John L. Smith came up all smiles on signing day.
He brought in a recruiting class that is ranked in the Top 20 by all accounts — including a stud offensive tackle in Roland Martin.
Huge is not the proper word to describe Martin, who checks in at 6-6 and 340 pounds. Martin was chased by all the heavy hitters, and it came down to Michigan State and Oklahoma.
"It was so close between Michigan State and Oklahoma — that was the hardest decision I even made," Martin told the Chicago Tribune. "I sat down and talked with my coaches and of course, with my family. From what they all said, everything started pointing to Michigan State."
Martin was ranked as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the country and Smith is giddy at the idea of Martin playing for the Spartans. "Very seldom do we see linemen able to play right off the bat," Smith said. "We're going to try to put him in that position."
RB Carl Grimes of Detroit will also play for the Spartans. He had originally committed to Michigan State, changed his mind and said he would play at Florida State and then went back to Michigan State. Grimes will likely play wide receiver at Michigan State.
Smith addressed the Spartans' lack of speed with several key signings.
SirDarean Adams, a wide receiver, quarterback, tailback and defensive back out of Bradenton, Fla., runs a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash. Defensive back Bryan Brighton was the Michigan Division 2 100-meter state champion. The Spartans signed six defensive backs whose speeds hover around 4.5 in the 40-yard dash.
"This is a good speed group," Smith said. "If you were to pick something, the one thing this group has is skill and speed."
Smith had a hugely successful first season at East Lansing and has a great chance to repeat that success — or improve upon it — in 2004.
OT Roland Martin, Chicago — Power and nastiness are his trademarks. At 6-6 and 340 pounds, head coach John L. Smith believes that Martin has a chance to start as a freshman. He can be a dominant player at the college level if he can make the adjustment to the upgraded competition.
LB Eric Andino, Buffalo Grove, Ill — A very fast and rangy linebacker. Andino is very smart and understands what he has to do in order to be successful. Not overly big at 225 pounds, but he has the frame to put weight on his 6-4 frame.
WR SirDarean Adams, Bradenton, Fla. — A very versatile player in high school, Adams projects to receiver at the college level. He has a great 40 time and gives some much-needed speed to the WR crew.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a pretty good year without a doubt. Our staff worked their tail off. They stayed after it like bulldogs." — Head coach John L. Smith on a recruiting class that has earned Top 20 grades from all the rating services.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
GLANCE AT 2004: With two recruiting classes in the books, look for John L. Smith's offense to take off this season. While Jeff Smoker has moved on, the Spartans are significantly faster than they have been at any point in recent memory. They should be in the mix for a bowl game, although it will always be tough to get by Michigan and Ohio State.
PRO POTENTIAL: QB Jeff Smoker — He rebounded from a drug suspension in 2002 to have a fine season in 2003. At times, he looked like the best quarterback in the Big Ten. At other times, he looked ordinary — especially in the bowl loss to Nebraska.
DE Greg Taplin — One of the best pass rushers in the Big Ten. He has a great first step to the quarterback and knows how to get in his lane to bat passes down. Taplin may need some work against the run.
INJURY IMPACT: Wide receiver Aaron Alexander (foot), quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) and safety Eric Smith (knee) all are recovering nicely from their surgeries, according to Smith. However, he doubted any of them would participate in spring football.
Big Ten Recruiting: Michigan State
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