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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 3, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to our Signing Day Press Conference. Coach Dantonio will have some opening comments about the close as a whole, and then we'll play a highlight video. Coach will come back and give individual comments on each player. Then we'll take questions.
So to introduce the 2010 recruiting class, Head Coach Mark Dantonio.
COACH DANTONIO: First of all, what we're going to do is we're going to talk a little bit about our class in general. We'll show the highlight film. I'll come back and talk about our players specifically. And then I'll open for questions.
And also our players that are currently here will be involved as well as their coaches that participated in the recruiting process.
So to begin the whole thing, I think it's very important, as you go in recruiting, that you try and stack classes on top of each other. I think that's what we've been able to do with this class. We had an excellent class last year.
We've seen six or seven freshmen play every year that we've come in. This will probably be no different this year. But I think that what we've done is really we've stacked the class of 22 players last year. We've taken 21 players and put it right on top of that. This is another highly acclaimed, highly ranked class, and it shows great versatility, I think, in the type of players we have. We addressed our needs, first of all.
When you look at it, it's a pretty balanced football recruiting class. Four defensive backs, three linebackers, two defensive ends, one defensive tackle, a punter, a quarterback, two wide receivers, an athlete that can probably play any skilled position on the field for us, two tailbacks, and three offensive linemen. So from that standpoint I think it's got a lot of versatility.
Really before I go any farther, I want to thank our entire administration for all the work that they do in the recruiting process. I can't think of too many universities in the country where the president of the university comes to a recruiting dinner and spends time with each recruit at each table and then talks with them.
Our past athletic director, Clarence Underwood, has been there quite often at breakfast. Mark Hollis is involved. In this day and age when recruiting has become so accelerated in the things that we do on a daily basis, many of these guys sitting back here, you know, Max, Nick, Joe. Levy not so much, but they've been on campus so much, it's unbelievable. Max has been on campus I think maybe 15 times.
So all the people that have touched him throughout the process are part of that recruiting process itself. So I want to thank everybody involved: Our academic people, all the people who met with our recruited student-athletes.
Again, the president. The provost was involved. We have one young man, Mike Sadler, entering our honors college. And he's been involved with that.
So so many people make such a difference with them. There's so many different people touching them. I want to thank our commitments for their trust, our prospects, for their trust in us as people, for their trust in us as coaches, in terms of people who will make an ultimate difference in their life as we move forward.
And, again, none of our guys decommitted. None of our guys who had originally made a commitment went on another visit. And that speaks to the character of not just them but of their families and the people back home, their coaches or whomever. This day and age, when you see people flip-flopping a lot, that's a statement in itself.
We had 14 commitments by September. And we acquired seven more as we went through the real recruiting period, per se. Had a couple more during the season as well. So, again, it's accelerated. The resources we need to do this, I think, are -- we're surrounded by them.
You have to have a winning program. I think it makes it better. We've been to three Bowl games in a row. I think it's paying dividends for us in that area. And you've got to have people. You've got to have coaches that are out there working hard and turning over every rock and looking under everything. And I think that our coaches have done an outstanding job in that area as well.
Our recruits, they enter the next phase of their life now. That's what I've been talking about I think the last two days. They go to a new area of their life. Four of our guys are here right now and just went through workouts yesterday for the first time in a winter workout program. It's different now. It's different for them. It will become different for our other guys that come here.
So while it would be very exciting and challenging, it will be something that they will not forget for probably the rest of their lives. This day will stand as sort of a landmark for them, and I think that's a statement for them as people and for their entire family. They've become Spartans today, and we're very, very excited about what they've done. Just in conclusion, then we'll watch the highlight film, we've evaluated our players really in four ways physically.
We looked at highlight films, first of all. And I think that piques our interest. And what you'll see is four or five plays, probably five plays on each guy. But then we look at game film. And obviously that takes on a little bit more importance, I think. You can always find 30 plays or so that will make a guy look really good.
But if you start taking 112, 200 plays and those type of things and going through it, you know you'll see quite the difference in that player as you continue moving forward. So that's the second evaluation tool.
