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Gridders recruiting new talent

January 22, 2001

In the first few weeks of the new year, MSU football has made a push to boost its 2001 recruiting class.

News of their most recent addition came Tuesday when Robert Strickland, a four-star wide receiver out of Detroit’s Denby High School, verbally committed to the Spartans.

Strickland, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior is ranked the twenty-ninth best wide receiver in high school football by popular recruiting publication www.rivals.com.

“He’s got great talent,” said Bill Kurelic, the Web site's analyst. “He’s got good size, he’s fast, he’s tall.

“Size wise he’d be like David Terrell, maybe more like David Boston who played for Ohio State and who is now with the Arizona Cardinals.”

The only question remaining is whether Strickland will qualify academically. As it stands, he has yet to do so.

Despite that, MSU Associate Athletics Director Demetrius Marlowe said that Strickland is not being recruited by the Spartans as an academically ineligible recruit.

“We recruit those athletes who have a chance to play football at MSU, and that we feel have an excellent opportunity to receive an education from Michigan State,” Marlowe said.

One player MSU doesn’t have to worry about qualifying academically is defensive back Eric Smith.

Smith, a senior at Groveport Madison High School in Groveport, Ohio, touts a 3.95 grade point average and was looked at by Yale and Harvard before verbally committing to MSU on Jan. 14.

“(Myself and coach Hale) talked to (Eric), and my advice to him and his parents was that if Eric feels he never had a chance to play on Sundays, he should go to Yale or Harvard,” Groveport Madison Athletic Director Don Charlton said. “He believes in himself well enough to believe he can play in the Big Ten.”

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Smith played cornerback at Groveport Madison but was recruited by MSU to play safety.

Smith was not ranked by the site.

“He just wasn’t that highly recruited,” Kurelic said. “He had a good senior season (55 tackles and 7 interceptions), but he wasn’t one of the most highly recruited guys in the state.”

MSU football personnel are restricted from commenting on recruits until they sign a national letter of intent. National signing day is Feb. 7.

Strickland and Smith will enter a freshman class that includes redshirt freshman Charles Rogers.

Rogers, who committed to MSU Jan. 2000, was redshirted for the 2000 season because he did not meet NCAA academic eligibility. Coming out of Saginaw High School, Rogers was ranked the second best wide receiver in the country by the site.

Rogers declined to comment on the upcoming season until practice starts in March.

Included in MSU’s 1999 recruiting class with Rogers was Eric Knott, a Detroit Henry Ford High School tight end ranked tenth in the country by the site.

Although he verbally committed to MSU in January, 2000 he did not sign a national letter of intent due to legal troubles.

Knott has been charged with two counts of first degree sexual conduct stemming from a July, 1999 alleged rape of a 13-year-old Detroit girl. If convicted, Knott faces a life sentence.

The trial, originally scheduled to begin Mar. 15, 2000, was delayed until Nov. 20, 2000 at which time the prosecution made an appeal to admit a statement Knott made to police following his arrest.

“The trial has been postponed because we are appealing the judge’s ruling that said we could not use Mr. Knott’s confession,” Wayne County prosecuting attorney Dave McCreedy said.

As for when the trial will reconvene, McCreedy said he is not certain.

“These appeals take a long time,” he said. “It’s totally off the trial docket until we get a ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals.”

Wayne County prosecuting attorney Jeff Caminsky is working on the appeal.

Because Knott didn’t sign a national letter of intent, MSU football personnel could not discuss whether or not the university is still holding a scholarship for him.

“He is still recruitable,” said John Lewandowski, assistant athletics director for media relations. “And the fact that he hasn’t signed a letter of intent with anybody, we can’t even talk about him.”

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