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Mark Dantonio Introduces 2012 Recruiting Class

Mark Dantonio flashes a smile while visiting with Booker High School defensive back Ezra Robinson on the phone Wednesday morning.

Feb. 1, 2012

Signing Day Central | Press Conference Coverage: Video

Photo Galleries: Player Signees | Signing Day

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio introduced the Spartans' 2012 recruiting class Wednesday afternoon at a press conference inside the Clara Bell Smith Center Auditorium.

MSU signed 18 players and added one transfer (DeAnthony Arnett, University of Tennessee). The class is represented by seven states (Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania).

For a complete look at MSU's 2012 recruiting class, including bios, quotes, and highlights, please visit MSU's Signing Day Central.

Below is a transcript from Dantonio's press conference:

COACH DANTONIO: First thing I want to do is just sort of address our class, our team needs really. I think the important thing when you recognize - when you go out and you recruit - first of all, I don't think it's a science. You look for things and people that are going to improve your football team. Our football team last year, we had a tremendous class. For one reason or another, because some of the guys we had, positions, et cetera, we redshirted everyone except for one freshman. We played (Taiwan) Jones obviously. So we redshirted our entire freshman class with the exception of one guy.

So when you look at that, our team needs became different a little bit this year as opposed to this year. Last year we took seven defensive linemen. This year we're taking one. Last year we took two defensive backs. We took two wide receivers. This year we're taking 10 skill players.

So when you look at that and the process and the evaluation process, a lot of that has to do with who we are as a program and how we're going forward. We've not signed a big class since we've been here. I think we have a lack of attrition. That's a good thing. We don't have a lot of people coming into our program and leaving.

You look at 85 scholarships, do the math, if you have four and five classes, if you do the math, et cetera, you know you can sort of figure that one out. Our bowl game, our 11 win season, our Legends Champions, Outback Bowl champs, it all gave us momentum. I again want to congratulate our football team, our past team, our seniors, et cetera, congratulate them on what they were able to do because I think that sets the tone for recruiting.

Just like recruiting is basically going to set the tone for you as you move forward, tomorrow will be all about winter conditioning, and the next phase about spring practice. And recruiting will lose a little bit of its tone. It will be more on to the 2013 class. With that, they helped us gain momentum going into this.

The Senior Bowl, since we've not had a chance to talk publicly, the Senior Bowl, the East West game, the NFL players association bowl, we got five players playing in that, and I thought they represented Michigan State very, very well on a national scale, and I want to congratulate those guys. Kirk Cousins, Trent Robinson, Brian Linthicum, B.J. Cunningham, who had an outstanding week of practice as well, and Keith Nichol. So I want to congratulate them as well.

When you start talking about a recruiting class right now, let's first talk about our defense. We took two linebackers. Last year we were able to take four. Our linebackers we took this year, I'll talk a little bit more extensively about them as we go, but when you talk about our linebackers, Riley Bullough, Jamal Lyles, two outstanding players that, I think, show a lot of athletic ability.

We took four defensive backs, two last year. One defensive back, one defensive lineman, seven last year. And one outstanding quarterback. We took one last year as well. But I'm going to start going through these guys individually, and after this, we can ask some questions as we go, and afterwards and sort of go from there.

The first guy up - and I'll start with the defensive backs - Demetrious Cox. These are in alphabetical order by position as we go. Demetrious Cox is a young man, very highly recruited player, plays multiple positions, played quarterback for them this year, but is a guy that plays safety, can play star for us in our nickel package. He can be a wide receiver as well. He can be a tailback. Benches 365 pounds, about 6-1, 200 pounds already. Has scored his 1,000th point in basketball. He's a black belt in karate. Tremendous athlete, tremendous leader, I think, in the classroom and in his school. Been involved in almost every aspect of high school from drama to everything else.

He truly is a leader, and I think he's an impact player in all respects who was recruited by Mark Staten this recruiting class, this recruiting year. His coach is Roy Hall. A guy I watched play basketball. I just can't say enough about him. He was one of the lead guys and one of the guys that committed to us this past week. Outstanding football player. I do believe that he will be an immediate contributor. Number 7, he will play for Michigan State next year.

Jermaine Edmondson from Canton, McKinley High School. Rod Johnson was his coach. Pat Narduzzi is the lead recruiting coach. I think it's important to recognize that all of our players, current players, all of our coaches, the position coaches, the coordinators, the recruiting area coach, and everyone that he touched has an impact on a young person's deciding to come to a particular school. Coach Narduzzi was his recruiter, but Harlon Barnett obviously had a big part in this as well, as he did with Demetrious Cox, et cetera.

