In Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio’s 12 years in East Lansing, he believes this might be his best offensive line class yet.
“I do believe from an offensive line perspective, this may be the best class we've ever signed in my 12 years here,” Dantonio said in his early national signing day news conference Wednesday. “I see the quality of the players up there.”
Out of the 20 recruits MSU football signed Wednesday, five of them were offensive linemen, headlined by five-star recruit Devontae Dobbs — the first five-star offensive lineman in Dantonio’s tenure — helping give the Spartans (7-5, 5-4 in Big Ten) the 28th-nationally ranked recruiting class and seventh in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports.
Dobbs, the No. 2 ranked player in Michigan and No. 1-ranked guard nationally, is followed by three-stars Spencer Brown, Nick Samac, Damon Kaylor and J.D. Duplain, who’s listed by MSU as a defensive lineman, but Dantonio said can play on the offensive line.
“If you want to include J.D. Duplain in that, who certainly can play over there, no question, it's the best offensive line class we've signed,” Dantonio said.
Dantonio said all five of them have been “very successful” and “highly recruited players,” regardless of their what star recruit they are.
“They're big, they're athletic,” Dantonio said. “They come from very good programs.”
Two out of the five offensive lineman are 300-plus pounds: Brown, who’s 6-foot-6, 305-pounds, Duplain, who’s 6-foot-3, 303-pounds, and Kaylor, who’s 6-foot-5, 302-pounds. Dobbs is currently 6-foot-3, 295-pounds, while Samac’s 6-foot-4, 285-pounds.
But, Dantonio said all of them can play any five positions on the offensive line, which he said speaks to their athletic abilities.
Something he wants out of all of his offensive linemen, and a position group he thinks needs “to play more consistently.”
“You need to have athletic guys up there,” Dantonio said. “You have to block people on the edge. You've got to be able to run and block the linebackers, things of that nature. It all sort of fits in.”
For Dobbs, he’s been on Dantonio’s radar since ninth grade at Belleville High School, after Dobbs came to an MSU camp playing against the seniors — and “doing outstanding.”
From there on, Dantonio said they started to recruit Dobbs, because they wanted him “as a football player and person.”
“He became a Spartan early on in the process, never wavered,” Dantonio said. “Outstanding football player. I think he'll have an opportunity to play very, very early in his career.”
Dantonio said unlike many top recruits, Dobbs kept the process “low-key,” only involving both of them, Dobbs’ position coach, Dobbs’ grandmother, MSU’s coaching staff and Dobbs’ dad towards the end.
Which Dantonio said he saw in a lot of his recruits who signed Wednesday.
“You don't have to go through all this stuff,” Dantonio said. “I didn't see anybody down 15 hats, other than me.”
And Dantonio said that’s how he likes his recruitment process — not too fancy.
“We don't play games here,” Dantonio said. “We don't come in and do a lot of glitzy stuff. They like who we are, they come here. They want to go someplace else, they go someplace else. That's okay. It's going to happen.”
Dantonio said he expects to sign a couple more players on the final national signing day on Feb. 6, 2019.
But for now, 20 of them, including two preferred walk-ons in long snapper Jude Pedrozo and kicker/punter Evan Morris, are Spartans, with seven of them being early enrollees, coming to East Lansing in January 2019 instead of summer 2019.
“It will be exciting and interesting to watch those guys as they make their way through winter workouts and spring practice their first year here,” Dantonio said.
And overall, a recruiting class Dantonio is pleased about.
“Very excited about our class again,” Dantonio said. “I think these 18 signed guys right now, the possibility of another couple coming, then a couple specialists that are free agents, but that are in with us, in solid with us, guys that will probably earn scholarships as we go.”
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