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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 6, 2008
COACH DANTONIO: Appreciate everybody coming. Got a couple notes before we start. Just want to try to keep this probably within 45 minutes or so, so we'll start the process very, very quickly.
First, I want to thank our players, our players that are currently here, Tyler Hoover and Johnny Adams. They will be available here sometime in the next 45 minutes or so.
But I want to thank everybody who was involved in the recruiting process across Michigan State University, in particular, our president, Lou Anna Simon; our provost, Kim Wilcox and our director of admissions, Jim Connor; our coaches and faculty and staff that worked with the young people as they came in on visits and the student body on campus, tremendous when we brought guys to basketball games and they just chanted their names and everything else that went on. They did an outstanding job and just wanted to thank them for their enthusiasm, because it doesn't get done with just one person here. It takes an entire program to sell itself, the new facility, the education aspects, the social aspects of every campus environment.
We have an outstanding class, outstanding. I think many of our guys, two of them sitting right over here could have gone down to the final day and had offers from almost every place in the country. We had a couple other individuals with the same type of opportunities. They didn't go through that drama, and we are very excited about the class. I want to thank them for their trust. I want to thank all of our players that are coming here for their trust they have put in, not only myself out our coaches and the entire family here at Michigan State University.
Michigan State is it a special place and will continue to be that type of place where individuals will get a great academic experience, athletic experience and social experience. Since coming back here, I see just the tradition continues to be the same.
Recruiting is about the needs that we have, I think that's important to understand. Every program has needs as we go through it. It's about the evaluation of three things in my mind. It's about the evaluation, first of all, of character as a person, because if you don't believe n that, then you go out and look at all of these signs that are in the facility and you look at what Vince Lombardi was able to do and all of the great coaches; if you don't believe that, then why are the scenes up, so it's good character and quality individuals. It's about academics, it's about the athletic ability of every single player that we bring here.
It a little bit unusual -- not unusual, but different from last year in the fact that I believe out of the 21 players that we signed this year, I think 16 of them were in our camp, all but three we saw play as coaches, we saw them play game film being not just scrimmage or something like that but saw them play games in their collective stadiums. And so we had a great evaluation of them in terms of their athletic ability.
All of the evaluations, everybody has to be evaluated I think, and it takes place for over a year. And so we started I think on Tyler, for example, shoot, last year at this time, I believe, and he spent many times up here with his family and himself coming up here to find out, was this the type of place that he wanted to come.
There's so many different factors that enter into; I can't even beginning to there with that. But I can tell that you this process starts now for the 2009 class, and really, I think today I talked to many of the top juniors in the state already today. So this is something that is ongoing and the process is very, very long.
You know, we've had various people on campus throughout this entire stage. I think that as I said, Tyler has probably been on, nine, ten, times, Johnny has been on three or four and many of our others players, Fred Smith and Charles Burrell has been quite often. But many of the players, they have to have a knowledge, of this place, and it's the knowledge that they have the intangibles that we find out about that really make the difference I think in the recruiting process.
There's so many things that go into being what I would term a winner, and I believe that the character has a great deal to do with that process.
Our needs this year. We addressed a number of needs, linebacker. Last we're we took one linebacker, Greg Jones. Not because we couldn't -- that we didn't need more, but he was the quality of one quality linebacker that we recruited and we wanted to hold on things until this year. So we took four linebackers this year and we'll talk about them shortly.
Defensive backs, we only took one last year, and he started for us, as well, and so we took four.
Offensive line was a position in need with losing four guys this year, having a couple guys medicaled and then losing two next year. So we recruited four offensive linemen with the prospect of having one additional guy in the class that could move over to that in Chris McDonald.
Wide receiver position is a position we felt like we needed to continue to recruit, so we took three wide receivers, as well.
So really when you look at our class, it was about taking guys from a position of need. It was about keeping the size of the class really what we would talk about as probably 21 is ideal for us. And the fact that we could have stretched it a little bit more, to sign a couple more guys, and probably would have, but with 16 seniors next year, it allows us to maybe add a couple to that number next year, as we begin the 2009 class.
We recruited Michigan very, very well and signed 13 guys from the state of Michigan. I think the first place you have to start when you are a young program, and we still are young by most people's standard, you have to start in the State of Michigan; you have to start where you're from. You're going to know the most about those. They are going to have the ties to your program and you'll have the best chance to land those individuals, and they are going to play more emotionally and more enthusiastically for you because they are in-state players.
So we signed 13 players from the State of Michigan, and extremely proud of that, and outstanding players, very good football players.
