The War Room:  Go Inside #16 Michigan State Football

I get a lot of nuggets and information that alone are not big enough for a story.  When I have a few that I can assemble together I will, and when I only have one or two I will post them as premium content on our Phalanx Forum board.  So welcome to The War Room.  Today we go inside Spartan Football ahead of the Spartans game against Washington State

  • I apologize for waiting on this article, but I was asked not to publicly comment on Austin Andrews and defensive end Lashawn Paulino-Bell. They have been suspended for the Holiday Bowl.  I was asked to allow Coach Dantonio to address it publicly and I honored that.  Most assumed something like this as I stated I was waiting for some information on two particular players.
  • Also, I was waiting on a public statement about Robert Bowers. He left the team after the Ohio State game.  You may remember that I had reported earlier this year that both Bowers and CB Vayante Copeland where not with the team.  Both at the time were red-carded as Dantonio confirmed my story.  Now both are no longer ON THE TEAM.
  • Copeland was off the team before the season and now Bowers has departed.
  • I am hearing that the while, not the favorite, the Spartan are making a big play for 3* GA DL Jamarcus Chatman. Again I am not saying that MSU is the favorite, but they are far from out and in the hunt.  I think the Spartans have an inside track and I would not be shocked if he signs with the Spartans in February.
  • As far as transfers go, I asked Dantonio and he said: “I am sure that there are some people with the opportunity to play someplace else.” I do know of five players considering a transfer.  Because they have not made the final decision to do so I will not name them.
  • I will say about the potential transfers, that I think only two would be a surprise.
  • As you know last year I named Antjuan Simmons as a player that many were overlooking that we felt at Spartan Nation had star status and would be a big impact player. He was this year.  In my weekly football Q/A article I said that I expected Simmons to take Chris Frey’s starting spot.  I have heard that from multiple people inside the program.  He has big-time potential and while early, all indications are that this young man will play on Sunday’s.
  • I asked Joe Bachie about Simmons and he loves him, “He is a guy that is hard to keep off of the field.  If you don’t want to learn you won’t and he wants to learn. I am more excited about him next year than anybody.”
  • Bachie also said, “Simmons is a lot like (Rocky) Lombardi. He has a great work ethic and has real passion and commitment to the game.”
  • One name that people are all talking about is Shakur Brown. I can’t tell you the number of players and staff that have bragged saying, “After practice and on scout team he just works incredibly hard at his craft.  He is going to be real good.”
  • Chris Frey says of Simmons, “I love that kid. He came in here a highly recruited guy and he comes in here with the attitude that he is going to get better each and every day.  He loves to learn about this game just like Rocky (Lombardi) and I am excited to see where both of those guys are going to end up.”
  • DeAri Todd is making plays and is consistently talked about. Bachie told me, “He is always asking for advice or wanting to watch the film with me.  I am super excited to see what he does next year.  He is a worker.”
  • Bachie would know. Nobody on this team outworks him and when he gives a stamp of approval on a guy that says something.  I will have more on Todd after the bowl, but I expect big things from him.
  • One major area of bowl practice that fans do not see is guys sitting in on meetings finally for the first time in their room. Once a decision is made to redshirt, those players primarily are in meetings learning the next opponents offense or defense so they can simulate if for those that will play.  Now the players that redshirted or were not big contributors get to see how the hot dogs are made.
  • For example, the defensive coaches knew far more about Rocky Lombardi than the offense. Not because they didn’t care, but the defensive coaches and players saw him every day.
  • Chris Frey says of Rocky Lombardi, “He is a smart kid. He loves to learn about the game and in film and practice to better himself every day.  He is the leader of that freshman class, especially those redshirting.  He is the leader of those guys and is impressive throwing the ball.  He takes control of the offensive scout team.”
  • Emmanuel Flowers is a guy that is redshirting but has wowed his teammates. He is an athlete.  I had him described to me from a staffer like this, “There are just some guys you watch and say that there is no way God didn’t give them that talent.”  Flowers is a good kid and player.  He will compete to be in the two-deep next year and he will make plays.  He is special as a player and person.
  • One thing about the 2017 class is that they, “Don’t focus on where they are on the depth chart,” according to a key part of the team. They really are a class that restored Spartan football.  Such a breath of fresh air after many that had come in after the Rose Bowl.  The best part of the 2017 class is that they earned the respect of their older teammates.
  • One Spartan upperclassman said to me, “We had developed a culture of me before those guys got here. Not all of us, but I was part of the problem.  I think they showed us by example of what this place was supposed to be.”
  • That upperclassman went on to add, “Joe Bachie deserved our MVP. I voted for him.  But he fits that class and their mentality and what they brought really made them as a group, our MVP.”
  • David Dowell didn’t have a perfect year, but he did have a good year. He cares about this game.  For him to take the step from opportunistic and good player to great he has to stop one thing.  He remembers his mistakes and he gets so down on himself.  I have not hidden how much I like him, but he has to get a shorter memory.  Sometimes he has to come out because he makes a mistake and doesn’t get over it.