The third one is camp. We get as many of our players in camp. We've recruited Michigan very, very hard, and the Midwest hard. And I think we've gotten excellent players from this area of the country.
And it's because we can find guys, diamond in the rough. Tony Lippett is an example, an outstanding quarterback athlete, big play guy. But didn't play wide receiver but came to camp and did a great job in that area. And you see him as a wide receiver coming to Michigan State. And that's exciting.
And then you look at them playing a football game. And when you go and watch Will Gholston go play in person and you see him on the field and see how he dominates a football game, and you see how he interacts with his teammates and handles the good and the bad as it moves through the game, it tells you something about a person.
And those are the exciting things I think when you look at our football class. We've had an opportunity to do that in those four areas. We've had an opportunity to be around them as coaches often because they've been on campus.
And you only have six times to go to see, for example, a Justin Wilson down in Florida. You have six times to go see him. One other time maybe in an evaluation process. But you certainly have more opportunities to be around players that are from this area of the country. And we are deeply committed to doing that on a constant basis, recruiting this Midwest area.
With that, I'll roll the highlight film. It's probably about 20 minutes long. Hopefully you like the music. I didn't at first. But you get a glimpse of who is coming. We put it in the skill position, the big skill, the power positions, and we'll run it like that. But after that I'll go through each young man specifically and then we'll answer some questions. Enjoy the video.
COACH DANTONIO: We'll go through the guys. We've got some great players there. Tried to give five plays there and I know it gets lengthy. But we've got to show our guys. I'm going to go through it just by big skills, skilled, big skill power, and then skilled. And I'll go through each guy and talk a little bit very briefly about them and then we'll answer questions from there.
The first guy up in the big skilled position is Joe Boisture. Joe Boisture comes to us from Goodrich, Michigan, and he played over there as a sophomore and junior and transferred to Saline his senior year. He's here with us, I guess, today, so we'll be able to talk with him a little bit.
An outstanding quarterback. Our third really elite 11 quarterback that has come into this program, and I think that's significant, when you look at Kirk Cousins as a quarterback, I think he was an elite 22, as I remember.
Outstanding prospect. Good size. Good athletic ability. Maneuvers very well. Strong arm. Saw him play as a junior when Coach Warner went over as a junior and watched him. And originally committed to BC but had some second thoughts maybe as far as being away from home. You can ask him a little bit about that.
But his grandfather spent eight seasons here as an assistant coach for Duffy, and I think that makes him a legacy here. We're so happy he's a Spartan with us.
But powerful, powerful arm. You can read all about it in all the different things that he's been able to do. But with he and Maxwell, as they come into -- with Andrew being a redshirt freshman next year and Joe being a true freshman, I believe those two guys are quarterbacks of the future for us and the future looks very, very bright for us on their arrival here at Michigan State. So we're very, very excited to have him.
Max Bullough, another young man who is a legacy here, having his grandfather played here. His father played here. His uncle played here. And I expect nothing less than to set the all-time record in tackles here because that's what all the other ones do.
It will be exciting for him to continue that trend. But from St. Francis up in Traverse City. And very, very physical linebacker, runs really well. Excellent student. Excellent student of the game. Watched him work out yesterday in winter workouts for the first time. Carried himself like a junior or senior in the way he attacked things.
He does the same thing in the weight room. Big, physical. Goes about 235 right now. Probably 6-3 or so. Outstanding skills and catches the ball very well. And we look for big things from Max here in the next year and the next four years beyond that and should be a great football player here at Michigan State.
And obviously both these guys have many, many opportunities to go other places and we're thrilled that he's here. He's a four-star recruit as -- I don't know how they rate these stars, but I'll just say what they rated them as. But Max and Joe both are four-star recruits in the entire country. So we're extremely happy to have him here. State championship. So he brings that type of attitude to this program.
William Gholston. Five-star player. The only five-star player in the Big Ten Conference this year. And as I said earlier, William showed a tremendous amount of, I think, discipline and maturity in terms of how he reacted to the entire recruiting process.