We took six players from Ohio, and Ohio is, I guess, that's where I'm from, and we have a lot of people that we know there. It's been a state that we've recruited quite often in the past here at Michigan State so we took six players from there.
And we took a player from Atlanta, Georgia and then we also took a player from Virginia. So we worked hard committing ourselves close to home and then working outside, and we were able to work very well through that.
Our long-term goals as I talked to recruits, our long-term goals are always about being able to talk to these guys ten years down the road, 12 years down the road, and that's what we want to do long-term. So we want to establish those relationships as people, and I think that will carry us through.
Short term, when we recruit young men, I hope that we do that in a respectful way, and at the end of the day, they feel like Michigan State respected them, their privacy, their family and the way that they went about that process, and I think we've been able to do that.
What I want to do now is really get busy with the film and go through each person, each person systematically to let you see a little bit about them, talk about them as individuals, answer some questions, and then get these guys up here, because it not about me, guys; it's about the guys we are bringing in. And as I said earlier, this is an outstanding class of people, of character, quality individuals, of athletes that will play at the highest caliber and of guys that expect to win championships here.
I talked to Charles Burrell this morning and asked him to do one thing. I said, "Look down at your feet right now. Look down at your feet." And he looked down there I said, "You just imagine those feet playing in the middle of the Rose Bowl, because that's where they will be within four from now or five years from now." And I can almost promise every young person that comes here, that will happen, that will happen, I truly believe that.
We'll throw up one guy, I'll talk about him a little bit, we'll let that one -- and if I'm done talking and film finishes, I may still be talking about that individual for a second, but just stop the film so it doesn't run into the next guy.
What we did was we systematically approached it like this. Our wide receiver group is up first. The first young man I want to talk about was Fred Smith from Southeastern High School, Coach English and Fred is the No. 2-ranked player in the State of Michigan. He was a commit in the summer and had a press conference; it was very dramatic in a lot of respects and Fred has stayed strong throughout the recruit process, and actually recruited a lot of the young men that we are talking with himself.
Outstanding individual, big-bodied receiver, tremendous basketball player, 6-2, 205 pounds right now. Came to camp tremendous athletic ability, body movement, gets off the line of scrimmage very well, great hands down the field. I think that he had almost 1,000 yards, about 600 yards-plus his senior season, and as a young man who could have went anywhere in this country.
So Fred Smith is an outstanding person, he was in camp and high school All-American, and I think that that covers Fred. You know, funny guy, keeps Coach Enos guessing. Coach Enos was the recruiter in that one. Outstanding young man. He will have an opportunity to play almost immediately coming in this next year. So we look for great things from Fred.
Next young man we have, Myles White. Miles is from Stevenson High School, where they went 13-1 this year. He's ninth ranked indoor 60-meter runner in the country right now in hurdles. Outstanding punt returner. Came to camp and displayed outstanding skills just in judging the ball, deep ball off the punts. Ran great routes. We worked him, and I think he came to two camps.
And we did various drills on these guys when they come to camp and he was a guy over and over showed the ability to catch the ball in traffic, all types of catches, had great speed. Played for Tim Gabel at Stevenson, actually played for the Spartans, were 13-1, they advanced to the state finals, qualified for four events in the state track meet last year. He's a junior, outstanding long jumper which is (22-3) which shows great explosion, triple jumps, as well. Also an outstanding student and a gamer, a gamer. Father ran track here and also has a twin brother that high-jumps 6-8, so we are looking forward to them coming.
Next guy up there, John Deyo, an offensive lineman, we have Keshawn Martin will show up as an athlete and will play wide receiver, as well. John is an offensive lineman from Battle Creek, Michigan, coached by Mark Blaesser at Gull Lake High School.
Actually playing basketball right now, about 6-5, 270, a leading rebounder there and the leading scorer for them, outstanding student, another young man that we had in camp. I think sometimes when you watch an offensive lineman on film, it's hard to appreciate those guys because they don't run with the ball for 60, 70 yards with the touchdown pass.
But will be an outstanding player here, very, very athletic in all respects. And when he came to camp and Coach Roushar put him through all of the different things that we attribute offensive line play to, he did an outstanding job. Mark Staten was the lead recruiter on that, young man, as well as going back tonight, Dan Enos also recruited him. So both those guys would be individuals that you would be able to talk to, but excellent student.
Next young man, Zach Hueter from North Branch High School, and Zach is actually a tremendous basketball player, actually ranked as the No. 9 prospect, senior power forward in this year's basketball class. So he's a young man that weights about 295, about 6-7. You watch him on the basketball courts, you watch him in individual drills, very, very athletic and the ability to drop his weight, pivot and do the things that you have to do at the offensive line position. Coached by Pat Forster and excellent student.
