Thursday, May 23, 2024

With no bowl game, Smith turns focus to recruiting trail

December 5, 2005
Head coach John L. Smith watches the Nov. 19 game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions overtook the Spartans, winning 31-22, and clinched their title as this year's Big Ten Champions.

Former MSU head coach Hugh "Duffy" Daugherty was famous for his idea that championships are won between the months of December and September with recruiting.

After another losing football season and bowl game absence, MSU head coach John L. Smith is focused on doing just that — bringing another solid freshman class into the program to build it to where it needs to be.

"We're on the recruiting trail," Smith said. "It comes down to recruiting. We're looking at all positions right now.

"Our reception has been great. We're excited."

Although national signing day is still months away, Smith is equally optimistic about the mentality and poise of his returning players.

"We're disappointed in the season, but we're not disheartened and we're not discouraged," he said. "We know we've got great character.

"We take that to our guys coming back — our juniors, our sophomores, our freshman and our redshirts — is that it's going to have to take a more-committed-than-ever effort. That's going to happen."

The Spartans finished the season ninth in the Big Ten with only two conference wins. Smith holds an 18-18 overall record as head coach at MSU and is coming off the only two losing seasons of his coaching career.

This year's 5-6 overall record is especially disappointing after starting the season at 4-0.

"We have to gain some maturity," he said. "We'll be looking at some mental maturity that we need. That's going to come.

"We've got be able to step up and finish entire seasons, not just games."

Coaching changes?

While it was made clear at a press conference Friday that Smith will not be relieved of his head coaching duties anytime soon, he hinted that there might be a coaching shakeup among his assistants. Smith did not go into specific details.

"It's not the time or the place to do that," he said. "That will take its course. We're all going to change for the better.

"There will always be some changes and that's part of building."

Running backs

A consistent positive for the Spartans all last season was the play of the running backs.

While senior Jason Teague will be departing, sophomore Jehuu Caulcrick and freshman Javon Ringer will be back. Adding depth and talent to the spot will be A.J. Jimmerson, who was redshirted this season.

"Our running back situation is a bright spot," Smith said. "I've alluded to A.J. all year long and I think he's going to be a special player that adds to a group of real good players."

Junior college recruits

Smith was unsure whether or not he will bring in another batch of junior college transfers, but said it is an option he will explore if they have the potential to make the team "immediately better."

Current junior college transfers include junior offensive lineman Daniel Zynn, junior cornerback Demond Williams, junior defensive lineman David Stanton and departing senior defensive lineman Domata Peko.

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