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Take Two: Does Dantonio get enough credit for recruiting wins?

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

Mark Dantonio
Mark Dantonio (AP Images)

Take Two returns with a daily offering tackling a handful of issues in the college football landscape. National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and a local or regional expert from the network.

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Since 2010, when it comes to top prospects in the state of Michigan, it has not been the Wolverines who have landed the majority of No. 1 players. Ohio State and Notre Dame have had marginal success there.

It’s been Michigan State. And by a wide margin. In that time frame, the Spartans have landed five of the top-rated prospects in the state: Detroit Southeastern’s William Gholston, Detroit Renaissance’s Lawrence Thomas, Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison’s Aaron Burbridge, Southfield (Mich.) Southfield A&T’s Malik McDowell and Detroit Cass Tech’s Kalon Gervin from the last recruiting cycle.

The top-rated prospect in the state this year is East Kentwood offensive lineman Logan Brown, who’s committed to Wisconsin. The only No. 1 prospect from the state of Michigan to pick the Wolverines during this stretch is Detroit Cass Tech receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones in the 2017 class.

The breakdown of No. 1 players in Michigan since 2010 looks like this: Michigan State (five), Notre Dame (two), Michigan (one), Ohio State (one), Wisconsin (one).

Does coach Mark Dantonio receive enough respect for the job he does landing high-end talent in Michigan - especially in a conference that seems to only talk about Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh all the time?


“Michigan State’s success on the field, and in recruiting circles, is a bit of an elephant in the room, even here in Michigan. But Dantonio’s success isn’t always measured by high school recruiting rankings. It’s been a combination of a few high-end recruits, such as those ranked No. 1 in the state in recent years, and quality three-star harvests.

“Dantonio doesn’t chase the recruiting rankings, but if he scores in that category, he’ll use it to promote his purposes. However, he also promotes the fact that in 2010, the year that began the trend mentioned above, Michigan State signed Le’Veon Bell and Darqueze Dennard as two-star recruits out of Ohio and Georgia. Dennard won the Jim Thorpe Award, starred for a team that finished ranked No. 3 in the polls in 2013, and became a first-round draft pick. Bell is arguably the best running back in the NFL. And Michigan State signed the No. 1 player in the state that year in William Gholston, who starred for three years, became a fourth-round pick and made it cool for in-state blue-chippers to choose Michigan State.

“Without Gholston’s trend-setting signature, I’m not sure Detroiters Lawrence Thomas (No. 1 in 2011) and Malik McDowell (No. 1 in 2014) would have followed. Michigan State also nabbed current NFL wide receiver Aaron Burbridge as the top player in the state in 2012 and cornerback Kalon Gervin this year.

“Each of these players are from Detroit or the Detroit area. For Michigan State fans, the biggest trend change since 2010, compared to preceding decades, is the Spartans’ ability to ring the bell for its share of top talent in the Detroit area. This has become one of the staples for Dantonio’s on-field success in the fall. To answer your question: Does Dantonio receive enough respect in comparison to the attention that Harbaugh and Meyer receive? Yes and no.

“Meyer has earned the respect he receives. As for the Michigan comparison, Dantonio is caught in a news cycle in which pundits seem more likely to discuss all of the great things they believe Michigan is going to do in the coming years rather than acknowledge what has actually taken place on the field, and in some cases on the recruiting trail. When championship forecasts and promises on behalf of the pundits don’t come to fruition for Michigan, then the simple drill is to rewind and enter the same forecasts into the echo chamber, rinse and repeat.

“Michigan State fans have laughingly accepted a publicity and respect deficit for decades. Michigan State fans are left wondering if the current form is a byproduct of click bait media or general ignorance.”


“It’s surprising that Michigan State has had more No. 1 guys. You assume most top kids go to Michigan, not just because of the way Harbaugh has recruited, but also the way Brady Hoke recruited. It’s an impressive job by Dantonio. He doesn’t get enough credit for recruiting the state well.

“And he’s also known as one of the best talent evaluators out there, as well. Not only are they getting top-quality, in-state kids but they’re also getting kids from Michigan and other states that they develop into top players. They’ve had at least a couple two-star kids land in the first round of the NFL Draft.

“They’re a program that not only recruits at a high level in their home state but they also develop players from other areas.”