Thursday, February 29, 2024

Michigan State football's early enrollees adjusting to college life on the fly

February 3, 2022
<p>Dillon Tatum arrives on campus to play for Michigan State football.</p>

Dillon Tatum arrives on campus to play for Michigan State football.

Photo by Courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications | The State News

As college football’s national signing day comes to a close, recruits across the nation are preparing to make the leap from high school to college. 

At Michigan State, a handful of recruits are already in the midst of that transition. 

“It’s been a whirlwind,” incoming MSU quarterback Katin Houser said. “I’m busy every day. I get up early as possible in the morning, go and lift, and then it’s off to classes, off to meetings, off to tutors, it’s extra work, it’s throwing. It’s so much thrown at me right now, but I’m enjoying the process.”

Houser — along with eight other recruits in the 2022 class — enrolled at the university early, arriving on campus in January.

Their reasons vary. Some, like Alex VanSumeren, would like a head start in the weight room. The defensive lineman is already an imposing figure, but he's looking forward to bringing himself to the next level with the Spartan coaching staff. Others, like wide receiver Germie Bernard, knew by their junior year that departing from high school early was ideal.

Bernard, like Houser, moved to East Lansing from the west coast. Unsurprisingly, the weather has presented a new wrinkle to an already unfamiliar territory for the players from warmer states.

Michigan natives VanSumeren and defensive back Dillon Tatum are well aware of the harsh realities of the region's winters, but they have had their own learning curves on campus. Tatum mentioned the difficulty of time management, highlighting a 30-minute walk to class as one of the more frustrating tasks to balance.

Michigan State's early enrollees are already dealing with the multitude of responsibilities that accompany becoming a college athlete. Luckily, the recruits are not alone in the transition.

"It's been really fun just getting to know the guys that have just came out of high school just like me," Tatum said. The recruits are getting well acquainted, gathering in Tatum's apartment to watch a playoff games and the national championship game. "I think that was a really good bonding moment we had," added Tatum.

Twenty-one players will join the nine early enrollees by the start of the next season — seven of them are players joining from the transfer portal. MSU's recruiting class is no. 22 in the nation and fifth in the Big Ten according to 24/7Sports, with six four-stars among them.

Michigan State Head Coach Mel Tucker recruited a majority of the players after his first season with Michigan State, which ended with a 2-5 record. With an 11 win season added to his resume at MSU, Tucker will head into the 2023 recruiting cycle with plenty of momentum. A quality showing from the 2022 class would not just give Michigan State an improved roster — it would give Tucker even more recruiting power.

Early signing periods and early enrollment might take a bit of the excitement out of national signing day, but for recruits, it is an opportunity to start the rest of their lives just a bit earlier.

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