We had an opportunity to watch him throughout the month of January, and you know, made the commitment to recruit him as a student athlete and was extremely happy when he decided to come to Michigan State University at this time. He will be an outstanding player for us and has a tremendous upside in athletic ability. Huge person about the size of Pete Clifford and we will look for him to get involved very, very quickly on the offensive line position at Michigan State.
Next person is Ethan Ruhland, and Ethan is from Lake Orion High School, coached by Chris Bell. He is a guy that we had seen the last year at this time, one of the first guys that I really watched on film and said this guy is an outstanding football player. Played defensive end, defensive tackle, and also offensive tackle.
But whatever you watched, you didn't have to watch a highlight film, you could just watch game film and he showed up over and over and over again. Another outstanding student and guy that came to camp, and another guy that I think have a tremendous career here because of his work ethic, attention to detail and athletic ability here at Michigan State. He is a guy that could play either/or, any of the five positions: Offensive tackle, guard or center. So I think he has a very rich future ahead of him.
Next young man, Anthony Woods. A lot of these individuals played on outstanding football teams, very successful football teams. Anthony is one of those guys in that respect. You can see him here clubbing a guy, you can see how powerful he is, a guy that can play on defense as well, plays basketball, another big athlete, about 315 pounds, coached by Bill Howard at Melvindale, and he's another guy that came to camp and we watched him in different camps along the way.
But when you have a guy in camp and you see him at the offensive line, how athletic they are and the power they display and the different things you ask him to do, you can take them and work all your drills and work them in different environments, get some very good pass rushers against them to see how they work against that, and Anthony was at the cutting edge, really, as a big athlete for our class this year. So another young man that had many opportunities to go to school at various places. So we are extremely happy that he has decided to come to Michigan State.
Caulton Ray, a running back from Brother Rice High School. If you look at Caulton, black belt in karate, extremely flexible guy that came to camp, and came to camp with some pretty highly-tauted running backs. And at the end of camp we really looked at the films, because we film all that stuff, and said that guy right there is as good as anybody in the state. Great hands, put him at wide receiver, he played very well. Put him at corner, tailback, he played very, very well. He did everything that we asked him to do. Very, very -- a guy that can play a lot of different positions, ran for 1100 yards this past year on an outstanding football team.
And if you look across Michigan, Brother Rice played as good of football and against as good of football teams in the state. Played out of state at Penn Hills and Moeller High School in Cincinnati. This young man has a tremendous amount of experiences. I went into his home and saw countless karate trophies of him winning different subdivisions and divisions in karate throughout his life, and so an outstanding athlete, and he will be a dynamic player for us in all respects. 195 pounds right now, and very, very powerful, very, very great change of direction.
Glenn Winston is another guy from Denby High School, another very, very successful program this year. And Glenn played for Greg Wilkins there, and I can only tell you this; that when you have a coach who has been coaching as long as Coach Wilkins come up here and bring his young man here and say that he will do anything for this young man in terms of anything he can do off the field for him to succeed; when you find a guy that coaches as many years as Coach Wilkins has, you know he has great character, extremely tough individual.
Played in a predominately a three-back offense almost the entire time; he ran with it, blocked, never saw him taking a play off, very, very talented, big back, big athlete. Can play a variety of positions for us. We'll use him at running back. Will be a tremendous player for us. Again, and I think the sky is the limit for these running backs, and I think they will have an opportunity to come in and compete and I think running back is a position of strength for us right now with Javon Ringer coming back, and I think these guys will come in and compete for playing time and position, but it will be on them and they certainly have the skills and power and explosiveness. So we are very, very happy with those individuals, with our running backs.
Keshawn Martin. Keshawn is an interesting story. If you watch the tape closely, you see him everywhere. I've got a film from Coach Enos, he showed Coach Arnett (ph) and he showed Coach Treadwell and myself and I wonder, where has this guy been? And he's a guy that has sort of came out of nowhere, had a junior year where maybe he wasn't advertised as much as some. He's from John Glenn High School. Coached by Dan Young in basketball. Mark Anderson and his assistant got together with Brian Swineheart (ph) and decided to make a film of this young man and send it out.
