly prized coming to MSU, but his lack of impact has been noticeable.
Therefore my take is Warrick will get a long look due to being very physical and will fill the gaps, and take on blockers.
The loss of Peko will hurt MSU, as he developed from a guy that was getting blown out of the box, to a respectable play maker who even had a long fumble return for a touchdown vs. Michigan. McKinney had all the talent in the world, but struggled with his weight and foot, and was used in spot situations.
In the Big Ten, you better stop the run, and that begins in the middle. Nwagbuo is the football version of Idong Ibok, MSU's promising basketball center. Ogemdi has all the all the physical tools, but not much experience. Hopefully he can work in the weight room and on a couple moves to get some playing time.
Sometimes its hit and miss with defensive linemen, as the jury is still out on current Spartans Jonal St Dic and Bobby Jones. Jones must work on technique, and St Dic is a promising pass rusher but a little soft against the run. Certainly a beefy Nwagbuo would help to even out the line if he can contribute.
Thomas is a playmaker who can go deep. A lot of guys can make plays short, but the rare guy can get separation, and Thomas is that kind of guy. At 213-pounds, he has size like Kirk Gibson. It also appears he plays his best in big games.
As many receivers as MSU uses in their scheme, you can never have enough. Size and playmaking ability like that don't come along often, and MSU will be happy to have him.