In this week's column, Scout.com Midwest regional manager Allen Trieu sheds light on the recruitment of some of Michigan State's recruiting inroads at Cass Tech, the ranking of the Spartans' 2013 class, and some of their chances at landing a few prominent Midwest targets.
Sam Webb: Lately it appears Michigan State has placed added emphasis on recruiting Cass Tech. Is that accurate-feeling, and how do you think they're doing recruiting some of the Cass guys?
Allen Trieu: I think they've always recruited Cass. They were the first BCS offer to Thomas Gordon, they recruited Will Campbell, they offered Dior Mathis, Terry Richardson, and Ross Jenkins-Stone. I just think they're doing better with some of the guys in this class. If I had to guess at this moment in time I think they get Dennis Finley, I think they're doing really well for Deon Drake, they were able to get Damon Webb on campus… so I think that this next group of Cass guys that is coming up in this year's class and next year's class is looking harder at MSU than any of those guys previously did.
SW: A commonly held perception among Spartan fans is that Cass Tech pushes its players to Michigan. What would you say to that?
AT: I would say "pushes" is the wrong word. I think they have a good relationship with Michigan. Cass Tech head man Thomas Wilcher obviously played at Michigan, and Cass has a lot of guys that play there (now). The players really help with the recruiting efforts. They come back for the alumni games and they're able to get guys up to Ann Arbor for visits. So I would say there is a great relationship there that helps Michigan get players from Cass. Does Cass push them there? No.
SW: Let's talk about (offensive tackle) Dennis Finley. Clearly his recruitment has picked up steam and Wisconsin and Ohio State are on his trail. What gives Michigan State the edge on those teams?
AT: First, he has a sister there, so he is very familiar with the school. He has been going there to visit her long before he had the Michigan State offer. Then since he got the offer he has been up there several times. He seems to really like the coaches and what he has seen there. Plus it's the closest to home. I don't think it's a slam dunk for Michigan State, but I think they have a lot of things in their corner that are going to go a long way. That's why they would be my pick at the moment.
Sam Webb: Who is the biggest threat to the Spartans for him?
AT: I think it's Ohio State. He has also been there a couple of times for visits. They have a need at offensive tackle. When it comes to Wisconsin he has mentioned their tradition for offensive linemen, and his coaches have mentioned the tradition for offensive linemen, so they're definitely still a team to look out for.
Sam Webb: Where does Michigan State stand with Deon Drake?
AT: I always say you look at what the kid does and not what he says. After getting the offer he and both of his parents were on campus in East Lansing within a couple of days. To me that says he has serious interest. As a family they were able to sit down with Coach (Mark) Dantonio, (defensive coordinator Pat) Narduzzi, and the rest of the staff. They were also able to watch a practice. There is legitimate interest there, and I think they're looking really good for him right now.
Sam Webb: Break down Drake as a payer. Where do you see him kind of fitting in as far as the rankings are concerned?
AT: He is very athletic. He played tailback for them last year and he is going to play tailback for them this year. Whenever you have a linebacker that can be sort of a feature tailback on an athletic team like Cass, that says something about the way that kid can run. But he is not just a guy who can run. He likes contact, he is a physical kid, and you can do a lot with him. He is not necessarily the biggest guy at 6-1, 210, but I think he makes up for that with his other qualities. As for the rankings, I think it's too early to say. He has only played one year of varsity football, but I think he has put himself in position to be a highly ranked guy.
Sam Webb: His teammate, Class of 2014 cornerback Damon Webb, is a national recruit already. What about Michigan State's chances with him?
AT: I think they've got some work to do with him. I think LSU and Michigan are the two teams that are in the lead there. But he made the effort to get up to Michigan State for a visit, and that's huge. I think the more you can get a kid on campus the better. He had really positive things to say about what he saw up there. So they're certainly in the game. I don't think they're in as good of a position for him as they are in with Drake and Finley, though.
Sam Webb: Let's talk about rankings. How does Michigan State stack up in the Big 10 and nationally?
AT: First of all, I think this year's Michigan State class is a good one. Right now they are sitting pretty good in the rankings. It's going to be a smaller class, and since we take class size into consideration I think that is going to keep them from being a top 15-20 class. I certainly think they could be in the top 25. It'll depend on how they finish out — do they get a guy like Finley and a couple of guys on the board, (that) would be huge. A four-star guy like Cadillac offensive lineman Riley Norman is still on the board.
