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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 4, 2009
COACH DANTONIO: Big day here at Michigan State University today, and I think without question we've had an outstanding class this year. When I look at it and I talk about our class, I think we first of all addressed needs that are very, very critical to the development of this football team. Balanced, three defensive backs, three linebackers, four defensive linemen, a kicker, a quarterback, two outstanding running backs, two tight ends, four offensive linemen. We really have addressed all aspects of a football team, and that will serve us well in the future.
When you look at our recruiting, I think the first thing you have to understand is that it's a process. We started this process over a year ago in recruiting these young people. A lot of these guys were at basketball games prior to last year's class even being signed. So this recruiting -- the art of recruiting, I guess, starts a year, year and a half, two years earlier sometimes, and I would just like to thank all the people that were involved publicly in doing that.
I think the first person that starts with is our president. Our president of this University has been very involved in meeting our recruits. Whenever she's had time, whenever she's had a moment, she's paused and taken the time to come and greet our people and talk with them individually.
I also think our athletic director, Mark Hollis, was very, very gracious in his time, always giving of his time, and his entire staff getting things done for us, and again, making himself available to speak with our recruits. When you can have your President Simon and Mark Hollis, the two leading people in the areas of athletic and the president of the University talk to recruits on a weekly basis every time they come in for a visit, I think that's very positive.
I'd like to thank our coaches. Our coaches have done an outstanding job. The process is very involved. Obviously the area coach is the first person that makes a decision on there's a possible recruit there, and he forms the initial relationships with the player, the coach, the high school coach, the family. And then it goes to the position coach, the coordinator, our strength, our training, our equipment people, everybody at the University, our students, the Izzone, all these people have an effect on a young person coming to Michigan State and being recruited here, so I would like to thank all of those people.
We started the process last year, and when September rolled around we had 16 commitments. We actually ended up with 23, but we had 16 firm, solid commitments. I never once had to worry about any of those young people leaving us and going elsewhere.
There's a direct correlation, I think, in that in terms of the relationships that were built by our coaches and the trust that their families put in us and the trust that we put in them and their families. When you have an opportunity to impact young people as a coach, as a college coach, an assistant coach, head coach, whatever, you look forward to coaching people who represent themselves so well on and off the field.
We had 17 players come to camp, football camp, this year of the 23. So we worked with them, and I think that's a very thorough evaluation of young people. We were able to see them do the things that they needed to do to be successful at this level. We saw 20 play in person as coaches, so we saw the good, the bad, how they related to their peers, how they reacted when they were down by 20 or how they acted when they were up by 20, how they acted after a good play, how they handled it when their coach got after them. We saw all aspects of them in watching a football game that they played in. I think those are two very thorough evaluations. You cannot be more thorough when you see a guy play in person and you have him in camp. I think those are your biggest indicators for you.
This class is a nationally ranked class. I've read that quite often. I think the thing that our players have to understand as they come in here is they'll be judged continuously throughout their next four years. A very talented class, as we said earlier. What they have to do now and what we must do is develop them, help them mature as college students, help them grow from a teenager to a young man at age 21 or 22 and develop them and win championships, and that's what we're here for. I think without question these young people can do that.
The core of what we recruited are from the Midwest, 12 players from the state of Michigan. When you look at David Barrent from out in Iowa, has strong ties with Dan Roushar, our offensive line coach, family ties with him. We recruited him like an in-state player. When you look at TyQuan Hammock from Indiana, some of our coaches had coached his brother. Again, family ties. When you look down south to Tampa and you see Jairus Jones down there, his father played for the Lions, he grew up in Detroit, there's family ties here.
I think when you have that aspect and then you have seven players coming from Ohio, when you have that aspect, I think there's a possibility and a great chance for their family to see them play, for their family to be there and support them in times of need, and I think that's crucial when you're a young person.
You're going to have challenges, you're going to face some adversity. How you handle that adversity is going to be very important as to your success, and I think with your family near you, you have a chance with extra support. So I think that was important.