He's a guy that's phenomenal. I think he fits the bill in terms of running -- playing the position that was vacated recently, maybe by did he have on, but he's extremely fast, very versatile, can play corner, wide receiver and he's played quarterback and he can be a tailback, he's a big guy, a six-foot plus guy. I watched him play basketball, he takes off with the ball from the basically top of the key or foul line and slams it, numerous times, throughout the game. They are 15-1 right now. He's a very, very good athlete and he's a gamer and comes to compete.
We are extremely happy to have him. He accounted for 1,500 yards last year in 2007, whether that's running, throwing, returning punts, whatever it is, but he was a multi-dimensional player and he's another guy we were very, very excited about. And I can tell you this, that guy just sort of dropped in our lap, and it's amazing how we were able to recruit him in a very short time. But he could have gone anywhere probably in America had his film gotten out. Extremely fast, they said they clocked him at 3:48, that's flying. He will be an outstanding player for us.
What we tried to do is group these guys together because I think Keshawn can play a variety of positions, as a skill athlete that we recruited. When we look at Chris McDonald, he's what we would see say is a power athlete, multi-dimensional, could play tight end, could play defensive line for us, could play on the offensive line for us, as well.
And Chris is a guy who is 270 pounds right now and is running 400 meters at 260 pounds last year, and is an outstanding athlete in his own right. He will come here with the opportunity to play tight end, and possibly defensive tackle, because he has that type of accurate will he tick ability. Coach Roushar is already asking for him but that will be the third step.
He's an outstanding student, competitor, and with many of these guys, three-year starters for their teams, and he played at Henry Ford High School for Jay Anthes, and is the all-time leading sack, leads the team in sacks all-time at Henry Ford High School.
So another excellent student with a tremendous upside, very powerful young man, and I'm interested and Coach Enos is interested in watching him run track this year to see if he can duplicate that time, but when I last saw him, he's 270 and growing, so big-bodied guy.
Drew Stevens is what we call a big-skill athlete, plays a variety of positions, played tailback. He's a guy that played for Ed Terwilliger at Olentangy High School. I've known Ed for a long time. His Michigan State ties with his family up this way.
Came to our camp, long jump almost ten feet, vertical jump 34 inches, ran the fastest shuttle time, three-code shuttle which is a drill we do, was the fastest that came into our camp skill or otherwise.
So he's a tremendous athlete and excellent student. We'll start him at linebacker, but he has the ability to go to fullback and the size to go to fullback and could possibly even be a tailback, a big tailback and short yardage situations, much like J.U. was. But catching the ball very well out of the backfield and displayed a lot of talent when he was here in camp.
Tyler Hoover, defensive end, sitting over to my left. Tyler probably was one of the first young men that decided to come to Michigan State, probably in the top three or four guys that made his commitment after many trips up here. Had over 40 scholarship offers from around the country, was down at the All-American Combine, could have played in the All-American Bowl had he decided to do that. Looked at many different opportunities.
Now, I will say this: He weighed 240 pounds when we recruited him, and now he weighs 270. I will also say that these guys are enrolled and went through our first winter conditioning program at 5:30 this morning, and that man performed as well as anybody on the entire team in terms of running, in term of being in shape. He will play and be an immediate contributor to us this year, and we are thrilled to have him and his family.
And as I told him on the day that he committed to us. I appreciate the trust that he has put into us, and not just as football coaches, but as people. He will be another young man that will take us to the top. I truly believe that. He is a championship-caliber player and athlete, and you will have an opportunity to meet him and talk to him after this.
The thing that impresses me maybe the most about Tyler is that when I watch the film on him, not only is he a great player, play-in and play-out, but he plays with great emotion. He plays with great emotion, and those things are contagious to individuals and that rubs off on others. And I think that he will be a leader for this football team in a very, very short time.
And I keep telling him, 300 pounds, he may go inside, but right now he's playing defensive end. And to me, you've got to be able to control that see-gap area, that area where the tight end lines up. At 270 pounds with the work ethic that he has, I think that is in the making, so Tyler Hoover will be an outstanding contributor this year.
Cameron Jude from Virginia. And Cameron is a guy that I must have watched his highlight tape about 70, or 80 plays, about five times. I just kept watching and watching and watching how he went through different things and how hard he played when I watched the game played. He's about 6-4, 235 pounds. He's a guy that's going to come in here probably about 250 pounds. Outstanding, three-year starter down at Manchester High School, Ted Gill was his recruiter.
And a young man that recorded 41 tackles for a loss this year. He was recruited by a lot of people down in that area of the country, and we are very, very excited he has chosen Michigan State to come and another guy with tremendous upside, played tighten, defensive end, a little bit of linebacker as a junior, and has athletic ability and should be a tremendous pass rusher for us.