Sam Webb: What would you say to Spartan fans that believe their recruits are consistently underrated?
AT: I think Michigan State has gained a ton of respect in the way that they recruit. I think we have been fair about where their guys are ranked. We've underrated a couple of their guys in the past, but I think that is because those guys played beyond expectations — not because they were ranked lower because of where they were committed. To say a guy like (RB) LeVeon Bell was underrated, that's true, but Michigan State was his only Big Ten offer. A lot of people missed on that guy. (Quarterback) Kirk Cousins outperformed his ranking, but again Michigan State I believe was his only BCS offer. So those didn't just outperform their rankings but their offer lists by far. I think they do a great job at Michigan State of developing guys when they get there. I think they have a great strength and conditioning program. I also think they do a great job of finding guys who fit.
Sam Webb: It's clearly the stretch run for the Spartans. Who are the guys in the Midwest other than Dennis Finely that you think they have really good shots at?
AT: (Offensive tackle) Riley Norman is one. Right now it depends on if he even wants to play college football. If he does, I think he is going to Michigan State. I actually think regardless of whether he plays or not, he is going to be at Michigan State as a student. Ruben Dunbar is 6-3, 235-pound defensive lineman from Glenbard West High in Illinois who said Michigan State leads right now, so they are in very good shape for him. They've offered Jalen Banks, a defensive end from Harvey Thornton High in Illinois, and they're very much in the game for him as well.
With offers from both Michigan and Ohio State, the recruitment of Malik McDowell could prove to be an interesting tussle between two great rivals.
The number one prospect in the state of Michigan is thought to be a heavy Michigan lean due to his Detroit roots, but the defensive end may also be enamored by the great coaching skills of one Urban Meyer.
McDowell, the 6'7", 295-pound defensive end told Bill Kurelic of 247sports.com: “Ohio State, Michigan, LSU, Alabama, Wisconsin, I liked those schools growing up."
McDowell goes on to say that he was a big fan of Meyer when he won his National Championship's with the Florida Gators.
He has no current leaders in the recruiting chase for his services and that could set up a potential battle between Ohio State and Michigan.
Michigan have been raiding Ohio for their very best talent of late and just very recently landed Michael Ferns, so I'm sure Meyer would like to do all he can to poach the very best in-state talent from Michigan.
McDowell is ranked as the number two strong-side defensive end prospect and the number 23 overall player in 247sports 2014 rankings.
Kurelic concedes that it's unlikely that any team can steal McDowell way from Michigan but that Ohio State might be the only team actually capable of doing so.
Brady Hoke has rejuvenated Michigan's recruiting efforts and has pushed Michigan back ahead of Ohio State in the recruiting sweepstakes for the first time in years, so he won't let up.
"He first came on my radar after last summer's Toledo camp when everybody said the best lineman there was a freshman." "I went and saw him in person last season and witnessed what everyone was talking about. Later I saw him at the Elite Big Man Camp in Wixom, and then the Adidas Invitational in Ann Arbor last weekend. He was great at both — probably more so in Wixom because he got more reps. He went up against some older guys who are committed to BCS schools like Steve Elmer (Notre Dame) and Jesse Chadwell (Illinois), and did well against each of them. Other than one or two reps, he really wasn't stopped all day."
Loyola high school coach John Callahan also told Webb that he thinks McDowell has all the potential in the world and has the frame to top 300-pounds:
"He has a frame where if you look at him he looks like he is only 240, but he is 272 now," said Callahan. "He's got a frame that can carry 300-plus, and I know he is still growing. Who knows in two years what he is going to end up being? He is dedicated in the weight room and does a great job with our lifting. I think that in itself has led to a great improvement in his size and his quickness. If he stays committed the way he has been, the sky's the limit for him."
A boyhood Michigan fan and not yet ready to make a decision, Brady Hoke and company must be pulling out all the stops to get a commitment from McDowell, whenever he gets around to it.
Just days after I wrote an article showcasing my surprise that there had been zero 2014 commitments, Brady Hoke has pulled a fast one on me and landed an immediate impact player on defense in the shape of Michael Ferns,
The linebacker who plies his high school trade for St. Clairsville in Ohio is an even bigger get because the Wolverine have once again beaten Ohio State (who also offered) to one of their biggest in-state recruits.
At 6'3" and 235 pounds with a 4.6 40-yard dash time, he already has enough size for the college level and Kyle Meinke of www.annarbor.com reports that recruiting analyst Allen Trieu projects Ferns as a 4-star prospect whenever the rankings are released.
