The 2017 season may have just ended, but it’s never too early to speculate on the future, especially when recruiting is involved. 20 high school seniors officially committed to Michigan State during 2018’s early signing period. According to 24/7 Sports’ composite rankings, this group ranks No. 25 in the nation.
Sometimes, one theme can define an entire class. If there’s one word that describes this year’s class, that word would probably be either “athletic” or “versatile.” With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of MSU’s 20 recruits, first looking at the offensive side of the ball.
Let’s start with the most important position. The Spartans brought in two three-star quarterbacks in La’Darius Jefferson and Javez Alexander, but neither may actually play that position. MSU coach Mark Dantonio said that Jefferson, who was Mr. Football in the state if Michigan, will probably be used mostly as a tailback and Alexander as a wideout.
But Theo Day, a 6-5 pro style QB out of Divine Child in Dearborn, MI has a chance to be the next big time starter under center for the Spartans. Day’s tall stature and arm strength give provide natural talent needed to survive at the collegiate level. Some have already drawn the Kirk Cousins comparisons, but Dantonio believes Day’s style mirrors Brian Lewerke more than anyone else.
“Great arm strength,” said Dantonio at the Signing Day press conference. “When you look at his highlight film, it’s just play after play of him putting the ball down the field. The intermediate throws on target with a lot of velocity on it. The ability to run with the football when needed reminds me a lot of what Lewerke has done this year.”
Day will almost certainly be redshirted his freshman year and then serve as a backup. But after Lewerke graduates, he’ll fight with Rocky Lombardi to win the starting gig.
Elijah Collins, a three-star tailback out of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School was officially recruited as a running back. But this does not embody everything Collins can do. In fact, it might be difficult to find a position he can’t play. Collins represents the athletic two-way star who never leaves the field. He could be this year’s diamond in the rough, as Dantonio passed up multiple players just to hold a spot for him.
The only true wideout in this year’s class is three-star Julian Major. Major is skinny, but has length and uses his body to ward off defenders. That said, MSU is currently extremely young and deep in its receiving corps and Major may be redshirted and remain off the field for his early career.
Trenton Gillison is the Spartans’ lone tight end in this year’s class, but one is all they’ll need. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Gillison is a mismatch. MSU isn’t losing a single tight end, but the position is typically an integral part of Dantonio’s offense and Gillison could make major contributions immediately as a true freshman, as Lewerke searches for a red-zone target beyond Felton Davis.
“[Gillison] runs very well, catches the ball very well,” said Dantonio. “He’s got power. He’s used to being at the point of attack.”
Equally impressive, Gillison is an Ohio player highly recruited by Ohio State. Gillison’s decision to come to East Lansing and turn down the Buckeyes says a lot about his chemistry with Dantonio and his ability to fit into offensive coordinator Dave Warner’s offense.
Three three-star offensive linemen signed with the Spartans including tackles James Ohonba and Dimitri Douglas, along with center Jacob Isaia. Ohonba is just a massive human being weighing in as MSU’s largest recruit at 345 pounds. Douglas has versatility and can play anywhere on the offensive line.
Isaia, the grandson of former Spartan Bob Apisa, is also very athletic with versatility to play multiple positions within the line. With Brian Allen graduating after this year, he’ll have a chance to play behind Matt Allen. In fact, all three players will have chances to provide depth early in their careers, as the Spartans use second- and third-string offensive linemen very often.