Jerel Worthy. Jerel is another guy that came to camp, 285 pounds, I think he's grown an inch, he's 6-3-plus right now, from Huber Heights. Jay Minton is the coach there. Wayne High School has put out players every year; that's where Marcus Freeman has come from at Ohio State recently. But selected to play in the Big 33 game down in Ohio/Pennsylvania. Very athletic big man. Came here in camp and displayed skills, came out and spent three days here. Another young man that probably could have went a lot of different places but committed to us early in the process during the season.
But when you look at him, and you watch his get-off and you watch his ability to rush the passer and take on blocks, he actually played with a knee injury this year a little bit and made every single game so he could play with toughness. He'll play with toughness. But hopefully he doesn't get too big and he keeps his movement. But he will be a phenomenal player for us very, very coachable guy, plays with the lower -- with a lot of lower-body explosion and we're excited to have Jerel with us, another guy as I said earlier that came to camp.
Johnny Adams. Johnny Adams from Akron. Ricky Powers, Michigan tailback, was his coach there. Has enrolled already.
Interesting thing I think about Johnny is that one of the -- I've heard it spoken on numerous times that probably one of the top returners in Ohio has a punt returner kick returner since Antoine Winfield came out off Ohio, heard that statement numerous times from down in Ohio.
To me what was really interesting is that Johnny is a corner, came up here and showed unbelievable skills at corner and wide receiver in our camp and it didn't take long to see him in camp to see what an immediate impact he would make. But the thing that sort of impresses me, the guy must have some toughness because when we went and watched him play in person, Coach Dayton came back and said he's playing middle linebacker. He also played a little bit of defensive end.
So rather than being stuck out at corner and just playing there the entire game, they took their best football player, moved him around so he could be involved as much as possible in contact. And that impresses me as a defensive coach, the fact that he will come up to hit you.
Excellent ball skills. Another guy that camped, almost 1,800 all-purpose yards at Butchel High school and was a guy that was recruited by almost the entire Big Ten.
Charles Burrell was our first commit last spring, was our first commit. He's a quarterback safety that has counted for almost 2500 yards of offense as a quarterback, with 23 touchdowns. We recruit him here as a safety, a big body safety, a thumper what I would call, a tremendous athletic ability, ball skills, has the ability to bend his knees and straight-line break, covered a lot of ground so he should be an immediate contributor for us, could play the quarterback position.
If we were looking for a guy to step in there and do some different things, is athletic enough really to be a tailback here -- well, you watch him run the football, I think when we looked at this highlight film, he had like 28 or 30 runs of over 20-plus yards. So he's a tremendous young person, and a lot of people that tried to come in on Charles throughout the recruiting process, throughout the Big Ten, and Charles stayed with his commitment, and was true to his word.
Another young than that I appreciate the trust that he's put in us as coaches and in this program. Many of our players are very, very excited about this class and can't wait to get on campus and they will all be here this summer and will have an opportunity to contribute very early in their careers, and I would think that Chuck is one of those guys that will have that opportunity, as well.
But a guy who comes out of PSL with another, you know, great legacy really in terms of what he has done there for Coach English.
Next young man, Trenton Robertson from Bay City, up in Bay City, Michigan. A guy that is extremely quick, explosive young man. Came to camp, again, Morley Fraser is his coach and came to camp, great ball skills, outstanding tailback, corner, safety, wherever you put him, he played. Whenever you put him, he played and he played with toughness.
When you go in that high school up there, it doesn't take long to find out about Trenton Robinson and the type of person he is in terms of his character, the way he cares about young people and the things that he does away from the football field to impact people.
So plays basketball, very explosive young man, Coach Narduzzi recruited him and again an interesting story to me about him, he's about, I don't know, 5-11,5-10 but in basketball, he plays in the paint, and there's only one other guy that I know that did that in my recruiting time as a coach and that was Fox, a four-year starter at Ohio State. He has explosiveness and can get up right off a dead surface and can slam it. A very explosive player and very tenacious player. Another young man who had a lot of yards both in terms of punt return, kick return and pushing cards, as well as being an outstanding defensive back.
Brynden Trawick from Atlanta, Georgia. Brynden had numerous offers, and another guy that when I came with Coach Arnett (ph), and we talked about what type of safeties, and we want to recruit thumpers, guys, downhill players, guys that can blitz, guys that can play the deep part of the field. Brynden is that type of individual. I sat and watched him on tape and then I met him in person, saw him last week or the week before in person as he sat there, all 218 pounds, 6-3 of him with almost a 22-foot long jump, you get an idea of the explosiveness that he has as an individual.
