NCF Nation: Jon Reschke

Recruiting Q&A: MSU's Mark Dantonio

February, 7, 2013
Michigan State signed a relatively small class this year, with just 18 new players. And the Spartans were overshadowed a bit by the recruiting successes of Michigan. But Mark Dantonio and his staff have shown a knack for identifying their type of player on the recruiting trail and then developing them into All-Big Ten type performers. So you'd be wise not to sleep on this latest batch of recruits who are heading to East Lansing.

I caught up with Dantonio for a few minutes to discuss this year's class.

What were your main objectives with this class?

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
Mike Carter/USA TODAY SportsMark Dantonio has five state champions and 11 all-state selections in his 18-player recruiting class.
Mark Dantonio: We didn't have a lot of seniors, and then we had a few guys go out early, so we had to adjust some thinking and needs. But I thought the needs we addressed were we needed to find a kicker to compete for the No. 1 position, and I thought we did that. Michael Geiger is ranked the No 1 kicker by Rivals, so that's exciting for us. You don't need a kicker until you need one. The two linebackers we signed were big-time recruits, four-star players, but more importantly state champions from excellent programs. Team leaders and very active, explosive players in Jon Reshcke and Shane Jones.

The tailback situation, with Le'Veon Bell going out, we added a lot of depth to that position by signing Gerald Holmes and R.J. Shelton and Delton Williams, who's really an athlete who can play a lot of positions. But he'll start at tailback. He reminds me a lot of Bell when he came in here. So three talented players there, and an excellent offensive lineman, a tight end and defensive linemen. Then I think in our secondary, Darian Hicks is an outstanding player and an extremely good athlete, and Justin Williams and Jalyn Powell are the same. Wide receivers are talented as well. I think we've got five state champions and 11 all-state players.

Damion Terry has gotten a lot of attention. He's a dual-threat quarterback, which we haven't seen much of lately at Michigan State. What were your thoughts on his recruitment?

MD: Damion is a guy we started the recruiting process on last spring. He came to camp and did a tremendous job throwing the football. Great mechanics and very poised and composed. And then he has the ability to run around. He's 6-foot-3, probably 6-4, and 220 pounds. He has run the football on designated runs but also created in high school. He was a state champion player. He was the AAA player of the year in the state of Pennsylvania. Damion has thrown for 50 touchdowns and run for 12 more in one year. He's got tremendous upside. One of the biggest things is he seems like a great leader. Very calm. And extremely talented.

You haven't had to play many freshmen right away on defense the past couple of years. Do you see that continuing with this group?

MD: Redshirting and playing, as a young freshman, is really determined by opportunity, timing and a lot with injuries. Can you stay healthy, can you pick up the defense the first two weeks of summer camp? The players in front of them, do they get injured and provide a window? But I think they're capable, from a physical standpoint, of running, of playing the deep ball, of explosiveness at the linebacker spot like we talked about. Those guys have the upside to be able to play early. It's just, can they stay healthy and will people in front of them stay healthy, and how do they pick up things? That remains to be seen.

With Bell gone, you don't have a lot of veterans at tailback. Do you see some of these young guys contributing there early?

MD: Yeah, I do, just because of the nature of the position. We really only have three other tailbacks, and couple of guys are smaller in stature -- powerful, but smaller. I think these guys will all be 200-pound-plus guys, and they all have great skill. Their skill should allow them to be in a competitive situation. Now can they stay healthy and the things I just talked about? That remains true.

You've had a strong run at linebacker recently. Are these new guys in that same mold?

MD: Yeah, I think they're very, very similar. They're guys that are explosive. Good blitzers who play downhill and can run very, very well. Both have great football IQs and come from great programs. They're used to playing on great stages. There is no bigger stage than the Cincinnati-area Catholic league, and there's no bigger stage in the state of Michigan than Brother Rice. They're state champions, both of them, and very, very successful players.

You also signed a defensive tackle transfer from the University of Toronto in James Bodanis. How do you see him contributing?