He's been on campus many, many times since his junior year dating back I think to the Eastern Michigan game when I first saw him walk in as a junior into our new building. I remember it vividly, sitting down there and him walking up and talking to my wife and I early in the recruiting season.
William made the decision, as did Max, last summer, and both these guys continued to be recruited, especially William, and showed a certain amount of maturity by being able to hang in there and stay a Spartan throughout the entire process.
And a lot of you guys have probably talked to him throughout the process. He's very energetic. I think he has good leadership skills. Very personable. Big, huge linebacker for us, can play a multitude of positions much like Julian Peterson could.
That's what we talked about, playing a linebacker like Julian did where he would enter the DPR, designated pass rusher, type situation on third downs, but would play linebacker on first and second downs.
Outstanding football player. And we look for big things from him really immediately because of the maturity he's shown through the recruiting process. I think it gives you a tangible to point to and say that he can be special.
So we're very, very excited about William being here and he's one of the, I guess, true cornerstones of this class.
Niko Palazeti, fullback. Sometimes when you get down to the end and you start looking at people and you're trying to fill out your class and you're trying to say, okay, what else do we need? What other position do we need? You start looking very hard at particular people.
Niko is a fullback. He's an outstanding defensive player as well, played around the football at defensive end, played a little bit three technique, would be a little bit undersized at three technique for us, but benches 400 pounds, squats 500 pounds.
When you look at Catholic Central and what they were able to do this year and really last year, you see a guy that they've sort of put it on his shoulders and he carried them to a state title.
When you continue to watch him -- and I had all of our coaches watching him these last couple of days, you saw a young man that gives great effort. Great toughness, great ball skills. Has great vision in the hole. Great feet. And we've moved guys to fullback since coming here, we've taken guys and moved them to that fullback position. I felt like given this opportunity we would recruit a fullback.
Coach Mack had great things to say about him. Coach Mack at Catholic Central has never once said to me this is the guy that you need to take, and with Niko he's said that. And I'm very, very happy that he's a Spartan and that he's a part of this program and he'll do great things for us.
Incidentally, as we go through this you'll see hopefully on your thing who recruited these guys, and you can sort of talk with them specifically about them. Although, we recruit as a staff.
Mike Sadler, one of the top three punters probably in the nation this year. Had various opportunities, whether it be LSU, Alabama, you name it, he had that opportunity to go on scholarship at those places. Made the decision in the summer to become a Spartan.
I thought he came over -- came and participated in camp and had six or seven coaches watching him specifically punt, kick, and showed great ability to handle pressure, which is what he's going to have to do out in Spartan Stadium and did very well.
Great get-off times. When you look at a punter, you have to look at how fast does he get the ball off as much as anything. And the snaps have to come from hand to foot. Great get-off time. Two-step punter, very difficult to block. Great hang time. And he's a left-footed punter, which makes it a little more difficult possibly, because the ball will turn a different way, spin a different way for returners to handle that.
But I think that he solidifies our future. There will be competition obviously (indiscernible) currently our No. 2 punter, but I think in the long term Mike Sadler solidifies our punting game for the next five years with Aaron Bates coming back this year.
So excited about him. He'll also be a member of the Honors College. Mike, like some of our other past recruits, Kirk Cousins and others, really has not had a B in high school. He will come to Michigan State and walk in the door as a sophomore academically after all his AP classes, and we're extremely happy to have Mike here representing Michigan State, both in the classroom and on the football field. So he'll be an outstanding player for us.
Justin Wilson. Justin is the third linebacker in this class that fills out the big skilled area, and he's a linebacker out of Florida. Out of Western High School. Outstanding wrestler. I think he's lost once thus far in the season thus far. And I think he's possibly rated as the No. 2 wrestler 215-pound weight class.
But very serious-minded young man. Brings it every time. When you watch his film, he's going to bring it with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of effort and toughness. And he's got power. So many of the guys we recruited I could sit up here, if I had to say one thing over and over, it's explosiveness. And he shows that again and again on film.
