Thursday, May 23, 2024

Spartans don't sign top Mich. football recruit but securing the No. 2, 3, 4s shows positive outlook

If I were to shake a Magic 8-Ball and ask, "What will the MSU football team be like next season?" the magical forces of the 8-Ball would probably answer "Outlook good."

Although it is early, it seems like this could be the year that the coach, the team and the winning column all look positive for MSU. But until spring practice begins, I am not going to jump on the John L. Smith train quite yet.

But here at MSU, being a fan means going through a lot of bad moments sprinkled with a handful of good. So in the spirit of that, I am going to look at next season as positively as I can.

With last week's signing day, the new recruiting class can give fans more hope than the troubled team from last season. It wasn't that the Spartans didn't have their amazing moments last season. I was in the Notre Dame student section when the players brought home a heroic win against Charlie Weis' team. But I can remember there were so many moments last fall when it was just too painful to watch — the kicking, the coaching and Drew Stanton encountering his kryptonite.

With a clean slate and the endorsement of MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and Athletics Director Ron Mason, head coach John L. Smith knows he still has his job and this season is when he has to get back to the bowl games.

This is finally the fourth year that he, and Smith's groupies, have been defending as his time to show some legitimate Spartan success. Add in the No. 33 overall team ranking by Rivals.com and some new players in key positions, and we may very well have a football team.

The program has seven four-star and three-star commits each, helping MSU with its top 50 ranking. Among those, it is exciting to say that we've got a kicker, Brett Swenson, who Smith said will have every opportunity to come in and do his thing.

MSU was even named to Rivals.com's Top 10 Signing Day Overachievers for its balanced roster. The program signed some local Michiganians and an array of junior college recruits who will be able to add some flair, size and force to the gridiron combat next fall.

We may have not picked up the No. 1 recruit according to Rivals.com postseason Michigan top 20 2006, but Smith and his coaching staff did secure No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4. From the north, Traverse City provided the Spartans with No. 2 linebacker Eric Gordon and No. 3 defensive lineman Patrick Rigan and from the southern part of the state hails No. 4 tight end Charlie Gantt of Farmington Hills.

Pulling as much skill from across the state as possible can really help a program. Most likely, these three guys have grown up watching MSU or Michigan football and for their whole lives have wanted to fulfill the dream by playing for one of the schools. They have the necessary abilities and that Michigan pride that can help a team like the Spartans get past those early undefeated streaks and those echoing mid-to-end of the season losses.

Filling in the other spots, four-star recruits such as defensive lineman Ervin Baldwin, defensive back Ken Tinney and offensive lineman Jason Diehl will come in and have the chance to make an impact right away. Tinney will be able to help fill another position that was a little more shaky last fall; Smith said he thinks his athleticism and speed will be utilized right away.

Who knows if this will be the season when the Spartans click on not only the basketball court, but on the football field as well. Maybe even earn their way to a bowl game? Especially with Smith's 2006 class, plus young guns such as running back Javon Ringer who stunned fans with his five touchdowns in his first season — like I said before, the outlook is potentially good.

MSU definitely has the capacity to be a contender in the Big Ten with the perennial powerhouses, such as U-M and Ohio State. There is just one thing I ask of Smith and the boys: Please don't let me find myself, and another thousand fans gathered in Spartan Stadium for a game that is dragging on and on, as the score tilts more and more against our favor, wondering — when does the men's basketball season start?

Laura Collins is the State News deputy sports editor. Reach her at colli313@msu.edu.

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