The future of Michigan State Football starts by recruiting Blue Chips today!

Blue Chip

Allow me to lead the cheer…let’s congratulate Mel Tucker and Spartan Football for their impressive 10 win, breakout season.

We all know that 2021 was an incredible improvement compared to 2020, and of course 10 wins was an incredible accomplishment…but let’s also remember that 10 wins was offset by humiliating meltdowns at Purdue as well as Ohio State and no team gets a trophy for 3rd place in the Big Ten East.

So let’s honor the accomplishments of 2021, but it’s time to put the accolades in the “rear view mirror” because this season will only be considered a success if there is incremental improvement in all phases next year, and a good portion of improvement will depend upon improving the Offensive Line as well as the Defensive Backfield.

Let’s remember, the Offensive Line was serviceable at best, while the Spartan Pass Defense was “dead last” in the land when measured against 130 D-1 Schools so Mel Tucker has a huge amount of work to do if he intends to compete for Championships and it starts by recruiting Blue Chip athletes today.


Blue Chip recruiting:

Last Wednesday commenced the “early signing period” for 2022 recruiting.

And let’s remember, until there is a change in the 85 Scholarship rule (which means each D-1 School is allowed 85 scholarships max) then conventional recruiting (as opposed to recruiting via the Transfer Portal) will continue to be the lifeblood of College Football.

In other words, there is a lot of noise regarding the value of the Transfer Portal, but conventional recruiting is still “key”, and Wednesday was an important day for gauging future success of every football team in the land including Michigan State…and a key indicator is measuring Blue Chip recruits.

Let’s remember, Blue Chip players are the 4 & 5 Star players which are the foundation of Championships.

According to recruiting services and their recruiting criteria, 1 and 2 Stars are usually “walk-ons” with limited probability of becoming a starter on Power 5 rosters; 3-Star players constitute “the glue & every down players”; whilst 4&5 Star players are the game breakers, the game changers, they are the foundation of championships.

So, how did the Spartans fare in the early signing period? Did they parlay their “10 win breakout season” into a recruiting bonanza of Blue Chip players?

Not exactly…

It’s important to note, the Spartans segued into the “early signing period” ranked #18 nationally, and #4 Big Ten, yet when the day was done, the Spartans slid to #21 nationally and #5 Big Ten.

What does that mean?

It means instead of sprinting to the finish line and improving their lot, the Spartans faded at the finish. Not a dramatic drop off, yet they faded nevertheless. In other words, a victory lap was unwarranted

Of course, Spartan Beat Writers will argue it was a great day for Spartan recruiting, but c’mon, a more apt description would be “solid and serviceable”…certainly not great!

After all, recruiting is relative.

At the end of the day, according to 24/7 Sports (the acknowledged authority on football recruiting), the Spartans recruited 22 players and that included seventeen “3-Stars”…five “4-Stars”…and Zero “5-Stars. So, let’s put Blue Chip recruiting into perspective.

Immediately below is an accounting of Blue Chip (4 & 5 Star players) recruited within the Big Ten East:

Blue Chip (combination 4&5 Star) players recruited by each Big Ten East team:

  1. Ohio State…16
  2. Penn State…16
  3. Michigan…11
  4. Indiana…5
  5. Michigan State…5
  6. Rutgers…4
  7. Maryland…4

And while Indiana recruited the same number of Blue Chip players as Michigan State (in other words five, 4&5 Star recruits), on the other hand Indiana finished ahead of the Spartans in the overall Recruiting rankings due to the overall quality of their recruiting class.

So in cold, hard, blunt numbers, Michigan State finished #5 in recruiting amongst just 7 Big Ten East teams which is essentially the same as their average Big Ten East recruiting ranking since 2017. (Note: here is Spartans recruiting rankings within Big Ten East from 2017 to 2022: #5…#5…#4…#5…#6…#5).

Clearly, Michigan State is not making noticeable progress recruiting against the top teams in the Big Ten East.

So, is there hope that Mel Tucker can coach up this recruiting class and win a Big Ten Championship and thereby earn an invitation to the CFP?

Of course!

But we can’t exactly say Mel Tucker parlayed a 10 win season into a recruiting bonanza. In other words, the Spartans “Blue Chip” recruiting class pales when compared to the top recruiting classes in the country.

Take a look:

  • Alabama…22 Blue Chip players
  • Georgia…19 Blue Chip players
  • Ohio State…16 Blue Chip players
  • Michigan State…5 Blue Chip players

Let’s put this into perspective by way of noting that Michigan State recruited a total of 22 players of which just 5 were 4&5 Star recruits, on the other hand Alabama recruited 22 Blue Chip (4&5 Star) players alone.

So, which teams are most likely to compete for Championships in the near future?


But…did the Spartans find Blue Chip players for their porous Pass Defense?

I’ve written extensively about the Spartans porous Pass Defense over the past two seasons, and Harlon Barnett (Defensive Backfield Coach) is at the focal point of my criticism, because it would be fair to say his coaching is suspect.

