MSU Recruiting Breakdown

SI analyst Ryan Wallace breaks down the Spartans recruiting class, including comments from MSU head football coach John L. Smith. Check out this exclusive analysis, including how coach Smith feels about his recruiting class, and where the team stands for the 2003 season!

The John L. Smith era officially began on Wednesday as he announced the names of his first Spartan recruiting class.

Smith, who was named MSU head football coach on Dec. 19, got a bit of a late start, but was still able to snatch 19 recruits.

Smith said his focus was to fill some of the biggest voids in his first year and then start to develop his recruiting strategies next season.

"We tried to address as many problems as we could," Smith said. "We wanted to get as many wide outs as we could that could play and then a year down the road we’re going to be losing a lot of offensive linemen, so bringing in some offensive line was kind of key for us as well.

"Getting a quarterback was crucial – we like to get one a year. And on the other side of the ball everything is crucial over there – D-line, linebackers and DB’s. We would have liked to address the defensive side a little bit better."

Of the 19 recruits, seven were recruited for defensive purposes. Smith said it’s still possibly that he and his staff could pick up another linebacker, which he called a "shallow" position, before it’s all said and done.

He said he’s still concerned about the lack of depth at the defensive positions, but it’s something he’s going to continue to improve.

"We need more linebackers, to be honest with you, so that’s always a concern," Smith said. "Everybody wants those guys, D-linemen are a premium, you know everybody recruits those guys."

One possible suggestion may be to move a few of the running backs who have the potential to play linebacker or cornerback to those positions, but that still remains to be sorted out.

Protecting our backyard

One of Smith’s biggest setbacks was the lack of in-state recruiting. Defensive back Greg Cooper, defensive back Cole Corey and running back Kaleb Thornhill were the only recruits from Michigan to sign with the Spartans.

Smith said in the future he will look harder in-state to find his talent, but it wasn’t possible this year with so many recruits committing early and having some of MSU’s verbals de-commit and go to other schools.

"We would like to concentrate right here in our backyard," Smith said. "And gradually expand from here with Ohio being the state next closest. But this is a great bunch of football players."

Smith said the best way to start recruiting in-state is to get acquainted with the players and the coaches in the area. He also said the recruiting process is ever-changing and he’s going to continue to look out East and in the New Orleans area to find talent.

Wanted: Pure Athletes

Smith made it clear that he was looking for athletes, not those who were specialized in just one position. Of the five running backs that were recruited he said only one will end up at the position with the others finding a home at a new position.

"We’ll keep the best one there and others will find a place to play," he said. "They’re good athletes, they’re good football players or we would not have recruited those guys."

Smith said he doesn’t expect a lot of these freshmen to play right away, but didn’t hesitate saying that if they are good enough right now, they could step right in.

"Most of these men will end up being red-shirted," Smith said. "But there our some kids that we may end having to count on this first year."

Smith said he expects the two junior college transfers, defensive end Daryl Melvin and cornerback DeAndra Cobb to get action immediate action.

The name of the game is speed.

What’s one thing that all the recruits have in common? The answer: speed.

John L. Smith said it takes a guy who can run up and down the field to make his system work. He said offensively and defensively speed and being able to run around are what he looks for in a possible recruit.

"The day of the dinosaur is over, you got to be able to run," he said. "You can’t run, then you can’t play the game any more. All of our kids have to be able to run. Speed is a major factor."

Evaluation process

Smith said at the beginning of the press conference that all recruits look good on paper, but he said it takes a special kind of player to make it at this level.

He says evaluating recruits is a strenuous activity and that he believes in his system and his coaches.

"I think all these guys can play without a doubt or we wouldn’t have recruited them," he said. "I don’t know if these guys are steals or not. We try to go out every where we can and I think it’s a little bit of a challenge for our guys, and they take it to heart, to go find a guy underneath a rock somewhere that maybe not a lot of people know about."

Smith said a lot of factors go into finding a kid that can play Division I college football. He said he looks at the size, strength and speed first, then academics and lastly if that player is good enough to play.

He said it’s also important to have his coaching staff look at these kids, before anything else happens.

"If we continue to get three or four eyes on a kid, we’re going to have an idea if a kid can play or not."

What’s next?

Smith said he’s already trying to get a jump on the juniors for next year’s class. He also added that it’s too early to tell how these players will turn our, but did say that this is a good "character" group, which is something he stressed at Louisville.

Defensive back DeAndra Cobb and offensive lineman Pete Clifford are both currently enrolled at MSU and will be able to participate in spring practice. Smith said that will be a definite edge in their development.

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