The last two years that we've recruited players here, we've had six players play from each class as a true freshman. I think this class will have every bit of the same opportunities that those have had. The last two classes we've seen players show up like Aaron Bates and Mark Dell, and last year you had some players playing, as well, early. So you've got an opportunity for these young people to take a definite step forward.
I think that what I'll do now is I'll run the video. It's about 12 minutes. We'll watch them a little bit, and then I'll go through each individual as a specific member of Michigan State University, and then we'll move from there.
Denicos Allen is from Hamilton, Ohio, is coached by Jim Place. Jim Place was Javon Ringer's coach and also Paul Harker's coach and Brandon McKinney's. He's done an outstanding job with Denicos. Denicos had 154 tackles this past year. He's a very explosive player, very compact. He'll play safety for us. He's a kick returner as well as a running back, anchored or was on their 4 x 400 relay team, 4 x 400 relay team that was in the state. 16 and 1 right now as a wrestler, benches 400 pounds, very, very active player. Reminds me a lot of Shaun Gayle when I was at Ohio State as a graduate assistant way back, but he's an outstanding player recruited by Harlan Barnett and going to play defensive back for us. He was selected to play in the Ohio Big 33 game, Ohio-Pennsylvania Big 33 game, was First Team Ohio and also was the co-Defensive Player of the Year in southwest Ohio, which really takes all of Cincinnati and all of Dayton and in between, so a tremendous amount of football played down there and an outstanding football player.
Edwin Baker from Oak Park High School, was coached by Coach Hopkins, selected to play the U.S. All-American Bowl, Army All-American game, very, very explosive player, 10'5" 100-meter guy, committed early to us in the process, was up here a number of times, recruited by Dan Enos, also will be coached by Coach Enos, and without question he's one of the top running backs I think by four different publications in the top ten running backs in the country and gives us -- helps fill a void that Javon Ringer has left this past year. We have some outstanding tailbacks in the program already, but I think that Edwin Baker will have an outstanding career here, will certainly have an opportunity to get his hands on the ball very, very early and should compete for playing time as a freshman. He had a knee injury his senior year so he wasn't able to play the majority of it, but he is well into the rehab and will be prepared to play in August and looking forward to it.
David Barrett, coached by Gary Swenson in Iowa, young man, again, played in the U.S. Army All-American game, recruited by Dan Roushar, will be coached by Coach Roushar and Coach Staten, one of the nation's top prospects as well as was Edwin, just in general, one of the top offensive linemen in the country. Great athletic talent for a big man that's 6'6", 6'7", 295 pounds or thereabouts, outstanding student, will enroll in the honors college here as well as just be a freshman, outstanding student. He was the top player in the state of Iowa, the top prospect in the state of Iowa, and Coach Roushar had family ties with his father. We recruited him much like an in-state player, as I said earlier, and they were state champions this past year.
Larry Caper, coached by Doug Best, who's currently at Holt, was his coach prior to that, but Coach Best did an outstanding job. Again, listed among the nation's top 100 prospects. Again, when you look at him as a running back, every publication, every recruiting publication probably had him in the top ten running backs in the country, some as high as three or four. Again, Baker was four or five, right in there. But another very explosive player. You look at Edwin, he's a 10'5" 100-meter guy. You look at Larry, he's an outstanding 200-meter guy, he long jumps 23 feet, plus 215 to 220 pounds, outstanding hands. Both those guys demonstrated great athletic ability in camp, outstanding people, can't say enough about him as a person.
Many of these players, and I would expect all of them, will have a direct impact on our future recruiting because of the type of people that they are, and I think Larry Caper is one of those people, will do so much not only for the people at Michigan State but the people in Michigan in general. It's very, very exciting. He rushed 271 times last year for 17 plus yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior. Outstanding football player.