Ferns had been considered a long-time Michigan lean but to get his verbal commitment so early will encourage other recruits to do the same, much like the way Shane Morris started a landslide of commitments when he gave his word very early on.
"Michigan just stuck out to me," Ferns told GoBlueWolverine.com. "After that second visit up there it kind of really stuck out more. I felt good the whole time I was there. I felt great and I knew it was time to make the decision.”
247sports.com ranks Ferns as the fifth best inside linebacker prospect for 2014.
Ferns also claims that the BBQ sealed his decision after he once again had some great talks with the coaching staff.
And with other 2014 prospects like Damon Webb and Parrker Westphal also having fun at the BBQ, it's not going too far to say that another verbal may be around the corner.
Other good 2014 recruiting news also stems from the fact that Dominique Booth is excited to visit Michigan.
Booth said, “I know they want to see my first game or so before they offer me. I really do like Michigan. They’re going to a pro style offense after Denard Robinson leaves, and I really like the school and everything. Everyone knows about the Big House, so I want to experience it for myself, see what game day is like there and check out the school and the people.”
All great early signs for the 2014 recruiting class.
Growing up in the shadows of where former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel used to roam the sideline, it was hard for Billy Price (Youngstown, Ohio/Austintown Fitch) not to root for the Buckeyes.
After all, Tressel used to be the head man at Youngstown State, so cheering for the Buckeyes when he left for Columbus just seemed natural.
Then Price took in a football game at the Horseshoe as a sophomore and the idea that had been engrained in him as a kid caught fire.
"It's kind of a bias," Price said. "You're growing up in Ohio and Ohio State is your home state. You have to support your home state."
That visit to Ohio Stadium two years ago became the benchmark for what the 2013 recruit was looking for in a school.
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive tackle had offers from Arizona, UCLA, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Tennessee, Southern Methodist and Miami (Ohio), but every time he weighed his options, the Buckeyes kept popping up.
"Other places I visited, they didn't have the same quality or same atmosphere that Ohio State has," Price said. "I think my initial falling in love with Ohio State -- if you want to say it that way -- was when I went to Ohio State-Michigan my sophomore year. It was my first ever college football game and it was an Ohio State-Michigan game at Ohio State. That right there blew me away.
"That was my stone to compare with the rest of my college recruiting opportunities. Once I took my unofficial visit and they gave me my tour of the campus and the facilities and I met a lot of the coaches, that bug bit me real hard and just embedded itself into me. That's when I knew, I wanted to go to Ohio State. It's unimaginable, how much I love Ohio State."
Crete (Ill.) Monee receiver Laquon Treadwell wants to be 100-percent, positively sure about his college decision before pulling the trigger.
That’s a refreshing thing.
In what seems like a normal happenings in the world of college football recruiting, where decommitments are frequent and so are committed prospects taking visits to other schools, Treadwell is doing his best not to fall in the same line.
“I’ve gotten real close to actually making it out and everything,” Treadwell said about possibly committing. “I told my mom and a couple coaches one time. Only thing that held me back is there are a couple of other schools and they’re special programs and I want to see what they have, and I’d like to take all my visits before I make my decision.”
For the longest, Michigan has been the team to beat for the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Treadwell, who is currently pegged as the nation’s No. 4 receiver and the No. 41 prospect overall in the 247Composite Rankings. While the Wolverines have set the bar, Treadwell still feels he doesn’t have all the data to make the most informed decision. Last weekend, he took a trip to Ole Miss and the Rebels showed him enough that now he’s looking forward to getting back for an official. This weekend or next weekend, Treadwell says he’d like to return to Michigan State for an overnight stay. Besides Ole Miss and the Wolverines, he said other possible official visit scenarios include Auburn, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
“That’s the one thing my head coach wants me to do, he said take all my visits to schools I want to see before I commit,” Treadwell said. “He said he doesn’t want the attention of me committing and decommitting and seeing other schools. He wants me to wait until I see the right school and have the right school.”
In the class-of-2013, Treadwell sees other prospects wavering on their decision or changing their minds all together. He doesn’t have a problem with it. It’s just not for him.
“I just think they weren’t really ready to decide and they want to see other schools, or another school caught their interest later on in the process.”
As the process continues for Treadwell, no surprise there isn't a timetable for a college decision.
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