Kick returner, returned some punts as well, but an outstanding defensive back, safety and wide receiver, as well, and he will be another young man that will have an opportunity to contribute, I think immediately. I really do believe that a lot of these guys will have an opportunity to walk in the door, based how they pick up a system and based on how well they are able to continue to focus on the task at hand and not become disenchanted with being away from home and those type of things.
We are going to have some guys who are going to be able to step up and play. Last year we had six guys to play, and to play but at the end of the year if you would have looked at our football team on the guys that we had, we probably would have had up to ten players that could have played end of this year and been major contributors, and I think he is another man that will have that opportunity. We are extremely happy to have him here, just an outstanding football player as a safety.
Steve Gardiner, linebacker. Linebacker group a position of need, lost three and only recruited one, much like the defensive back situation. He's from Dublin, Ohio, went to the state semifinals where they lost to the eventual state champion in a very, very close game. Very athletic, had 172 tackles this year, plays basketball, explosive, came to camp, ran very well in camp, jumped very well in camp. 30-plus inch vertical, almost a 9-5 or so long jump which shows explosiveness as a high school player and tenacious young man and he will be a gamer, I can promise you that.
Ran for almost a thousand yards as a junior, actually rushed for over a thousand yards as a juror, six-yard average and a young man that is also a very, very good student, another guy that came to camp. I know I'm repeating myself on some of these guys, but you know, reminds me a lot really of A.J. Hawk in terms of what he brought to Ohio State. And A.J. was not the fastest linebacker coming in, or the biggest linebacker coming in; he was just the best linebacker coming in, and it was because of character and because of toughness and many of those things I think that Steve possesses.
David Rolf from Piqua, Ohio. David was involved in the Big School State Championship as a junior, teammate of Brandon Zink (ph) from Ohio State and outstanding young person, excellent student, very versatile performer, could play -- he's about 6-3, 6-4, 210 pounds, 220 pounds. Playing basketball now, could probably defensive end for us probably in time but we recruit him as a linebacker, very, very skilled. Quick jumper when I watched him play basketball, Coach Gill and I drove by and stopped to watch that young man play basketball, without a doubt, he was a guy that we felt like we needed to have here at Michigan State.
Came for a visit, cancelled his visit to Pac 10 team the next week and we were very, very fortunate to get him. He was the southwest conference -- southwest Ohio, entire southwest of Ohio, which includes all Dayton and Cincinnati schools, Defensive Player of the Year this year and also was an outstanding receiver. Plays for Bill Nees from Piqua. Excellent coach, and very, very disciplined program.
So we have a young man who, again, like Steve Gardner, is a guy that comes here with a lot of discipline and a lot of emotion and is used to winning in a lot of respects and has been on championship teams.
Jamiihr Williams. Jamiihr is from Trotwood-Madison High School, Maurice Douglas is his coach, another young man who comes from a school that is very rich in tradition. Maurice has put out great players here in the past five or six years. He's played defensive end. He actually saw him play a little bit of defensive back in some films and he's an outstanding linebacker, gets rid, sheds blockers, big-bodied guy, 6-2, 6-3, 220-plus pounds, very good athlete and another guy that committed to us early in the process.
And sometimes when you commit early in the process, I think sometimes you're a little bit lost and forgotten by many of the media, but when you have the opportunity to see these guys in camp and work with them in camp, then again, watch them play in person, I think they are tremendous football players, and outstanding. I think I've use that had word about a hundred times now, outstanding.
I think that that is the end of it, right? And those are our 21 commitments. I tried to go through these as systematically as possible. Right now where we're at, we had our fourth quarter program today at 5:30 this morning and it's got to be about our current players right now, which these two young men are current.
Our other players will join us as we go to camp in August and we will continue to lay a foundation to where we want to go. We'll continue to build the program and strengthen it in every respect. As I said after our Bowl game, or going into our Bowl game, I think our program took two steps up this last year. It's important that we not take one step back. It's important that we continually move forward with our program, and we look forward to the future. We've got to put 2008 behind us in the recruiting aspect of it, we have to look at 2009 and focus on that.
I'll say one thing to these two guys here that I think I probably said when they were recruited and I'll say to our entire class right now. Our communities used to say: Give me a place to stand and I can move the world; I think you have a place to stand at Michigan State. You have an opportunity to come here and be something special.
This is the first year that we have worked on our entire recruiting class for the entire year. I am very, very impressed with the quality of individuals that we have in our class and the athletic ability and the intangibles that it brings with us and we are looking forward to the future.
