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Thursday, December 26, 2013
Success hasn't changed MSU recruit plan

By Tom VanHaaren

With Michigan State's success on the field, the coaching staff is starting to see a rise in interest from high-profile recruits. Going 12-1, winning the Big Ten championship and earning a Rose Bowl berth will do that for a program, but will it be enough to beat out other top programs for big-name recruits?

The Spartans beat both Michigan and Ohio State this season despite only landing one of the top 25 Midwest prospects in each of the past three recruiting classes.

Michigan and Ohio State landed 13 of the top 25 Midwest recruits combined in the 2013 class and 14 in 2012. So if the Spartans are winning with lower-ranked recruits, what would it do for the program if they were able to land more highly ranked targets?

Michigan State celebrates its Rose Bowl berth
There's a buzz surrounding Michigan State these days, but the recruiting plan remains the same.
Recruiting coordinator Brad Salem has seen more interest from prospects but doesn't know how it might change MSU's recruiting just yet.

"We are winning games with kids that fit us and kids that we've developed," Salem said. "We laughed the other day, the kids that have press conferences, those aren't the kids that come here. It will be interesting, though, because the more you win, you get in front of more people. We're getting more phone calls from kids now, and we're hearing from kids that we thought we were out of it for."

Since recruiting has accelerated so much, the 2014 classes are almost wrapped up, which means most of the impressions made will be in 2015 and even 2016.

The Spartans already have seen a spike in interest from Midwest and in-state prospects in the 2015 class, having landed three commitments from Michigan prospects, including ESPN Jr. 300 offensive lineman Kyonta Stallworth (St. Clair Shores, Mich./South Lake).

All three commitments are within the top 10 for in-state prospects, and Michigan State has a good chance with five of the other seven uncommitted targets on that list, including ESPN Jr. 300 defensive lineman Joshua Alabi (Detroit/Cass Tech).

Alabi has programs from all over the country in contact with him, but he says he is very interested in Michigan State. It doesn't hurt that he also is seeing other high-profile prospects showing interest in the Spartans as well.

"For me, I just feel comfortable with the coaching staff," Alabi said. "I like going up there and being around everybody. The program is great. But if you see a lot of four-stars going to the same college, that just makes you want to be a part of it even more."

Alabi's teammate, ESPN Jr. 300 running back Mike Weber, says he has high interest in Michigan State because of the winning season, how former players do in the NFL and how well the coaches recruit.

The Spartans have a chance to beat out in-state rival Michigan for most of the top in-state prospects, and that's something Salem credits directly to the product the recruits have grown up with, rather than just one season of winning.

"In the Michigan area, you have to go back to 2010, or even five years ago; these kids were in sixth grade," he said. "What they have been seeing is Michigan State, that's what they know. Seeing the Nike stuff that we've worn and the success, that's sort of what they've grown up knowing."

Salem knows more national attention is coming, but he says the main focus always will be in their backyard and in the Midwest.

The staff recognizes that the Spartans have won by finding the right players who fit their system. Players who want to be a part of a team and want to buy in to what coach Mark Dantonio has put together.

While a different type of recruit might start to show more interest, Salem says the coaches need to stay true to who they are and how they've found success in the past. That comes from doing their due diligence in evaluations and trying to see as many prospects in person as possible.

The key for the staff is getting kids on campus to show them what Michigan State has to offer, but also to give the coaches a chance to evaluate the recruits both physically and personally.

It also means targeting the same type of player they have for years. Whether it's a higher-profile prospect or an underrated recruit, the staff has a system that works. Salem and the other coaches believe in that system, and if it's not broken then don't fix it.

"Our hope is that we want to get the same type of kids," Salem said. "You might want to say higher-profile or higher star ranking, but does that mean that they're necessarily better in the long run? I think we've quietly gone about our business, which is a reflection of our head coach. When they come here and find out what we have, and see it, we're getting the kids that fit with what we want."