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Much of the recent public focus on Michigan State recruiting has surrounded the 2018 class — who’s visiting, who’s nearing a commitment, etc.
Of course, coaches never have a singular focus when it comes to recruiting. As important as the high school seniors may be, coaches can’t neglect younger players. Relationships with prospects must be consistent and fluid.
The 2019 group will be an absolutely crucial one for Michigan State. The in-state class is one of the strongest in recent memory, with the Spartans showing heavier interest than usual.
So as this long, hot summer gives way to crisp, cool evenings of high school football, let’s run down Michigan State’s top targets in the 2019 class and assess where the Spartans stand. Star ratings come from the 247Sports composite.
Quarterback: Dwan Mathis, 4 stars, Oak Park (Mich.)
Dwan Mathis seems to have visited Michigan State as much as anyone, and did so twice in July. The first visit landed him an offer. It was bound to come at some point as the dual-threat QB continues to wow with his arm and mobility.
“I was at a loss for words,” Mathis said of the offer. “I really didn’t know what to say. It put a smile on my face. It’s something that I’ve been wanting since I was a kid watching all the older guys.”
The Spartans seem to have the best relationship with the former Iowa State commit. But Ohio State could shake up things with an offer. Mathis has said he won’t rush his decision because he wants to enjoy the process.
Running back: Jaren Mangham, 4 stars, Detroit Cass Tech
You won’t find many bruisers quite like Jaren Mangham, who could end up at linebacker if that’s where he wanted to play. He landed his offer in early spring and most recently visited for Michigan State’s first preseason practice on July 31.
“I like their whole coaching staff,” Mangham said in March. “They all treated me like I was part of the family.”
Regardless of whether Mangham commits to a school early, he will continue to pick up offers. Clemson and LSU have brought him in for visits and could eventually take that next step. Regardless, the Spartans will have to fend off schools nationwide if they want to land the Detroit star.
Wide receiver: David Bell, 4 stars, Warren Central (Indianapolis)
This one looks like a long shot, but Michigan State really wants David Bell. The big-play threat has stood out early in his high school career and has earned a No. 13 ranking among receivers nationwide.
Now the Spartans have to convince Bell to choose them over Notre Dame. And you might notice a trend here: Ohio State is lurking, but hasn’t offered yet.
Offensive lineman: Devontae Dobbs, 5 stars, Belleville (Mich.)
The Spartans have a commitment from 4-star tackle Spencer Brown, but Devontae Dobbs has long been a coveted prospect for Michigan State, which has built as close a relationship with him as anyone.
“I think it’s probably his favorite school right now,” said his coach, Jermain Crowell. “He’s familiar with them. That’s who he’s comfortable with.”
Granted, that was months ago, but Michigan State’s interest remains as high as ever. The same can be said for some of the top programs in the nation. Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State all have offered. That’ll happen when you’re the No. 1 tackle in the nation.
Defensive lineman: Mazi Smith, 4 stars, East Kentwood (Mich.)
There may be others in whom the Spartans are just as interested, but Mazi Smith at least seems like a legitimate possibility for them to land. The in-state defensive tackle is cousins with former Michigan State running back T.J. Duckett and has grown fond of the program.
“Their coaching staff seems to be really close,” Smith said after his offer. “They seem all to be ready and willing to add new people to the family.”
They would love for Smith to be next. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound tackle is quickly becoming a nationwide target, but the local schools continue to lead. Look out for Michigan and Notre Dame, both of which have offered.
Linebacker: Kevin Harris, 4 stars, Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)
This one is subject to change. No one linebacker has stood out for Michigan State, but the Spartans have offered a talented crop. Kevin Harris is one of three prospects who picked up an offer while visiting in the spring.
At 6-foot-4 with long arms, Harris’ length and athleticism make him a highly coveted prospect. Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma and Tennessee stand among his offers, making landing Harris a tough job for the Spartans.
Defensive back: Julian Barnett, 4 stars, Belleville (Mich.)
This one also is subject to change, but for a different reason. Julian Barnett grabbed the attention of most schools as a wide receiver, but his coach (the aforementioned Jermain Crowell) is a cornerbacks guru who has been grooming him to play the position in college.
Michigan State wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel and defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett might just duke it out for Barnett, but they’d have to land a commitment first. Barnett has offers from Alabama, Notre Dame and Oregon. The Spartans’ offer didn’t go unappreciated, though.
“It felt good,” Barnett said at the time. “I was being patient about the offer, and then when he said I had the offer, I started smiling hard.”
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