After all, the Spartan Pass Defense finished “dead last” amongst 130 D-1 Schools this past season, yielding an “dizzying” average of nearly 340 Yards per game, and that was underscored by yielding 449 Yards and 6 Passing TD’s to Ohio State, and of course yielding an eye glazing 536 Yards and 3 Passing TD’s to Purdue. Not surprisingly, the Spartans got embarrassed in both games.

Consequently, Pass Defense should have been a focal point of Spartan recruiting, right?

Well, the Spartans recruited five D-Backs including 2 CB’s & 3 Safeties, yet not one D-Back earned more than 3-Stars. In fact, Caleb Coley is the highest ranked CB, but he only ranked #43 at his position nationally. Meanwhile, the Spartans also recruited Ade Willie at CB, but he ranked even lower at #74 nationally.

The Spartans also recruited 3 Safeties including Malik Spencer who is ranked #53 at his position, whilst Quavian Carter ranked #55, and Malcolm Jones ranked #64 nationally. In that regard, it would be fair to say the quality of D-Backs recruited is solid, but not great…

Keep in mind, we are trusting the overall credibility of recruiting rankings which have been historically correct, so in that context there may be a “breakout” D-Back or two, but on average these are journeymen caliber D-Backs, certainly not the quality of D-Backs that recruiting analyst would consider “lockdown” caliber, and certainly not ready to become members of “No Fly Zone-II”.

In fact, let’s make a comparison with Ohio State the team that finished #2 in the Big Ten East.

The top Safety recruited by Ohio State is Sonny Styles, 6’4” and 215#, a 5-Star who is ranked #1 nationally at his position. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s top CB recruit is Jyaire Brown, 6’ 170#, a 4-Star, who is ranked #18 nationally at his position.

So, if the Spartans want to compete with the best, they have to recruit with the best, yet the players recruited by the Spartans for the purpose of “fixing” their porous Pass Defense are unlikely to become difference makers.

And I won’t even begin to discuss the “fixes” needed to build a Championship caliber Offensive Line, and while there was some improvement from 2020 to 2021, it is still a long way from Championship caliber.

Let’s just say, more often than not Kenneth Walker created his own running lanes. He led the country in “Yards after contact”. Nevertheless, the Spartans acquired 2, O-Linemen, yet none ranked higher than 3-Stars, whilst Ohio State acquired 3, O-Linemen, of which two were 4-Stars.

Once again, if the Spartans want to compete against the best, then they need to acquire the same level of talent as the Championship contenders…


The Portal vs “Camping” at Michigan State (assessing character, chemistry, commitment and coachability):

Prior to the advent of the Transfer Portal, the top college coaches and best recruiters would only offer scholarships to recruits if that recruit was evaluated on campus during “summer camp”.

That means prospective recruits would be required to “camp” in the summers between their sophomore, junior or senior years…or at the minimum, required to “camp” between their junior and senior seasons.

Of course Mark Dantonio was one of those coaches who deployed that recruiting philosophy and that is how MD found “diamonds in the rough” including but not limited to Darqueze Dennard, Le’Veon Bell, and Jack Conklin to name just 3.

Summer Camp provides a coaching staff with at least 5 days of uninterrupted “hands on” training and evaluation, which essentially enables a Coaching staff to assess character, chemistry, commitment and coachability.

On the other hand, the Transfer Portal is more akin to “spinning the wheel of fortune”.

The Portal becomes an unreliable guessing game based upon “YouTube” videos and personal references. The Portal worked out OK for Kenneth Walker III, and the Transfer Portal worked out OK for Joe Burrow at LSU, and Justin Fields at Ohio State, but who are the other game changers acquired via the Transfer Portal?

Last season the Spartans lost 27 players via the Transfer Portal and gained 18, which is a turnover of nearly 50 players, yet I suggest the magnitude of that roster turnover is most often a recipe for chaos as compared to a recipe for success, and that means conventional recruiting will continue to be the lifeblood of college football for the foreseeable future.

Yet, if “camping” is properly utilized as a recruiting tool for conventional recruiting, more often than not it will provide a reliable assessment of character, chemistry, commitment and coachability because after all, those traits are the essence of building a team!

Let’s hope the Spartans rediscover “Camping” as a recruiting tool.


At the bottom line:

It is not my intent to disparage Mel Tucker or the 10 win season Spartan Football achieved.

To the contrary, I celebrate everything that was accomplished in 2021, but I have said many times, if the goal is winning Championships (which the Spartans haven’t achieved since 2015), then recruiting data tells us Mel Tucker and his coaching staff have a lot of work ahead.

Was there improvement from 2020 to 2021? Yes, of course!

Is it sustainable? That is yet to be determined.

We can start by asking the question, will the Spartans find another Kenneth Walker III who is capable of creating his own running lanes? And while 10 victories is impressive, there is still no niche in the Trophy case for 2nd & 3rd Place finishes.

Thank you for reading.

And in closing, I wish each of you the best of good health, hope, happiness and peace at Christmas and throughout the New Year.

Happy Holidays to all.