Dana Dixon from Renaissance High School, Antonio Watts, recruited by Dan Enos. Incidentally Larry was recruited by Mark Staten and will be coached by Dan Enos. I mention that because so much, I think, of a position coach has so much to do with whether a player is going to come or not. I think from a position coach, the relationship that he has with those players should last a lifetime. The recruiting coach, as well, but I think as time goes four or five years, that fades and that position coach becomes so critical to his development as a person and as a player. So I think it's important to recognize who's going to coach them.
But Dana Dixon will come here as a corner. We recruited skill athletes, wide receiver, defensive backs, so guys that can play wide receiver have to be able to go on the defensive side of the ball and play defensive back. That's the way we recruited here. If you're one-dimensional, maybe you don't have enough toughness to get on the field on special teams. If you're a defensive back and not playing wide receiver, maybe you don't have the ball skills to play the deep ball. We're going to make sure we recruit both sides of the ball and these guys can be interchangeable.
Dana Dixon was one of those guys, extremely explosive player, has the ability to go deep as a receiver, stays on balance very well as a defensive back, will begin his career here as a corner and will have an opportunity to play wide receiver, as well. Coached by Antonio Watts. He's also done a little bit of punting. I don't think we'll use him here as that, but also one of the top seniors in the Midwest, so Dana Dixon.
Denzel Drone, coached by Jason Strunk, Plant City, Florida, coached by Ted Gill, defensive end. We looked very hard for athletic defensive ends, off-the-edge type of guys that can get after the quarterback, and I think Denzel is one of those type players. 6'2", 230 pounds right now, has run the 400 in 50 flat, so he can definitely run. Very good student, as well, and very fortunate to have him coming here.
If you look at him on scout.com and all these different things, has the ability to play linebacker position in terms of the way he runs, but we will play him at a defensive end, rush defensive end. Outstanding -- Plant City's Co-Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year and outstanding basketball player, as well. Played three years of basketball, but I think he's an outstanding player.
Bennie Fowler, Dan MacLean was his coach at Country Day High School. Dan Enos recruited him. He'll be coached by Don Treadwell, come here as a wide receiver, was hurt as a junior and missed four or five games I think with a broken collarbone. Outstanding athlete, three-sport athlete, outstanding wide receiver. Again, came in camp and went up and looked at our guys we had in camp with putting our quarterback and our running backs that came this year. I really felt like that was a great group of perimeter people that could play on any level at this Division I level in the Big Ten conference or beyond.
Bennie Fowler is a state champion in the long jump, has gone over 23'2", I believe, he's run 10"4' 100-meter. I asked him if that's wind-aided. He says it is. But punt returner, kick returner, played in the secondary, plays at wide receiver, lined him up at tailback a little bit, plays for their basketball team where they're No. 4 in the country, USA Today ranked Detroit Country Day. Outstanding athlete, very good student, and another guy that will have an opportunity to get on the field very, very quickly.
When I say that, I can say that about any one of these players. That's what's really the beauty of this recruiting class is I really think that they can come and be a part of the 2009 season and make an impact on this football team. Bennie Fowler, outstanding player.
Jeremy Gainer coached by Ryan Irish, another guy that plays multiple positions, tailback. He played safety last year, won the district hundred meters at 10'9", 219, 220 pounds right now, plays basketball, outstanding football player. I believe he was a four star player, ranked No. 15 outside linebacker by certain groups, I guess, Rivals and Tom Lemming have him up there. But I really like the explosiveness that he has as a football player. Every time you watch film on him, he's always playing from a position of power. He has good ball skills. He works extremely hard, and just a guy, I think, that will have a chance immediately to impact this football team.
TyQuan Hammock from Fort Wayne, Bishop Lawrence High School. Running back, tight end side of the football, linebacker, been extremely productive, 113 tackles as a senior, you know, 21 resulting in losses. The year before he had more. He's made 434 career tackles, 32 career sacks. Very, very productive player. I believe that Coach Roushar and Coach Narduzzi coached his brother who's currently a coach at Michigan from right down the road in Fort Wayne. Outstanding football player.
