In the past few years, the saying has been – “The best players in Michigan go to Michigan.”
Not so fast.
Back in 2017, the top 6 recruits in the Great Lakes state went to the Wolverines.
Then, Michigan State picked up the No. 7 commit in the state in Ann Arbor (Mich.) Pioneer four-star inside linebacker Antjuan Simmons. After Simmons, it was Michigan adding the No. 8 player in Oak Park (Mich.) four-star offensive tackle Ja’Raymond Hall, who transferred to Central Michigan after sitting out his freshman season with a redshirt.
Nevertheless, Michigan was large and in-charge of the in-state recruiting for years, even though Michigan State was dominating on the field.
In the past 10 years, Michigan State has won eight times against their rivals. Meanwhile, Michigan has won twice – a 12-10 victory in 2012 and 32-23 triumph in 2016. Remember, the 2016 season was one of the worst in MSU history, as coach Mark Dantonio’s group went 3-9.
The 2019 class for Michigan State consists of six of the top 20 recruits in the state, including another two at No. 23 and No. 31. Michigan, on the other hand, has just two in the top 20 – Grand Rapids (Mich.) East Kentwood four-star defensive tackle Mazi Smith and Paw Paw (Mich.) 3-star offensive tackle Karsen Barnhart.
Some Michigan State commits, like Commerce Township (Mich.) Walled Lake Western three-star offensive tackle Spencer Brown, believe on-field success against Michigan proves Dantonio’s staff is better than Jim Harbaugh’s staff, causing recruits to turn toward the Spartans.
“It means a lot to me and the others because it shows the coaching is better and the (MSU) coaches bring the most out of the kids,” Brown said. “MSU does a great job of helping players reach their full potential.”
West Bloomfield (Mich.) three-star wide receiver Tre Mosley also has taken notice of the coaching staff, which was the main reason why he picked the Spartans over Wolverines.
“MSU has been so successful because of the stability with the coaching staff and the relationship they have with players and incoming recruits,” Mosley said.
Despite being the No. 31 player in the state and not having an offer from the Michigan, Grand Rapids (Mich.) Forest Hills Central three-star athlete Tate Hallock has felt the same vibe as other committed players.
“Michigan State has dominated the series in the past 10 years,” Hallock said of why Michigan State is out-recruiting Michigan. “The coaches are amazing and the players are very cool.”
Flint (Mich.) three-star strong-side defensive end Michael Fletcher does not agree.
“The past makes the present but the present makes the future,” Fletcher said. “The 2018 class and mine (2019) will dictate if that will continue on.”
Even though Fletcher does not believe on-field performance is the most colossal factor to MSU’s recruiting successes, he thinks it has something to do with the priority put on players in the state of Michigan.
“(Michigan) did a lot of their in-state recruiting later than (Michigan) State,” Fletcher added. “I know for me at least, it was a couple months between the two, so that was a reason.”
With all but one player, Mosley, Michigan State offered before its rival.
Julian Barnett, a four-star cornerback standout from Belleville (Mich.), noticed a steady recruiting approach by the Spartans. He picked MSU over Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon and Michigan.
“Michigan State is consistent with recruiting,” Barnett said. “If they want somebody, they’ll get them. With other commits in the class in-state, we are reaching out as well. People just want to play at home in that green and white.”
Belleville (Mich.) five-star offensive tackle Devonte Dobbs picked up his offer from Michigan just less than two months after getting offered by Michigan State. He said Harbaugh’s group was actively recruiting him until the Wolverines offered.
Once the Maize and Blue handed him a scholarship, Harbaugh allegedly expected a commitment.
“It felt like Michigan thought they were superior and the big boss to Michigan State,” Dobbs said to ESPN 100.9-FM in June. “They thought, ‘You have an offer from Michigan, so you should be going to Michigan since you have the offer.’ It was as if they didn’t need to recruit me or better their relationship with me. That was the first thing they did wrong.
“When I went up there to talk to them, I felt uncomfortable because of the way they acted, talked and just were.”
Mosley did not feel comfortable at Michigan, just like Dobbs. He got much more of an at-home feeling in East Lansing.
“It feels more like home at MSU,” Mosley said. “I’m close with the players currently on the team and the other 2019 recruits.”
Marcel Lewis, a three-star inside linebacker from Clinton Township (Mich.) Chippewa Valley, said the Michigan State recruits believe in winning championships.
“Michigan State has been getting all the Michigan kids because we believe in one thing and that is to win championships at MSU,” Lewis said. “MSU always stayed in contact with us since day one of recruitment.”
The 2019 class has changed the landscape of recruiting in the state of Michigan. More and more players from in-state are teaming up to join the Spartans, while the Wolverines are forced to look out-of-state for top-notch prospects.
Even though Michigan State does not have a commit outside Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, the group has brought in quite the haul from the Great Lakes state. The recruiting tide in the state has officially turned from the Wolverines to Spartans.
Zeeland (Mich.) East three-star strong-side defensive end Adam Berghorst was reached but did not respond.