Michigan State’s recent football is success is much more than the result of merely the last year of work. What State’s success is built on started when Mark Dantonio was hired to be the head coach for the 2007 football season and is the result of State recruiting the right players into the program ever since.
Note that the word that we chose is not the best players – rather it says the right players. State’s success is the result of the right kids joining up with a man that knew the how to win within the system.
Michigan State is no football slouch, but recruiting top-notch talent to East Lansing has never been done before. Understanding this, Dantonio’s first goal was to set out to make State the premier destination for in-state kids.
A man by the name of Rich Rodriguez helped out Dantonio in this endeavor by choosing to leave the state of Michigan virtually untouched, choosing instead to harvest Florida for players like Denard Robinson.
For four classes from 2008-2011, Michigan grabbed only 20 players from the state of Michigan. Meanwhile in one class, Michigan State signed ten players from Michigan, including soon-to-be star, Max Bullough.
After Dantonio was ridiculed for stating his desire for State to recruit nationally, it was he who had the last laugh – many key parts on both sides of the Rose Bowl winning Spartan team are from out-of-state recruits. Wide receivers, defensive backs, and running backs from Florida and Georgia combine well with lineman from California, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to form a team that is increasingly more national with each passing year.
However, Brady Hoke’s first full classes bucked the Wolverine’s downward trend by signing 9 players from Michigan in 2012 – including 8 of the state’s top 12 (compared to 2 for State), and 8 players in 2013 – including 6 of the top 11 (compared to 3 for State).
The balance of power in the state of Michigan for more than just the foreseeable future is surely up for grabs. If Michigan State parlays this Rose Bowl season into a successful recruiting class filled with system players from around the country, there’s no reason to believe their temporary loss of recruiting control in the state of Michigan will be the end of the Spartan’s dominance of the rivalry. While a traditionally successful Michigan Wolverines team will draw talent away from a Michigan State Spartans team, the final pieces yet to decide during this year’s recruiting cycle are falling green. Unfortunately for the Wolverine, Michigan State can continue to hone its ability to run the ball and play the stingiest defense allowed by rules with any personnel – meaning they won’t miss a high school senior that chooses another university.
The catch of course is that Michigan typically recruits better than Michigan State – yet has been losing anyway. So some ask why this is even a question. This is true. Recently it has been obvious that State has superior player development. However Michigan’s would-be senior class, signed in 2010, is in absolute desolation. This doesn’t explain why the losing started in 2008, but is important to understanding the current state of affairs – even if it won’t matter during Brady Hoke’s annual performance review.
Out of the 27 kids who committed, only 8 are still on the roster, with only Devin Gardner, Drew Dileo, Courtney Avery, and Jibreel Black becoming contributors. Several of the committed players never made it to campus, some suffered career-ending injuries, while more left for more playing time elsewhere or just left football altogether. While the class was ranked higher than Michigan State’s at the time of signing, Michigan’s is obviously handicapped.
And the suffering is not over for Michigan yet. While the team was young along the interior of the offensive line and the defensive backfield last year, they at least had a reliable group of seniors. This season, several more veterans graduate leaving behind starting spots to a group missing the majority of its senior class. The absences will be felt mostly along the offensive and defensive lines and at the wide receiver position.
In other words or if you didn’t follow those last couple paragraphs, Michigan uf’d up again.
On the other side, Michigan State’s team is thriving. There are underclassmen training in a system they will be executing in two years, sure of its merits. So while Michigan is searching for answers on both sides of the ball, Michigan State really is reaching their full potential as Sparta, stocking up and constantly preparing for the next round of battles. Once the last of Michigan’s small class of 2010 is gone and graduated after the 2014 season, there will be no more excuses for underperforming. The roster will be fully stocked and the two-deep depth charts will be full of talented upperclassmen. The only question becomes, does the Michigan coaching staff survive until then?