Henry Conway is an offensive lineman, another big bookend tackle that comes from Cleveland Shaker Heights, which is where Mike Bell is from who played last year, it's where Courtney Ledyard is from as well as Sean Wright, very, very athletic, can run. I don't know if you noticed but when he turned up and kicked the guy out and accelerated up the field, this guy and David give us two outstanding athletic tackles that are 6'6", 6'7", 300-plus pounds and are extremely athletic. He did a tremendous job this past year, coached by Coach Watkins, and he will be an immediate force for us on the offensive line, and we're extremely pleased to have him.
Jairus Jones coached by David Mitchell, Tampa Wharton High School, our last commit, and Jairus, outstanding athlete playing tailback, wide receiver, defensive back. Again, a guy that has multiple uses, has lined up at linebacker, as well, outstanding safety, had 188 tackles this year as a safety. When you look at a safety and make a statement that he has made that type of impact on a football team, I think that you have an outstanding player there. Accounted for 1,600 all-purpose yards as an offensive player. All these guys have multiple offers from various people in the southeast conference, and in his case, so extremely highly recruited player.
His father James played fullback for the Lions, and again, a young man who has ties in the Detroit area and family in the Detroit area. So again, another guy that we recruited much like an in-state recruit. Harland Barnett recruited him and Harland will coach him, as well, and we're extremely pleased to have him.
Corey Freeman from Cleveland Heights High School, is already enrolled here. Corey as you saw here, tremendous acceleration off the point of attack, a guy who had limited football before his senior year in high school, sat out this last year, originally signed with West Virginia and is here enrolled now. He will be an outstanding player here, about 6'3", 235 pounds, extremely explosive and gives us -- Denzel Drone and Corey Freeman gives us two guys that can provide immediate speed off the edge and create a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. I think that's what you need now with all the spread offenses you're seeing and those type things. But an outstanding player.
Nate Klatt, coached by Vic Whiting at Northwest High School down in Clinton near Canton, Ohio, four-star player. We don't have to worry about finding and making a center. Sometimes you bring guys to campus here and you say we can make that guy a center. This guy has played center for a long period of time. He's No. 3 or 4 center ranked in the country coming out in various publications. Another four-star recruit, outstanding quickness and balance at the center position, was very, very impressive in camp when he came, and extremely talented player, another very intelligent player, 3.9 grade point average, and we're very, very fortunate to have him. Again, another guy picked to play in the Big 33 game. All these guys were probably all-state or picked to play in all-star games as you look down through their résumés here. We tried to put a quotation on every one of these as we went through them.
Dan France from North Royalton High School, recruited by Pat Narduzzi, will be coached by Ted Gill, outstanding athlete. We look for power, skill and big skill. He's a powerful player, 6'5", 275, he averages about 13 points in basketball right now, played with a broken hand last year so they played him up as you saw in the film a little bit and they played him like a Sam backer. He actually played on the edge a little bit. He will play the defensive tackle position for us and will bring immediate athletic ability to the position. It's a guy that will be 295 or so and move and run very, very well. Another outstanding student and another young man that was rated very, very high in the state of Ohio.
Derek Hoebing from Vermillion, Ohio, coached by Frank Horvath, and Derek is sort of a dual player, big skill player. He may see time at defensive end, he may see time at tight end, size 16 shoes. I always look at their feet when I walk in. It's amazing how big they are. I could have swam in his shoes. He weighs 245 right now, is playing basketball, excellent student, 3.9 student, another guy selected to play in the North-South All-Star Game in Ohio, which takes the best players in Ohio and plays north versus south. He had 130 career tackles, shows acceleration with the ball in his hand, also very, very good at the point of attack at tight end, so it gives us either two tight ends as we come into this recruiting, into this August, or two defensive ends in this class, and we'll make that decision as we get him here.