But explosiveness, power. Athletic ability. Those are the things we look at constantly. And Justin will be a tremendous football player for us here. Good ball skills. Plays tailback as well for them. So he's an outstanding athlete. High energy player and we look forward to great things from him.
Our skilled. Our skilled position which we have nine skilled players. Again, just alphabetically, Le'Veon Bell, who is with us here today. Enrolled in January. Le'Veon, you know, is from Groveport Madison High School, which is where Eric Smith is from. And I remember watching Eric as a recruiter and an assistant coach way back in 2000, and Eric was not a highly recruited guy.
But still playing for the Jets. To be able to call him up, Le'Veon, and say we've got a guy from Groveport Madison, made his day. They were getting ready to play in the championship game, and he took time and talked about you specifically.
So outstanding athlete. Can play a variety of positions for us. Gives us a tailback type player that's a big powerful guy, big skilled position, really, guy. Runs really well. Catches the ball extremely well.
Again, another young man who demonstrated toughness yesterday and has done a great job in the weight room as well. 222 pounds already, and as we get into him a little bit he'll probably go to 240 or so.
But he has the frame to carry that. And his principal at that time during his time there is a man who was the son of a high school coach that I played for back in Zanesville High School. I know he came up with the right kind of upbringing, I guess, because what I would say to Le'Veon right now: It's hard, but it's fair. And he's heard those words many, many times.
So Donus Troller (phonetic) is the coach I'm talking about.
Darqueze Dennard from Twiggs County High School in Georgia. Outstanding athlete. Great ball judgment. Plays a variety of positions. Dave Warner was his recruiter. You've got to go way down there to see Darqueze. And two hours south of Atlanta. Comes here as a track and basketball player his sophomore and junior year.
And outstanding football player. Played a variety of positions from wide receiver to running back to defensive corner to safety, punt returner, kick returner. And what you see when you watch him is a guy that has tremendous ball skills and acceleration after the catch, whether it's on defense or offense, and great balance. Tough. Tackles very well in space and he's going to be an exciting player to watch for us.
Kurtis Drummond, big safety out of Hubbard, Ohio. Reminds me a lot of Thomas Wright. Thomas was in today, incidentally, and will be graduating this spring. But Kurtis is an outstanding very fluid, big athlete. Plays whiteout and defensive back and safety. He'll play here as a safety. One of the top players in Ohio. Watched him play basketball very fluid on the basketball court. Quick jumper, great ball skills, great hitter, again another young man that will have an opportunity to step on the field very early in his career, and we look for great things from Kurtis Drummond.
Mylan Hicks from Renaissance High School. Young man who committed in the summer as well from Renaissance High School, which is where Chris Norman is from and Dana Dixon. But Mylan is a guy from day one, as a junior, when we saw him, we targeted, and offered him a scholarship I believe last year probably about now.
He accepted that scholarship sometime in the spring or the summer, and again another young man who I guess it was the summer who was very highly recruited. Another four-star player.
And I might have missed on saying that about some other guys. But you've got all their stats.
But outstanding player, very tough, very competitive. Great ball skills. Was in camp here. Great acceleration. Ran 4-4, whatever in camp here. But great explosiveness. Jumped very well. Has all the attributes physically and intangibly to be an outstanding corner for us, and will look for an opportunity to play early in his career as well.
And also played in The All-American Bowl down in Myrtle Beach. Outstanding player and comes from a great program and great family.
Nick Hill is here. Started school in January. Nick is -- don't let his size fool you -- extremely explosive. Came here and we put him through the -- in the summer I would say we put him through every test I think imaginable, huh, Nick? And I don't know how many pullups he can do, 40 or something of that nature. Very quick shuttle. Very explosive 40.
Outstanding kick returner, punt returner. Great deep ball judgment as a punt returner. Great vision. Great cutting ability. I'm not sure how many touchdowns he had. I'll have to look at it. But every time I watched a film he was scoring probably 80-plus touchdowns I think in his career. But an outstanding player.
And he is -- I believe he's a -- he's that special guy, I think, that can be that utility back that can do a lot of different things, whether it's kick returner or punt returner, catching the ball out of the backfield, running with the football.
