National signing day on Wednesday marked the official start of 18 high schoolers’ journeys as MSU football players. As with essentially every class in head coach Mark Dantonio’s tenure, the national recruiting analysts have pegged the Spartans’ 2013 class somewhere near the mid 30s in terms of national rankings.
Another staple of Dantonio’s reign since 2007 has been stockpiling and developing talent by redshirting the majority of his incoming recruits. Each season only a select few true freshman see the field for MSU — usually based on exceptional need or exceptional ability.
Here’s a look at a few names in this year’s class to keep an eye on moving forward.
Running backs Gerald Homes (Flint, Mich.), R.J. Shelton (Beaver Dam, Wis.) and Delton Williams (Erie, Pa.):
The departure of former workhorse Le’Veon Bell leaves a gaping hole in MSU’s offense that can’t be understated.
Bell put the entire MSU offense — and at times, half the opposing team’s defense — on his back throughout the season. Those carries need to be made up by somebody, and the spot is wide open following Bell’s early exit and the graduation of Larry Caper.
As far as returners, there’s sophomores Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford as well as redshirt freshman Nick Tompkins.
Dantonio said the three incoming recruits all will get a shot in the fall to compete for the starting job, as it’s a position he thinks can be occupied by a first-year player. Williams will begin his career in the backfield, but was recruited as an athlete and projects as either a safety or linebacker long term.
My money is on Holmes being the starter in game one simply because he has the big body and frame (6-foot-1, 205-pounds) to withstand the beating running backs take in MSU’s offense, especially if the passing game doesn’t improve in 2013.
I’d also expect Shelton, a burner, to get a portion of the carries, perhaps how Caper and former Spartan Edwin Baker did their freshman seasons.
It’s worth noting, however, Dantonio did compare the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Williams to Bell. This is all predicated on the idea that none of the current backs steal the show during spring ball, too.
Quarterback Damion Terry (Erie, Pa.):
No position will face more questions or scrutiny this season than the quarterback, and that’s justified considering the way the MSU offense stumbled through 2012.
Junior Andrew Maxwellhad highs and lows as the starter but Dantonio turned to redshirt freshman Connor Cook to lead the game-winning drive in the bowl game.
Dantonio said there will be an open competition for the job into the fall, which is where Terry comes into the mix. Terry, a 6-foot-4 dual-threat player, won’t arrive on campus until July and potentially could redshirt as he will be far behind the returners in terms of familiarity with the playbook. Looking down the line, though, Terry becomes one of the most interesting players on the roster because of his unique skill set when compared to the current quarterbacks.
Throw in the fact that Dantonio has mentioned the need for offensive changes and an emphasis on quarterback mobility in recent months, and Terry becomes very intriguing going forward.
Linebackers Shane Jones (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Jon Reschke (Sterling Heights, Mich.):
It might be a while before two of the highest-rated recruits in the class earn playing time for the Spartans. Dantonio called the pair “active, collision-type players” which fits the mold of many recent MSU linebackers, but the position is so deep seeing the field could be tough.
Sophomore Taiwan Jones likely permanently will take over the only open linebacker position — a job he partially held last season — with senior Chris Norman’s departure.
There’s at least two additional talented linebackers that can’t crack the lineup themselves in redshirt freshmen Ed Davis and Darien Harris. Dantonio said Jones projects to play one of the outside linebacker spots while Reschke will stay in the middle.
Kicker Michael Geiger (Toledo, Ohio):
The rivals.com No. 1-ranked kicker comes to East Lansing with immediate potential to play with former kicker Dan Conroy lost to graduation.
Geiger made six of his 10 field goalattempts as a senior including a career-long 54-yarder. If the Spartans’ offense resembles the 2012 version, consistency and composure will be critical for whoever takes over kicking duties.