Andrew Maxwell. Andrew is a young man that we've had in camp here two years in a row, very impressed with him as a sophomore, offered him coming out of the sophomore camp. As soon as he got into his junior year that first day we had an offer letter to him. Was an Elite 11 quarterback in the country. I'm not sure where he ended up, maybe 6th or so, how they ranked them. But tremendous arm, poise, outstanding student. I need to read these stats, I guess, threw for 5,488 yards, 54 touchdowns, in his time there. 387 out of 778 career passes, had an outstanding junior year, taking them to the state finals versus King High School and an outstanding senior year, as well, -- I guess I'm looking here as a junior, and as a senior, 151 out of 254 for 2,000-plus yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior. So outstanding player and gives us three quarterbacks on scholarship as we come into this August. We'll always look to keep that number at four and we'll recruit one this next year. I'm really excited about our quarterback situation and Andrew's addition to that.
Kevin Muma, kicker. He's a young man from Troy High School. We lost Todd Boleski this year. He was recruited by Dan Enos, being coached by Mike Tressel, although these kickers sort of coach themselves at times, but outstanding leg. The majority of his kickoffs go through the end zone when you're kicking from the 40. In college they should reach the end zone.
What I like about Kevin is that he's the point guard on his basketball team. He's also the quarterback on his football team. He's an outstanding quicker, I think he's seven out of ten this year. He's kicked 50-yard field goals, he missed on a 56-yarder, outstanding leg and very, very accurate. Was in our camp this year, very accurate from 40 yards, 45 yards on in. Punter, as well. So he brings a lot of what Aaron Bates brought to the table in terms of just clutch performance, I think.
Talking to him last night, by the way, he hit two free throws with no time on the clock to win the game, so we're looking for that kind of play from him here. He'll be an outstanding player for us.
Chris Norman coached by Antonio Watts at Renaissance High School, outstanding student, first, outstanding role model, second, outstanding player, one of the nation's highest recruited linebackers, was the first one to start this ball rolling when he committed to us last spring. I talked with him about that just the other day, and it's amazing how in this day and age when you have people decommitting from colleges and you have people that are waffling on commitments and visiting other players that none of our committed players visited another football team and none of our committed players waffled at all. They all stood strong, and that's a commitment to not only this University but to their high schools, the people they represent back home, and it's a statement on the relationships and the trust that has been built here. And I think that all started with Chris Norman.
He is an outstanding player. He's a guy that weighs about 222 right now, and he's benched 225 26 times. He asked me the other day what it takes to play at this level, maybe a 350 bench, so he went out and benched 350 the other day, not a problem. What makes him so good is his explosiveness, and he'll be ready to play for us this next year.
Micajah Reynolds. He'll be coached by Mike Tressel, was recruited by Dan Enos. Sexton High School, great, tremendous attitude, very, very athletic, big man. A guy that was, again, one of the top seniors in the state by the Free Press. But a young man who came to camp three times here. We had three camps, he came three times. In fact, I got tired of seeing him and I told Coach Manning to go over there and run him a little bit and see if he can hang.
310 pound guy, extremely athletic, light on his feet, and just an outstanding person. And I think that's as much as anything that excites me about the quality of this class, it's the type of people that they are and what they represent as people.
Donald Spencer, coached by David Poole, wide receiver from Ypsilanti, Michigan. Dan Enos recruited him, Don Treadwell will coach him, one of the nation's top flankers, 6'3", 199 or so, he's enrolled currently. He'll be here after this so you can talk with him. But extremely mature, his shown that maturity thus far in workouts. When you come in mid-year you get hit right in the face. You get hit in the face with school and academics, you get hit with college life specially, and you get hit athletically in terms of competing against a college student, and he has done a remarkable job handling that and was one of the top receivers in the state of Michigan obviously, but also in this country, another guy who committed early in the process and has stood vigilant.
Blake Treadwell, Coach Tread's son. I told him it's a great day not only for a coach by for his father. I've known Blake since he was born, and to see him come to the Michigan State University, to see him come to where his father coaches and to where his godfather is the head coach is very, very exciting. He's an outstanding player. I first looked at Ted Gill, I think, back in 2004 when he rushed off the edge when he was in ninth grade, going into ninth grade, was in one of our camps and competing against senior players. Again, I looked at the size of his shoe and saw him off the edge, and I looked at Ted, and I said, "There's a player there."