So we look for great things from Nick as well, and again represented very well yesterday running as a guy who -- as guys who should be in their senior year of high school, competing all of a sudden with the other players, it was very, very impressive yesterday to watch them.
Jeremy Langford from John Glenn High School, which is in Detroit, a suburb of Detroit, it's Keshawn Martin's high school. A guy who could probably play every skill position that we have. Wide receiver, tailback. He probably could play safety, probably could play corner. He's a ten 700 meter guy, goes about 190 pounds, about six foot tall. Or a little bigger.
We'll play him at tailback/wide receiver. Coming into here I think he's got great offensive skills and great cutting ability and vision down the field. Very, very exciting player.
When you watch a highlight film that has 212 plays on it, you start to become impressed. So that would be the message out there to most people. Just a guy that really has come on. Rushed for over 2,000 yards but catches the ball fluidly. Another guy in our camp and stood out. Explosive.
Isaiah Lewis, another young man. Four-star recruit. Highly recruited in the process from Indianapolis, Ben Davis High School. Dick Dullaghan is a former coach there, was coaching at Purdue when I was there.
Dick Dullaghan was a past coach, sort of a legend there, and made the statement that Isaiah may be the best defensive back coming out of Ben Davis High School since he's been there. He's no longer coaching. This dates back into the '80s. And when a man like that makes that kind of statement. It's pretty impressive.
But great hitting ability. You saw his acceleration on the film. Great ball skills. A young man who committed also during the summer after a lengthy recruiting process, and we're extremely excited for him to be here and should have an opportunity to get on the field very, very quickly in his career.
That's the difference when you look at these guys, like I mentioned early on, you have an opportunity to get on the field because they're great football players but they start new now. They start their whole process over, and so it will be a challenge for the guys to come in and they'll have to overcome some hurdles. But they have the natural ability and the instincts to play at a high level and to play now.
And we'll look forward to seeing them compete for those positions. But Isaiah is much like that. If you watch him on the film. Gets off blocks very well.
I think the key to any defensive back, any of these guys you're talking about is deep ball judgment, ability to tackle in space and change the direction, and they all have it.
Tony Lippett, played quarterback this year. Came to camp two different times and saw him in a third camp. Has great wide receiver skills. Saw him as a track guy last year, Coach Enos did and Coach Treadwell. And we're very, very impressed with him. Accounted for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns this year, so extremely impressive. 3.9 student. Tremendous person. Again, he was an early commit for us and stayed the course.
And I think that's what's impressive about our guys, when they're able to stay the course and continue to stand by Michigan State through everything, through a loss or through something off the field or through a recruiter. It speaks about quality in terms of their personalities and their characters and their leadership skills, and we're very, very excited to have Tony here and he would be an outstanding target.
When you see him walk in the door and you see our other wide receiver walk in the door, Keith Mumphrey, you'll see immediate deep threats on both those guys because they can really run and they're big targets.
Keith Mumphrey from Vienna, Georgia, Dooly County High School. Another young man we targeted last year. Offered a scholarship early in the process. He came up on a visit to a game this year. Committed shortly thereafter.
And outstanding player. Big, athletic, physical. Plays on both sides of the ball. We'll play him at wide receiver here. Kick returner, punt returner. A guy that goes over 200 pounds right now and about 6-1 or so. So reminds you a lot of some of the outstanding receivers that have been here in the past.
We look for great things from him, and another great student, much like Keith, 3.8, 3.9 student. And will be an outstanding player for us. Looks to have an opportunity to get on the field early as well.
All these guys, when you watch them play, you see explosiveness, and that's what you have to have, I think, to play at this level.
When you look at the power area, which is the final area, you look at Taylor Calero. He's playing linebacker a little bit on the film. But came to camp played defensive end for us. Outstanding get-off. Great pass rusher. Tested extremely well. Verticaled very well. Ran very well. Gives the edge pass rusher, along with Marcus Rush, who I will talk about in a second.