  • Here is an interesting nugget. On December 26 I will be joining the Spartan Football team as they travel to the USS Essex.  It is a Naval Amphibious Assault ship. All through bowl practice, Dantonio has been talking to the players about the fact that while they are on scholarship and playing football, these same young men of the same age have been serving to protect them.
  • It was touching to see Felton Davis III almost tear up talking about their service and what it meant to him. Multiple players have talked about what it will mean to tour the ship and meet the young men.
  • In an age where this generation is constantly flogged as being selfish, the way Coach Dantonio’s words have struck a nerve with his team is special. It would be one thing if they said when there on the ship; it would be more public relations. But when I talk with them here and ask what are they most looking for other than the game, I would say 75% mention that ship tour.  That is special and speaks to the character of the head coach and the players he has recruited to wear the green and white.
  • Each year I give you a couple of names from the new recruiting class that I think and hear is running under the radar. Last year I told you Kevin Jarvis, Antjuan Simmons, Cody White and Rocky Lombardi.  This year I give you three.
  • James Ohonba from Georgia. I love this kid on and off the field.  He is a road grader and I expect Michigan State to get three big-time offensive tackles in the 2018 class and I suspect they will have all three committed EARLY in the process.  Ohonba is the man in 2017.
  • Dantonio says of Ohonba that, “One of the top players in Georgia. One of the best offensive linemen in the nation. Big guy. I think I could have curled up and took a nap in his shoe, size 18 shoe. Big guy. 320 plus pounds and that may be kind, 6-4, 6-5 guy. Had a knee injury at the end of the season, so he’ll have to rehab that knee. But outstanding student. He played soccer and basketball early in his life, in his athletic career. He’s got some athletic ability. Looks like he’ll be a dominant offensive lineman for us as he moves forward.”
  • I want to make something very clear before I say what I need to. Kalon Gervin is a special player.  But Davion Williams many feel was a steal and the best athlete in the class. I think Gervin is going to have a great career, but I think Williams will be even better.  I know several others that share my sentiments.
  • Dantonio said of Williams when I asked him, “There’s some people that say they were teasing us walking in the door, on my visit to the school, home visit, about playing wide receiver as well. He has a great skill set. He runs very, very well. He jumps, has great ball skills, can tackle, he’s big, long. So it should be exciting to watch these guys.”
  • One last true freshman to think about. Tre Person showed some big flashes this year.  Do not be shocked if next year if he makes a push for a big role.  People around the program were wowed by his ability to make plays.  He is so athletic and the more he learns the better.
  • Jeslord Boateng is another. The same Ohio coach that had told me LeVeon Bell was the steal of his class told me the same about Boateng and the coaches agree.
  • I told Dantonio what the Ohio coach had told me in comparison to Bell and he said, “We’re going to find out. He’s extremely athletic. He’s big, 210, 215 pounds. When you watch him move, he doesn’t play in sections, it’s all smooth. Very good player. I think good family. Very dynamic.”
  • There is a lot of consternation among many college coaches with the early signing period. Not with Michigan State and Mark Dantonio.  It helps the Spartans on two fronts.  The first Dantonio addressed publicly yesterday saying, ““I like it because it gives you an opportunity to say that we’re committed to this individual. If you’re not, you better pull out early so they have opportunities. You don’t pull out late. It also does that for the player. If they don’t sign, they’re not committed or they have an issue. They may have an issue. They may not have their mind made up. Maybe they’re committed but their mind isn’t made up. There’s a lot that goes into this.”
  • The second reason is that schools like Michigan State that are exceptional talent evaluators spend a ton of time at the end of each previous signing day holding on to players that bloomed late. There are several again in this class that did the same.  Theo Day is not the same QB he was even this summer.  Had signing day been two months hence as in the past, I am NOT saying MSU would have lost him.  But I know for a fact MULTIPLE wanted him.  Day shut them down, but the Spartans would still have had to expend so much in keeping him that it hurts closing out.
  • I have heard Spartan fans for years bemoan how the Spartans don’t get any commits late. That is a compliment to how they recruit early, but having to hold on has kept them keeping guys they had and not out closing last minute guys.
  • Without naming names I know of three or four top-tier recruits in the past that MSU had a great shot at landing, but they didn’t have manpower or time to go close because they were holding on to guys that they already had.
  • Now with two spots open, because of the early signing period, MSU is full go on 2019 and looking at closing on the last two spots. This new rule is a blessing for the Spartan Football program.
  • You may remember that Spartan Nation reported first back in early October that there were higher ranked players that did not have any interest in Michigan State coming off of their 3-9 years that all of sudden were calling MSU. The Spartans listened if they were players that they had room for.  Many however were told now at positions that were already full.
  • Dantonio talked about having turn players away this year and said, “As the season progressed, we weren’t a 3-9 team anymore. We were a 9-3 team, or 7-2, as we hit November when so many of the different things started happening on the recruiting landscape. We were 8-2, something like that. There was a lot of interest. We climbed back into the top 20, which is where we should be. A lot of good things have happened.”

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