Blake has been an outstanding player at East Lansing High School, and if you've watched the film, he's got great technique, he's got great power, tenacious, he's got a motor that doesn't stop, and I think you'll see things happen very, very quickly for Blake Treadwell at Michigan State. Another great person, and I want to congratulate the entire Treadwell family on Blake coming to Michigan State and being a part of this family now, and it's a thrill for my family to see that, as well.
Blake is another four-star prospect, and when you look at him, he can play on either side of the ball, and I saw where he was rated No. 3 in the nation as an offensive center. He'll play on the defensive side of the ball for us and give us immediate help, I think, at the defensive tackle position.
Patrick White is another young man who's enrolled here. Much can be said about Patrick that was said about Donald Spencer, extremely mature to be able to handle what he's been doing here. Outstanding senior, played for Jay Sharrett at Pickerington down in central Ohio. Mike Tressel recruited him. He'll play for either Harland Barnett or Coach Treadwell, one of the two. He can go either way.
He was the Ohio Capital Conference Player of the Year as a senior. If you don't know what that means, that means there's 28 teams in that conference down there in central, Ohio. So what that means is all the players that play for those 28 teams, he was the top player in that conference voted by the coaches in that conference. I think sometimes when you become all-state or all-American, it's a lot of -- there's a lot of publicity involved in that, and one guy picks up the trail where somebody else loses, but he's a young man that established himself on both sides of the ball in many, many areas.
Dion Sims is the last guy, and Dion is an extremely talented athlete. I think it's a little bit unusual, and that's why we left him for last here. He'll play both basketball and football here at Michigan State. Coach Izzo did an outstanding job helping us recruit him. He's an outstanding basketball player at Orchard Lakes St. Mary's and will be a tremendous football player for us here at tight end. He's averaging 25 points a game for us, for his basketball team. They actually played Country Day last night and lost.
Bennie Fowler and he were very good friends growing up. They'll actually room together. Bennie Fowler, Sr., was his coach growing up in youth basketball. So again, there is a family tie there and there is an opportunity for him to come to Michigan State and play both sports. 6'6", 245 pounds, recruited by Dan Enos, will be coached by Mark Staten, George Port is his coach, and we have an outstanding tradition at Orchard Lake, and another young man that is a four-star player, an extremely talented player, and will be a guy that I think will really make up for the loss of Kellen Freeman-Davis from 2007. He's a guy that can be a mismatch player down the field, you can flex him out, do a lot of things with him. He can catch the ball down the field.
We also have some young men that we can announce that are coming here as preferred non-scholarship players, and I wanted to announce those guys right now because we have a history here, first of all, of putting guys on scholarship when they earn it. We've done that the last year. I think we put three on, and the year before that we put five on. Guys like Todd Boleski and guys like Jeff McPherson and guys like Brandon Denson, and I can probably go on, are guys that have made their mark on this football team.
We have two guys that have committed to coming here and by NCAA rule we can announce those guys providing they've been accepted. Danny Fellini will be an athlete, defensive back here at Michigan State, will come here from East Lansing High School, where he helped lead that team into the playoffs, and Kyle Nickel will also come here as a preferred non-scholarship player where he'll be a quarterback and compete at that level. He did an outstanding job at Lowell high school coached by Lowell Dean and is a young man that has a tremendous amount of statistics and athletic ability and is looking for that opportunity. So those two players will be players that will report with us early in August.
I want to just open it up right now for questions.