But very, very intelligent player. Powerful. And when you watch him on camp and in camp film go against the offensive linemen, he's got that twitch that's hard to block. He plays at a high level, and we'll continue to do that now and will have an opportunity to get on the field.
All these guys, you see their size, they're all -- as you look at them now, they're getting bigger and bigger. Goes about 235 right now. And continues to work at it.
Michael Dennis. Michael has gained about 25 pounds since we recruited him. He weighs 275 now. Had 23 points, 18 rebounds last night. And as a young man who played tight end early in his career will make the transition to offensive tackle.
Played on defense, but a guy that's extremely athletic. Long arms. Probably be 290, 295 by the time he walks into the building here, and very, very impressive. Good student. And plays at Carey High School down in Ohio, in mid-Ohio, mid-northwest Ohio. A young man that will be a definite player for us at the offensive tackle position.
I think he has great feet. When you watch him practice basketball, the things he does on a basketball court as a big man for a guy that size going up and down the court are very, very impressive.
Travis Jackson from St. Francis DeSales High School in Columbus, Ohio. Young man that took -- helped take his team to the state championship game in Ohio.
I'm originally from Ohio. And obviously I have a background there. I can't remember in my time an offensive or defensive lineman being rated in the top 3 of the Mr. Ohio voting that comes every year, which rates the top player in Ohio. He ranked No. 3 in that. He was named the Outstanding Defensive Player in the state of Ohio.
We will play him on the offensive side of the ball. He can play either side. But we'll look at him as a possible center guard. He moves very, very well. He's an outstanding student. Plays with a high motor. But a young man that I think that has great things ahead of him. Tremendous football player. As you get around him, you find out he's a tremendous person as well. From an outstanding football program.
Next guy is Marcus Rush, another great student from Archbishop Moeller High School, which is Greg Jones' high school. Big play in that, much like Julian Peterson had. Just where there was a fumble, he's going to pick it up. Where there's a punt to be blocked, an interception to be had, he seems to be the guy making those plays. Great running ability. Plays with a high motor. Another guy weighs about 235, 238 right now, and they'll continue to get bigger.
But has snapped. Another guy very highly recruited by a lot of people throughout the Big Ten Conference and throughout the Midwestern country. We're excited to have him as part of our program. Moeller High School, plays as competitive a conference as there is in high school football in this country. And to see him doing things week in and week out at that level is a huge statement.
He was the Tri-County Player of the Year which incorporates all of Cincinnati and all of the Kentucky-bordered high schools as well. Southwest -- I believe Southwest Defensive Player of the Year as well in the state of Ohio. So another outstanding player for us.
Skyler Schofner, another four-star player. Sunbury, Ohio. 276. Doesn't quite do him justice right now. He's about 305. He's benching, he told me, 225 29 times now as a high school senior. Very athletic. Played in two All-Star games. His stock was high already. We already offered him. But really rose very, very quickly after two All-Star games, one in South Carolina and one other one in Hawaii, where I think he was named maybe the top lineman out there.
But extremely competitive young man. Very explosive. Very athletic for his size. 6-6, 6-7, 305, should have an outstanding career here in all respects, and very excited about him coming to Michigan State University.
Rashad White, initially from Battle Creek. Took an opportunity to go over and see Coach Bess (phonetic) at Battle Creek High School this past week and Coach Slamer at Holt who had coached him earlier.
And Rashad played at Fort Scott. He'll be three for three, so he'll be a young man who comes in here with an opportunity to learn about Michigan State as well, plus growing up in the Michigan area, so he has an affinity for Michigan State already.
But a young man who is extremely powerful. I believe he dead lifts 625 pounds. I'm not even going to ask what he squats. But he benches over 400 (indiscernible) all the records up there in the state of Michigan, and I want to stop short of saying he won the power lifting contest, but he's very, very explosive.
Very, very athletic. Great feet. High school coaches talk about him constantly what great feet and what kind of athletic ability he has as a player, and we'll look for him to fill some immediate needs this year for us on our defensive line.
And that's our 21 guys. It's an exciting group. Stack it on to last year's group and I think we're headed in the right direction. But I'll get a drink of water here and I'll answer some questions and then you can get our guys.