Right now what I'll do is take some questions and I'll get our guys up here and talk to you and our coaches will also remain here throughout this wintery day here in Michigan.
Q. If you were to grade your class, what would you grade it?
COACH DANTONIO: I got asked that last year and it's tough to grade a class before they come on to the field and you see them compete with the players you currently have. But I would say our class is B, B-minus, however you want to say it, but we are in there as a B.
We have some outstanding young people here and I always try and judge it by when I look at our class and I put our guys up in it terms of our last year's class up on the board and ask would, we take that guy again or not, is he going to be a contributor, would we take him again, is he going to take this program to where we want to head, and last year's class showed up.
So it's up to our class this year to show up. But I believe they will and I believe you'll see numerous players from this class next year playing at Spartan Stadium.
Q. If you count on reasonable percentages playing out there, do you feel based on your particular ability to assess talent that your class is going to be --
COACH DANTONIO: Well, I don't want to flatter ourselves or our coaches, but been doing this for 25 years and doing this at a high level for 25 years, and I think that we all are pretty good evaluators of talent.
You know, we look at a lot of players. We don't just look at one aspect of them. Sometimes I think you watch a highlight film, we dive deep into every individual, not only their playing ability, but their character as people and many, many other things. And I feel very, very confident that these guys will play at a big-ten caliber.
And the one thing I think you need to notice about our class is that we are building this for the long haul. We are not doing this short-term. Not interested in bringing a guy in or a bunch of guys in, I should say a bunch of guys, numerous people in that are going to be here for a year, year and a half. I want our players to understand what it means to play for the trophies that we play for. I want our players to understand what it means to play at Michigan State University and to understand the traditions that go along with that. So we are building for the future and I am very, very excited about it.
Trying to smile up here a little bit but there's a light in my eyes.
Q. You've mentioned trust and how you appreciated the fact that these kids are trusting this coaching staff. What chance are these kids taking on you and this program?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, you know, I often times talk to our players about, this is more than just a small decision that they make. This is about -- this is about a lifetime decision. Probably other than when they get married, this is the biggest decision that they will make in their life, because it's a place where they will be from for the rest of their life, hopefully, their best friends will be from here. A lot of times where they are employed or what job they take or what area of the country they leave in, it will be with them for the rest of their life. And it's a big, big decision.
So when I asked them to put their trust in me, I don't take that -- I don't take that for granted. I think the trust is earned and you know, we are going to earn that trust over a period of time here, four to five years -- I don't know if I'm answering the question.
I do appreciate them having that trust, and it has to be earned, so maybe we have earned a bit of it for them at least being here.
Q. Every year that's attention given to big-name recruits in the media, and there were a few considering Michigan State, but made other decisions at the end. What were your thoughts when you heard about those decisions, especially those who came down to the last few days or today?
COACH DANTONIO: First of all, it's about our class here, today, at Michigan State. But as I said earlier, our short-term goal when we recruit these young people is to do it with a certain amount of respect. Everybody has an opportunity to go where they want to go and do the things that they need to do in their life.
So as long as we walk away and I walk away feeling like we've done everything that we can in a respectful way for those individuals or for the individuals that are coming to Michigan State, I feel good about what we've done. And you know, it's on to next thing's. It's yesterday's news.
I live in Michigan. I'm at Michigan State University. The exposure our players will get from Michigan State University is what's critical and important and that exposure will be for the next four to five years. It's not a one-day news clipping clubbing and will be read one day and forgotten about. These guys are here for the duration and you will talk about them for the next four or five years and that's what's exciting.
Q. Can you recount that story with Charles again; did he call you after he committed, and how much did you instill that in all of the players that you recruited?
COACH DANTONIO: Oh, yeah, I talked to him today. I talked to him today about that. Our guys are very, very excited. I think we talked to every single person, I've talked to every single person, and without question, our guys are very, very excited about their opportunities here, and the direction that the program is going.
We have the new facility, things are turning here and everything goes in cycles. Everything goes in cycles, as I've said earlier when I first came here, and Michigan State cycle, we're turning. It's turning. And I can feel it turning by when I walk out there in winter conditioning and I can feel it turning when we walk across the state. Those are positive things.
I talked about the Rose Bowl -- I think if you can't talk about the direction your program is going and have faith that it will get there, I think that we're selling ourselves short, so absolutely, I firmly believe that.
