Gardiner Happy to Join Spartan Family

"(Coach Mark) Dantonio is a little bit more deliberate with his recruiting . . . he did sell Michigan State a lot, and I think he did a good job." – Steve Gardiner

Don't let anyone tell you Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio can't close a recruit. Steve Gardiner, a speedy, 206-pound linebacker from Dublin-Coffman (Ohio) certainly won't.

"(Coach Mark) Dantonio is a little bit more deliberate with his recruiting . . . he did sell Michigan State a lot, and I think he did a good job," Gardiner told GSN.

Gardiner says Dantonio is careful to never make a recruit feel unduly pressured, but that doesn't stop him from communicating his passion for the Spartans. And that means making sure recruits like Gardiner share similar sentiments.

"I think he only wants guys who really want to play at Michigan State," Gardiner said.

Gardiner visited the campus officially last week and said that trip helped convince him East Lansing would be his home for the next few years.

"It would have been a tough decision had I never visited MSU," he said. Linebacker Eric Gordon was Gardiner's recruiting host and they spoke with other players and coaches and took a closer look at the defensive scheme Michigan State deploys.

Gardiner says he likes the Green and White's aggressive, blitz-heavy defense and feels comfortable with being able to comprehend it.

"I've been exposed to their defense and zone bliting when I was up there," he said, noting the time he spent with Gordon and coaches watching film.

A gray-shirt had been offered to Gardiner by Ohio State, a team he grew up following closely, but one of the biggest factors in choosing the Spartans was the opportunity to compete immediately.

"What separated them was that at MSU I could play early. With the gray-shirt, there was no opportunity for that," he said. "I definitely want to be able to compete."

But that doesn't mean he's expecting to walk into playing time. He says he's eager to show he can compete at a Big Ten level, but he trusts the coaching staff and if they think a red-shirt is the best move, he'd have no problem sitting out a year.

Gardiner hopes to put on around 10 pounds before the start of summer camp. Playing three sports in high school keeps his weight down, but he says that's sometimes a good thing because he fears losing the speed and quickness that he considers strengths.

Gardiner says coaches initially want to utilize his speed as an outside linebacker, but depending on development, he would be open to filling other needs. He says his speed and ability to tackle should help him contribute to special teams right away.

What is he looking forward to the most about coming to Michigan State? "Meeting all the guys on the team and building relationships," he said.

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