Q. Mark, you talked about trust and the commitment that they had for this staff and this program, and in light of what happens with the fight and everything that's been in the headlines, how much did that complicate your job and what reactions did you get to that?
COACH DANTONIO: First of all, I want this to be about our players, our young players who are coming into this program. But to answer that question, everything is explained -- it's an open-book policy here -- we're going to share with our players exactly what's going on.
And I think when you look at our football team and when you look at our current players that are coming into the football team, our prospects, they developed relationships with the position coaches, with the coach that's recruiting them and with myself and with our other players, and they can look beyond that.
I think that's a sense of maturity and a vision that they have for this program. So it was never a problem and it never wavered.
Q. Focus on Gholston, for example, he said to media outlets he was going to take other visits and that was always a concern but yet he was always here. What kind of communication did you have at that time when you heard some of those things and what kind of assured you that he was firm in his commitment to Michigan State?
COACH DANTONIO: I think every time he had the opportunity to do that and he had that opportunity quite often probably during the recruiting process, as people came in, and some of you maybe know that better than I do, but he always sort of returned to what was important to him.
And I think that he always looked down and looked at maybe where he was from and the impact he could have on this state in general as a young man. Not just as a football player, but in a young man coming here and the opportunity to play. And I think he always returned to that thought.
And the only thing that I've always tried to do with our players, and I think that's why we don't have a lot of decommitments, is, hey, let them look into their own heart. And, you know, if there's something in your heart, it continues to grow. And that's what happened with William, I believe.
I think that when he did make the decision, it was not under any duress. It was not under any pressure. He made the decision and he made it without any pressure around him. I think when you do that, you sell yourself. And that's what happened. And then he began to sell other people.
And when you're the guy in some ways, one of the guys, at least, I think we had some other guys doing that, as well, but one of the guys talking to other recruits about coming to Michigan State, every time he would be on a visit here he would be talking to other recruits about coming to Michigan State, he was answering his own questions there.
Q. Mark, during the season you lose a couple of running backs who left the team, you lose some in the off-season. Can you talk about how difficult it was during the recruiting process, especially at that time of the year, to lose them and how much emphasis you put on finding guys in this class to come in and maybe fill those holes?
COACH DANTONIO: First of all, I think we have opportunities. We have young freshmen that did an outstanding job this year. So our young players will have to come and compete with those guys, and I think they'll do a great job. And they'll have opportunity. I really don't care who we handed the ball to as long as they hold onto it and move forward. And that's the important thing.
You know, players want to play. I understand that. You know, that's just the way it is sometimes. You want to play and so many of our tailbacks, I guess, you know, with Javon getting as many opportunities as he had the year before, you know, you get a little bit impatient.
But where it comes -- I guess I'm trying to answer the question. I don't know if I am, but when we looked at Le'Veon, for example, he was able to fill a void immediately by coming here now. Big back. We didn't have as big a back.
We had Larry. But we needed to fulfill that requirement, have a big back here, get the tough yards. We look back at Nick. He's a guy with great vision, great upside. We took him as a player before any of the guys that had left because I thought he was special. I thought he could help this football team in a variety of ways.
When you look at Jeremy Langford, he just could play so many different positions that he was the guy that we were going to take regardless of finding a place to put him, whether it be at wide receiver or whether it be at the corner or safety or tailback. So he'll find his way on the offensive playing field based on what everybody else is doing as we move forward.
Q. Mark, with this year, what, fourth class --
COACH DANTONIO: Fourth class.
Q. How bold do you get with recruits and their parents? Do you talk Rose Bowl? Do you talk championships? What do you do that maybe is different in your first year?
COACH DANTONIO: We were talking Rose Bowl and championships the first year. I think you have to aspire to be the best. You have to look towards the future and say that we can get there.
So many programs see themselves as so far away when they're really very, very close. You can point to our 2008 season and look and see how close we were. You can look at even our 2007 season and look at the games, very close games. You can look at this year, too, and see how close we are to playing at a New Year's Day bowl game once again.