MD: He's a young man who played college competition up there. It's similar to probably junior college football down here. He's got the skills, he's quick, he's explosive, he's big, he's very powerful. But it's going to be an adjustment to the game down here. And there has to be a window of opportunity. Can he adjust?

Did you have to be more selective this year because of the small scholarship numbers?

MD: We're always going to be very selective. We try to take quality over quantity. We only took one offensive lineman, but he's an outstanding player in Dennis Finley. He's a big, long guy. I think he could be one of the best players maybe in the class. So it will be exciting to watch him grow and mature. We're excited about it. It's like New Year's Day for us. I think everything at this point starts fresh, and it's a new life and a new stage for these guys.
The fax machines are collecting dust again around the Big Ten as national signing day is in the books and all 12 classes are signed. Earlier Wednesday, Brian Bennett took a look at the Leaders Division and how teams did in filling their most pressing recruiting needs. Now it's time to take a look at the Legends Division.


Needs filled: Iowa's passing game needs a jolt after ranking 99th nationally last season, and the team signed five wide receivers. The Hawkeyes also were mindful that they'll lose all three starting linebackers after 2013 and flipped Reggie Spearman, an Illinois commit. Cornerback Desmond King should provide immediate help in the secondary.

Holes remaining: Offensive line could soon be an issue as Iowa missed out on several targets in this year's class. The Hawkeyes also need some difference-makers along the defensive line and signed only two linemen in this class.


Needs filled: The Wolverines got the running back they wanted and needed, Derrick Green, who could contribute immediately. They also continued to address the depth issues coach Brady Hoke inherited on both lines, adding five offensive linemen ranked in the ESPN 300. Although Devin Gardner solidified the quarterback spot late last season, Michigan needed to plan for the future and signed a solid signal-caller, Shane Morris.

Holes remaining: There aren't many obvious weak spots, although Michigan could use a bit more help on the perimeter, especially at wide receiver. Top wideouts Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo depart after the 2013 season, and the depth in the secondary isn't quite where it needs to be.


Needs filled: The Spartans signed three running backs -- Gerald Holmes, R.J. Shelton and Delton Williams -- who could compete for immediate playing time at a position with very little depth. They also brought in a likely quarterback of the future in Damion Terry and bolstered the linebacking corps with ESPN 300 selection Shane Jones and Jon Reschke.

Holes remaining: Michigan State's offensive line depth still isn't where it needs to be, and the Spartans signed only one offensive lineman (Dennis Finley) this year. MSU signed only two defensive backs, although the coaches really like what Darian Hicks and Jalyn Powell bring to the field.


Needs filled: The Gophers lose a lot at linebacker and filled the gaps with junior college players Damien Wilson and De'Vondre Campbell. They need more playmakers on offense and added some at receiver to go along with an intriguing dual-threat quarterback in Chris Streveler.

Holes remaining: Minnesota loses some key defensive backs and will lose more after the 2013 season. The Gophers signed only two cornerbacks and no safeties in this class, so they could have some depth issues if current sophomores and juniors don't pan out.


Needs filled: The Huskers continued to address their depth issues at linebacker with prospects such as Marcus Newby and added more depth to the offensive line with five players. They added a potential quarterback of the future in Johnny Stanton and continued to recruit well at all the offensive skill positions.

Holes remaining: After missing out on several elite defensive linemen, Nebraska is still looking for disruptive players up front. Perhaps junior college arrival Randy Gregory fills the void. The Huskers could have used another elite secondary prospect.


Needs filled: The Wildcats will need a quarterback after the 2014 season and found an absolutely perfect fit in Matt Alviti. They also addressed the running back spot for the second straight year. Offensive line recruiting continues to be a strength for Northwestern.

Holes remaining: The class lacks an obvious difference-maker on defense, a unit where Northwestern improved in 2012 but still has a long way to go. Northwestern could have picked up another linebacker and another pass-rushing defensive end. Perhaps four-star prospect Godwin Igwebuike, listed as a running back, will contribute on the defensive side.