Q. First two classes you've given solid grades. I wonder if you could grade this class.
COACH DANTONIO: I knew the grade was coming. Let's get it out of the way. When you do your work, I guess you get the grade you're supposed to get. You get an A, and I would grade this class an A. I say that because of the quality of player, the quality of academic student that we have here, which will reflect in graduation rates down the line, and the quality of athlete that we have here. We have nine or ten four-star players. I believe that I saw a publication today that ranks us as the 14th highest recruiting class in America, and I think the thing to note, when you talk about these recruiting classes, when you have a top-20 recruiting class, you have something to work with, and how they mature and how they grow and how they begin to play and the coaching that they receive after that will talk to you about their development at that point in time.
So I guess at that point, you want an A, our coaches want an A when they go out recruiting, it's on the coaches. We'll get them ready to go.
But we're excited, and as I said to those guys, our first step was to try to get to a Bowl game and I think we did that in '07. Our next step was to get to a New Year's Bowl game, and our next step is to go to a BCS or championship-type game. I think these players can take us there. I believe that and the others will follow them there.
Q. You mentioned the last two classes you've had six true freshmen compete in the last two seasons. Could you see more than that in this class? What's a reasonable number in your mind?
COACH DANTONIO: I think that's a little too early to say because certainly our players that are coming back will be difficult to beat out at some positions. But I do think that there are opportunities in the depth -- in the area of depth. We have certain needs at various positions. We have guys moving different positions on the football teams that vacate, that create opportunities. I can just say that our players know the best players are going to play. Our players also know that spring practice is for our players currently here and fall practice is for our freshmen players to catch up and see if they can play. So we're going to find out in August.
Q. 12 recruits in this state and even some of the ones from out of state you talked about recruiting like they were from here. Can you talk about the importance of putting the proverbial fence around your home recruiting territory and winning those battles, the good players from here?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, my, or our, thought process on that is that, again, if you go back and you want to be successful as a young person, which they all do coming in here, I think there has to be a lot of opportunities to help them. The closer they are to home, the more support they'll get, the more people they'll know. The more times they've been here, the less anxiety they'll have. They'll know each other. So all of those things, I think, are important.
I think there's always going to be an emotional attachment for a player that comes from Michigan to Michigan State. You may know the fight song coming in the door, and you may play a little harder or you may understand a little bit more about what this is all about here, and I think that gives you an upside.
I think the other thing that every college does is they try and recruit the best players in their home state. By bringing in 12 players this year from the state of Michigan, I think we identified those players early and we were successful in bringing those players here.
So many of these players were identified early in the process from day one that they're good enough to give scholarships to. That is a very, very select few at this time and date right now. When you look at who we've recruited right now for the '10 season, there's a very, very select few out there that we've offered scholarships to. Bottom line is we targeted those few players this year in the state of Michigan and we were able to have them come to school here.
As I said earlier, there's so many reasons that a player chooses a school. It may be their grandfather or their grandmother, it may be their parents or their cousin, whatever the case. It doesn't matter because there's so many different things going into this process that makes it possible for them to become Spartans.
Q. Can you talk about the recruitment of Dion Sims and how much you and Coach Izzo worked together to bring him here?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, we were continuously talking about that throughout the process. I thought that Coach Enos did an outstanding job as well as the rest of our coaches in developing the relationship there. The fact was that he wanted to play both, and given the opportunity to play in a program such as Michigan State basketball program and an opportunity to play here in the football program, that was the bottom line thing that got it done for us, I think.
I also think that it helped that his stepfather and his father and his mother all felt like this was the best place for him, and it was a family decision. Again, when you want to try and play two sports, you have to do well academically, you look and say how often are you going to have free time, there's not going to be very much free time. So that opportunity to play both sports is 80 miles up the road, which provides a lot of opportunity to possibly go home and spend time with them. When you're looking at time commitment, time and money, to watch games, to do those type of things, I think it was a natural fit, and it's a very exciting thing for this program to have him here as a football player.
Q. When you recruit players, often times they're going to gain 10, maybe 30 pounds of weight, maybe 40 or 50 during a year. Do you start projecting this freshman year about a player might be playing a different position in a year or two?