But we're where we're at, so we have to continue moving there. I think if you recruit players that are expecting to play on that level and play for championship teams, then you will ultimately get to that. And that's our goal.
When we look at our players, whether it's Max Bullough, who played for a state championship team, or whether it's Travis Jackson -- I'm just throwing out guys right off the top of my head who played for the state championship -- or whether you look at the guys who excelled back here at a high level or whether you look at Gholston, who I believe had 14 players on his team when they were playing the regional finals, which I pointed out to our football team that you don't need a whole team but you need specific guys that can play at a high level to play a championship level.
When we're getting those type of players, good things are going to happen. And as I said before, it's important that we stack the classes on top of each other. Who knows if we're a top 25 class or top 10 or top 15 or whatever it is, I don't know, because they have to come and play. But all things indicate to us that again we're very, very happy about our class and I feel very fortunate to have the quality of players here coming.
Q. I'm sure Coach Narduzzi in particular is very excited about this class with the marquee players on defense, especially with the struggles on that side of the ball last year. How much do you expect this group to help out on defense?
COACH DANTONIO: Football is a game of inches. Whether you're missing a tackle or missing a ball or missing a gap, you know, a lot of things can be corrected.
I think some of our younger players will have an opportunity to play. There is a learning curve. But it remains sort of unknown how quick they can get into the fray there and compete.
But I can tell you in looking at their films and watching them in person they have the athletic ability to play at this level. Certain players may have to gain a little strength to play up front. Other players may have to have the knowledge of the position they play relative to it, if it's a more complicated position, say, middle linebacker or linebacker as opposed to a corner. But I think you usually see skilled players get on the field fastest. But we played six or seven players every year as true freshmen, and I think this season will be no different.
I think the other thing you need to look at is you'll only be able to evaluate this after this spring practice, but how many young players, redshirt freshmen will be on the field for us next year as well. And that's an indication of truly of your recruiting class.
And we evaluate -- when you try and evaluate your recruiting class, you look at how many guys start for you over a period of time, and so we'll continue to evaluate that.
But we feel very good about our class, and defensively as well as offensively. But I think we feel -- I think we have three linebackers, three defensive linemen and four defensive backs coming. So we certainly have almost a whole unit coming.
Q. Right behind that, was there an emphasis put on defense in this class because of what you saw available?
COACH DANTONIO: There was an emphasis on defense put on the class no more than probably offensively we took two wide receivers, a skill guy, three offensive linemen. There was an emphasis put on that class because of the quality of players that we see at the positions there. We wanted to take four defensive backs because we graduated five. That was very important that we do that. We're going to graduate two linebackers or three linebackers next year. We wanted to take three linebackers.
I don't think you ever can have enough defensive linemen guys that can rush the passer and get on the edge of the defense. And, as always, defensive tackles are such a premium in college football, when you find one, you gotta -- you've got to try and get that one, two, three, whatever you find, because there aren't very many of them out there that can play at this level and play well and come in and be a 295-pound guy with athletic ability and explosiveness.
Q. Two things. Number one, the proverbial grade the class, if you would. But second of all, last year there was frustration when you would see defensive backs go for big hits rather than wrap up guys and tackle them. When you watched your guys on film, all good open-field tackling, was that a point of emphasis in recruiting this year?
COACH DANTONIO: Tackling is always a point of emphasis. When you recruit guys, you want them to be able to tackle in space, whether it's linebackers or secondary players. This game gets played in space so often now.
But so I guess I don't know the answer to your question. Yes, it's always a point of emphasis. But they'll have to tackle at this next level now. This is major college football. We play against the best. And there's a challenge there every time they step on the field.
And that's what's exciting and that's the opportunities that we have to go play at this level. Once they master this level, you hope they can go play at the next level.
And that's the key, finding players that can play for you that can go on and play at the next level and everybody aspires to that. But when you have that, you know, obviously if you have six or seven or ten guys, they can play at the next level on your defense, you're pretty good.
But we're working towards it. We're still a young football team in many respects.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks a lot, Coach.
End of FastScripts