The Spartans expect no negative surprises today, but perhaps, just maybe, one positive one, a player who verbally committed to another Big Ten school, but who could switch at the last minute and fax a letter of intent to MSU.
Even without any surprises, Michigan State verbal list reveals a coaching staff that understands how to build a team, from the inside out, a staff that put emphasis on core recruits in the second recruiting class. This class sets the stage for a 2009 class that should be heavy on skilled players.
A look at the list reveals a team heavy on linemen on both sides of the ball led by super talent Ethan Ruhland of Lake Orion. Ruhland who has experience protecting a high profile quarterback (All State Chris Lum) certainly has the size (6-foot-5, 265-pounds) and athleticism (5.1 - 40) to blossom into a star at either the guard or center position.
Joining Ruhland is future star Zach Hueter from North Branch, MI. Heuter is often mentioned in comparison with former Michigan star Jake Long and some say Heuter, who just started playing the offensive line position after playing defense and tight end, is further along than Long was at this stage of his development.
Gull Lake standout John Deyo also possesses the big imposing physical stature that has come to typify the Spartans offensive linemen. At 6-foot-6, 275-pounds, Deyo may be the most ready to begin contributing as a freshman.
Melvindale's Anthony Woods, a transfer from Detroit MacKenzie high, flies in under the radar, but Woods will be a factor in the future in Michigan State defensive line rotation. He projects to the all important run stopping defensive tackle position.
At 6-foot-4, 305-pounds, Woods has been compared by some to former Detroit Lions tackle Jerry Ball. He has the size and athleticism to make plays in the interior of the defensive line.
Woods will be joined by Jerel Worth, another big physical athletic player at 6-foot-3, 285-pounds who moves well in space and who can play either side of the ball, but clearly favors playing the defensive side.
"Some schools look at me as a defensive guy while others talk about me playing offense. I feel I can play defense at the next level and have to look hard at the programs looking for me to play offense," admitted Worthy. "It's not that I won't consider playing offensive line because I've been told by a couple of my coaches how the NFL is looking for players my size to play along the offensive line."
6-foot-4, 260-pound Chris McDonald of Sterling Heights Utica Ford chose Michigan State was the Detroit News Blue Chip #17 player. McDonald could end up as a strong side linebacker because of his ability to play in space and cover tight ends off the line of scrimmage. He has Big Ten ready size and speed to play linebacker and may well project to that position despite playing mostly on the defensive line at the high school level.
Midlothian (VA) Manchester defensive end Cameron Jude bring his 10 1/2 sacks to East Lansing and some say his physical style reminds them of Robert Porcher of the Detroit Lions. (He's) everything you look for in a defensive kid. He was an all-district players. Cameron was the defensive player of the year in our district. I can't talk enough about (him)," said Manchester coach Tom Hall.
Jude is yet again built from the classic mold of Spartan defensive linemen, at 6-foot-4, 235-pounds, he brings a solid base and a skill set that defensive line coach Ted Gill will be able to mold into a productive pass rusher at the next level.
MSU also signed four linebacker with an emphasis on speed. Two Ohio area players, Steve Gardiner of Dublin Coffman and Jamiihr Williams of Trotwood-Madison give Michigan State two stars in the making and pair figure to join the playing group early as both were super productive.
Look for Gardiner in the middle, he reminds some of former Ohio State great Andy Katzenmoyer, while Williams bring range, cover ability and sure tackling. Williams is so athletic that he lined up at quarterback at times for Lima and Trotwood-Madison. He projects to the pivotal weakside linebacker position.
We'll mention Detroit Denby's Glenn Winston here as well.
While Winston is listed as a running back, he could, project to a strong side linebacker at the next level. Where ever he ends up, at 6-foot-1, 215-pounds and running a blazing 4.39-40, Winston's talent can't be denied.
Speaking of running back, Birmingham Brother Rice star Caulton Ray joins Winston as the breakaway threat of this pair. One thing categorizes this player; speed to burn. If Ray gets into the secondary, look out. He may be just 5-foot-9, but that's OK when you run a 4.3- 40. Ray scares opponents because he can hit the home run every time he touches the football.
Michigan State grabbed a pair of stars in the secondary is Akron's Johnny Adams and Marietta, GA safety Bryden Trawick. There won't be any more undersized players in Michigan State's secondary anymore. Adams can fly at 6-foot, 180-pounds and a 4.4-40. Trawick brings a hitter's mentality, along with the range needed to play strong safety in the Big Ten. At 6-foot-2, 210-pounds, receivers will think twice about going over the middle against Trawick.
Joining these two is very underrated Charles Burrell of Detroit Southeastern who also projects to a corner/safety at the Big Ten level.
Two stars seems really low for a player who ranks as the #14 player in the state by Scout.com's Allen Trieu. In our opinion, Burrell is at least a three-star standout and will emerge a big-time player at the Big Ten level. The first commitment to Coach Mark Dantonio's 2008 class, Burrell was the cornerstone that MSU used to put together a solid, solid class.
Added to that group is Bay City Central's Trenton Robinson, a player who can play offense or defense. Robinson was a highly productive running back for Bay City but is more likely to end up playing in the Spartans secondary. Robinson is ranked the 20th best player in the state by Allen Trieu of Scout.com and seems underrated as a two-star by Scout.com
There is no question that the star quality in this class comes from the skilled positions. The aforementioned trio of Adams, Trawick and Burrell lead us to two difference makers for Michigan State and the superstars of this class; tight end Tyler Hoover of Novi and wide receiver Fred Smith of Detroit Southeastern.
Hoover could play as a true freshman, that's how good this player who chose Michigan State over Michigan is. Hoover has the size and speed (6-foot-7, 245-pounds; 4.8-40) and the soft hands with great route running ability.
Those who saw Hoover play for Novi come away often mentioning former Cowboys great Jay Novacek.
With Michigan State losing great Kellen Davis to graduation, Hoover could step in and even start if he progress and picks up the offense quickly enough. One things for sure, he has star written all over him if he can stay healthy.
The prize of the group without question is Smith. Some observers rated Smith as the #1 player in the state of Michigan, and indeed he sports #1 on the court for Southeastern's basketball squad.
It's easy to understand when you have a player who has sprinter's speed, physical size, soft hands and the ability to make big plays, Smith was the biggest "get" for Michigan State in this class.
Smith is so good, he could end up contributing on the hardwoods when the football season is over. Averaging over 20 points per game for Southeastern's basketball team, Tom Izzo has made it known he'd welcome Smith.
Look for Martin to get a shot at immediately getting on the field as a returner deluxe while White will likely redshirt while bulking up his 6-foot-1, 165-pound frame to take the pounding of the Big Ten.
Overall, remember this; while stars give a good indication of a players talent, they're not the only thing and recruiting rankings are subjective.
I've seen players who ranked highly who never made an impact at the next level. I've also seen players like Bob Sanders, the Indianapolis Colts standout who was a two-star recruit, only to go on to be named this season's AFC defensive player of the year.
Some players are as good as they're every going to be, while other continue to grow and develop. It's about the development at the next level. Who saw the season Jonal Saint-Dic had coming this offseason coming? Who could foresee Devin Thomas, who was mired on the bench during the John L. Smith regime turn into an NFL player this fall?
Mark Dantonio and his staff have shown the ability to get the best out of the talent they mine and can see players who have the ability to make the jump to the next level.
Trust us, this is a solid class for Dantonio and Co. who've already got a jump start on the critical 2009 recruiting class.
For Michigan State, a job well done.