COACH DANTONIO: We do that especially with our big players. We look at them and say can he gain 30 pounds. For example, a guy like Dan France last year as a junior was a defensive end. I think he was 240 pounds. We went and saw him in the spring. Since then now he's 275, I'm sure he'll be 285, 295 coming in the door. Last year we recruited Chris McDonald he was running a 51 400 meters. I doubt he could do that now; he weighs 295. He was doing that at 250.
I think our linebackers, I think our defensive backs, wide receivers are going to stay basically at their same position relative to a skill position. But again, we recruit skill, power and big skill, and I think that serves us well when you're looking for players that play on special teams, looking for players that play across the board and be able to adapt should they have a position change.
Q. Do you foresee any other scholarships being offered to anyone for this class or are you pretty much done?
COACH DANTONIO: We're pretty much done. I would say pretty much done. Do you got somebody?
Q. You mentioned a couple times how important it is to you the type of people, persons, these recruits are. The more you go on the road, how important is that in terms of building this program?
COACH DANTONIO: I'm sorry, the question again, the last part of the question?
Q. The more you go on the road, how important is it for you when you're going out and meeting the recruits and recruiting, the type of people they are?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, you have an opportunity to meet recruits maybe six times. You can go to their area. I believe it's six. They have an opportunity to come on campus once on an official visit. The opportunity for them to come unofficially to camp, to games, to come up and spend time with you. Andrew Maxwell had been here maybe at least 15 times in the past year and a half. You get to know a person and you get to know his character, they get to know you as a person. And I think it's important when you're looking for character, quality guys because playing college football is tough. It's hard. It's not easy. If all these guys across America think they're just going to walk in and play, what about the last guys that were sitting here or the next guy that's going to be sitting there that we're going to recruit? They're good players, too.
It's going to take, I think, a special kind of person to be able to handle those challenges and to be able to handle the adversity and to advance. I think character does that for you.
So that along with just where we want to go as a football team and the tough times, you're going to need character, so we'll recruit that, as well.
Q. When you have a class that's graded in the top 25 nationally, what do you think that says about the changing perception nationally of MSU football?
COACH DANTONIO: I hope that's a statement. I hope that's a statement that speaks volumes about the quality of football being played in this state regardless of where they go. It speaks volumes about the quality of football playing in the Midwest because that's where we took many of our players. And it talks to our facilities, our resources, our coaches, the relationships that they've built. So I guess we've done a good job in that area. But every year is a challenge. I had to pull a couple coaches away from watching junior films today because I think today is about a celebration. It's got to be about a celebration for our players that have committed here and signed today, and I think that's important to recognize that.
This is a day that they'll remember for the rest of their life. It's a special day for them and their families, and it should be treated as such. But I would say we're moving forward.
Q. You mentioned the importance of getting the home grown players from Michigan. You have a couple from Florida. How important is it to open that pipeline from Florida that you had earlier when you were at Michigan State?
COACH DANTONIO: I think it's important. We have five coaches that recruit down there, five coaches go down there for points in time. And as we recruit, when we need to move beyond the Midwest, we'll have the ability to do that. I think it was important to go down to Florida and be able to recruit some very good football players from down there this year because we have not done that the last two years. We were new in the process, new at Michigan State. I think it was important that we -- I thought it was very important that we resecure our relationships with Michigan -- the state of Michigan's football. We stayed in Michigan and recruited players, but we are down there. We have a presence there.
We have 15,000 living alumni down there, so there is a presence down there, and both Jairus Jones and Denzel Drone will be outstanding players for us and make their name felt up here.
Q. Do you hope that the NCAA will one day adopt an early signing period for football like they already have for basketball?
COACH DANTONIO: There's been a lot of talk about that. I think that you've got to weigh both things. I think sometimes some people would miss a week of recruiting. I think it would be a good thing because so many players sometimes seem to be committed and move to a different direction. But I can see problems with that. You know, I just count one, so I won't have a very big effect on that, so it probably doesn't matter. I think it may be coming, but I don't know if it'll stay.
End of FastScripts