Q. What was your friendship with Nick Saban been affected by the recruiting process over the last couple weeks?
COACH DANTONIO: No, absolutely not. This is business, and you know, you handle your business, and there's a lot of people; Bob Stoops was a very, very good friend of mine and we were involved with a person that went there.
Across the board, it's about business, and there's a certain business aspect to this recruiting and you're trying to do the very best you can to get players to your program that will benefit you, both as a person, as a program, and will also benefit them. So, no, it's not a problem.
Q. Can you evaluate how you did in the state, in particular, you had a lot of battles against the University of Michigan as you will every year; would you like to branch out more, maybe get some more kids out of Florida and some of the other areas?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, in terms of that, I think we'll always battle here. I think there's the first thing that we have to do here in the State of Michigan. You'd better take care of people at home. Had we signed ten guys from Ohio and three from Michigan, the questions would have been, why didn't you sign more guys from Michigan?
So we need to branch out and we'll season to do that, but my thought has always been to take care of our home and do the very best we can here. Michigan is a great football state. And I looked across the state and I see probably 50 players that signed division one scholarships throughout this state and we are going to get our share, all the time we are going to get our share.
So I think we have to start here and then move outside of that. We are constantly critiquing ourselves and re-evaluating where we recruit. We were in Texas a little bit this year. Probably took away from the opportunities in Florida. We were in California a little bit this year, and actually came down to recruiting some very, very good players from those areas but it came down to competition to somebody from the Big 12 or somebody from the Pac 10, so we needed to evaluate, continue to critique our recruiting throughout the process and we'll continue to do that.
Q. (No microphone).
COACH DANTONIO: Well, we're going to win against Michigan, that's all that matters. That's all that matters.
Q. You talked about this being your first full year, and a lot of the Detroit public school coaches have talked about Michigan State and that relationship, and is that just as much a recruiting victory, the repairing of that relationship?
COACH DANTONIO: I think it is. When I first came here, the first thing I heard from many of you here is are you going to recruit the State of Michigan. That's the first thing I was asked, one of the first things I was asked in terms of recruiting. Michigan State had not been recruiting Michigan State too often, what are you going to do about that; you need to repair the relationships in-state with the high school coaches. We worked very, very hard to do that and that's an ongoing -- that's an ongoing situation.
In my role here as the coach as Michigan State University is not to just take the players out of Michigan to come to Michigan State. My role here is to service the community of coaches in the State of Michigan, period. Whether they want us to come from a clinic or want to come here to learn, we are going to service that community, and by doing that, I hope that we have a good relationship with them, a give and take relationship.
Q. Twofold question. First of all, when it gets down to indexing these recruiting classes, some of us believe there's a little bit more substance to these appraisals than a lot of people would argue --
COACH DANTONIO: Interesting, isn't it --
Q. And the second part, if you could articulate a little bit more in detail, why it's important, and I know Tom Izzo practices the same philosophy, to keep people intimately involved with your geography as the heart and soul of your recruiting base.
COACH DANTONIO: Well, answer your second question, first of all, I think the more people you're able to recruit closer to home, the more help you're going to get, the more atmosphere that people can appreciate, the more people know other individual, the more family can come to watch your players, watch their sons play.
All of those things I think are points that are points of strength for that university, points of issue that you can't overlook. The opportunity to see your son play every single Saturday; and to come to an environment like this and spend a day long here and see some of the football that's played in this stadium and across the Big Ten, you can't put a price tag on that, I don't think. That's an experience that lasts a lifetime. And you don't have it by yourself; everyone shares it, so it's shared with an entire family community and it's shared also with the community, whether it's from Battle Creek, or whether it's from, you know, Grant Ledge, or whether it's from Detroit. That entire community shares that.
So I think that's important.
Q. Can you talk about the recruiting strength and evaluators --
COACH DANTONIO: I think the evaluators try and do a good job and I think just like in everything these days, it's so computer-generated. There's so many different people trying to get a niche out there, creating a service or taking a certain area of the country and saying, I'm going to focus on this. I saw where Tyler -- Tyler, correct me if I'm wrong, did you play tight end this year? You did? Okay. He's a defensive end tight end and he's talked about playing tight end and being ranked as a tight end, being ranked -- I just don't know how people can do all that.
I think a lot of it is a little bit, you know, sketchy. They do a good job, but they dive in deep, I don't know how they do with multitudes of names and people. I don't know how they can. I know they make that their living but I just don't know how you can get deep into that.
So it is what it is in that respect, and I appreciate the job that they do, but I do think that the college recruiters get up close and personal with the individuals.
Thanks a lot guys, thanks for coming and sharing time here with our guys.
End of FastScripts