Spartans making noise in their own backyard

Originally Published: August 6, 2008
By Bill Kurelic | Special to ESPN.com

When it comes to recruiting, the perception is that the farther a coach goes from his home state, the more difficult it is to land a prospect. While that is not necessarily the case for all schools, in general, it is a philosophy that holds true.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio has followed that guideline with his 2009 recruiting class. He has 15 verbal commitments, nine of which hail from the state of Michigan.

Dantonio was Jim Tressel's defensive coordinator at Ohio State before becoming the Cincinnati Bearcats' head coach. So it is not surprising he has four commitments from nearby Ohio. Dantonio's other two commitments come from Indiana and Iowa.

Dantonio knew the time was right to hit the state of Michigan hard with Lloyd Carr stepping down as the Wolverines' head coach and the late start Rich Rodriguez had on the recruiting trail. He also knows Ohio is loaded with talent, and Tressel can't take it all.

The strategy has paid off; Dantonio's '09 class is shaping up to be one of the top classes in the Big Ten. He has beat out his rivals from Ann Arbor for three of the state's top 10 prospects -- running backs Larry Caper (Battle Creek, Mich./Central) and Edwin Baker(Oak Park, Mich.) and linebacker Chris Norman(Detroit/Renaissance). The only in-state prospect who had an offer from both Michigan State and Michigan who has gone with the Wolverines to this point is defensive lineman William Campbell (Detroit/Cass Tech).

Although Dantonio has not landed anyone from Ohio who has a scholarship offer from Tressel, he's gotten verbals from some talented prospects from the Buckeye State -- including offensive lineman Nate Klatt(Canal Fulton, Ohio/Northwest) and defensive back/wide receiver Patrick White (Pickerington, Ohio/Central).

Iowa offensive lineman David Barrent (West Des Moines, Iowa/Valley) is the Spartans top-rated 2009 commit. Barrent is No. 69 on the ESPNU 150. Baker is No. 109 on the same list.

Dantonio has more battles to win. There are still two talented in-state prospects he hopes to land in tight end Dion Sims (Orchard Lake, Mich./St. Mary's), who has offers from Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State among others, and wide receiver Cameron Gordon (Inkster, Mich.). Both are among the top 10 prospects in Michigan.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Maxwell
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com Under-the-radar QB prospect Andrew Maxwell is headed to Michigan State.
From Ohio, Dantonio is still going after a half dozen prospects. At the top of the list are linebacker Luke Kuechly (Cincinnati/St. Xavier) and defensive end Cornelius Carradine (Cincinnati/Taft). Both are among the top 20 prospects in the Buckeye State and have a scholarship offers on the table from Michigan. Other Ohio preps considering the Spartans include offensive lineman Hugh Thornton (Meridian, Ohio/ Oberlin), defensive end Davon Custis (Columbus, Ohio/DeSales) and linebacker Travis Freeman (Cleveland/Glenville). When all is said and done, Dantonio could have close to 20 prospects from either Michigan or Ohio in his 2009 recruiting class.

Midwest notes

•  With 24 verbal commitments, Ohio State has landed almost every prospect it has targeted from Ohio with the exception of defensive back Justin Turner (Massillon, Ohio/Washington), who committed to Michigan, and offensive lineman Marcus Hall (Cleveland/Glenville), who has yet to select a college. Hall is strongly considering the Buckeyes, and Glenville is known as an Ohio State pipeline. However, after Glenville wide receiver Cordale Scott selected Illinois over Ohio State last year, Buckeye fans are not considering Hall an OSU lock. The big lineman says Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan and Florida State are his top four choices.
•  The Michigan prep Class of 2009 has only one quarterback among the state's Top 15 prospects, Michigan State commitment Andrew Maxwell (Midland, Mich.). However, two Class of 2010 quarterbacks will be among the top 10 prospects in the state next year. Devin Gardner (Inkster, Mich.) and Robert Bolden (Orchard Lake, Mich./St. Mary's) have both already been offered by Michigan State.

•  There are five prospects from the state of Pennsylvania on the ESPNU 150, and four will head out-of-state to play their college football. Linebacker Dorian Bell (No. 16) has committed to Ohio State; wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes (No. 53) has selected Tennessee; quarterback Tom Savage (No. 98) has committed to Rutgers; and defensive back/athlete E.J. Banks (No. 131) has narrowed his choices down to Notre Dame, Ohio State, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Rutgers and Wake Forest. Only offensive lineman Eric Shrive (No. 72) will stay in the Keystone State to play his college football. Shrive has committed to Penn State.

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