Jermaine's a young man that transferred from California to Canton, McKinley, which arguably is one of the better schools in Ohio, nationally known. Plays in one of the top conferences in America, high school conferences. Seems like every time he touches the ball great things happen. He camped here, runs very, very well. He's a taller guy, great ball skills, tackling ability. Plays wide receiver as well, is a kick returner.

Incidentally, all of our wide receivers and defensive backs - and tailback - all have kick returner, punt returner ability, which I think that's important to recognize as you lose a guy like Keshawn Martin and some of our other returners that we've had success with.

As I said, Jermaine is an outstanding player, first team all state...Will be playing in the all star games as well. And I believe he'll be an immediate contributor as well on this football team. Both these players are outstanding in their respect and were highly recruited players. I believe that Cox could have went anywhere in America. Jermaine probably had it down to 10 schools but probably cut it down to Nebraska and us at the end. Outstanding football player, outstanding track guy as well.

From Toledo, we had him (Mark Meyers) in camp. Anywhere you talk about in the State of Ohio and you talk about Toledo, Whitmer High School, who went to the semis, semifinals, I believe, against St. Ignatius, they talk about Mark Meyers. Played safety at Whitmer all over the field, kick returner, punt returner, all over the field. Was in camp, made plays in camp. Made a decision to offer him later in the process but only because we wanted to...didn't know him quite as well as a person as we moved through the process. There was no question in terms of his athletic ability and his hitting ability, and the more we watched him on film, the more we saw these things. Over 200 tackles in two years, and the guy is all over the place. Plays wide receiver as well, is going to gain weight as he goes. He's thin, 6 foot, 180. Another guy that runs track and does so many different things. Whitmer is an outstanding program that I believe lost probably one game this year in the semifinals as we went forward. Recruited by Mike Tressel, and Coach Palka was his coach down there at Whitmer. Again, Harlon Barnett had a large part to do with that as did Coach Narduzzi and all of our staff in the process here.

Ezra Robinson from Sarasota, Booker High School. Recruited by Coach Barnett. We did not have Ezra in camp. However, when you watch the film and watch him as a junior, he's a guy that showed all the tangibles, that is, the deep ball judgment, the ability to tackle in space, the ability to change direction and run, and in all respects he did an outstanding job, I felt, in all respects as a defensive back. He's another young man - I think all four of these guys - and I'm a defensive back coach by trade.

Really, since I've been here in '95 and since going to Ohio State and going to Cincinnati and coming back here for five years, I cannot think of a secondary that has more promise than this secondary coming into Michigan State at this point in time. They're extraordinary athletes with great hitting ability and tackling ability in space. They're all returners. Ezra is the same. He's an outstanding person. He's a 6-6 high jumper. He's a 44 foot triple jumper. He excels in track as well. Can't say enough about him as a person.

I think it's important to know that we recruit like minded people here, people that are very much like our players in many respects, and these guys fit with our players. That would be the defensive back group there. Last year, again, we signed two guys, Trae Waynes and R.J. Williamson, and we were able to redshirt those guys. So we have six really freshmen defensive backs that will work this fall. I think that's a great outlook for our football team in general as we move forward.

Our linebackers, Riley Bullough is a guy that obviously is a third generation Spartan. With his grandfather and his father playing here, his uncle playing here, they've all had tremendous success. Max is playing here now, his brother. He's a guy that's grown over the course of the last two years, 6-2, 220 pounds. Broke his collar bone early in the season after the fifth game but had over 1,000 yards of offense at that time. He's a quick bodied guy, tackles in space, has great ball skills.

I've watched him play since coming here over a period of five years. I've watched Riley in camp demonstrate over and over the toughness, the aggressiveness, the competitiveness, the ability to catch the ball, run, move in space, and I think he'll be an outstanding football player here, and I really do think he will be an immediate contributor as well, or at least have an opportunity to do those things.

He's a very quick learner. Great change of direction, great ability to snap on things. Played safety as a junior, quarterback, has grown into the outside backer position. So now he's big enough, firm enough, and he played with tremendous effort throughout the entire game. So he will play for us and move to the outside linebacker position, which he's going to be an outstanding player.

Jamal Lyles, the young man we saw at the Sound Mind and Body camp down in Detroit. Four star player. You guys can read up on all these different accolades. Jamal, again, great ball skills, plays tight end, plays quarterback, wide receiver. Tight end. Flex tight end, outside backer, even played a little defensive back as a junior. Has grown to 6-3, 230 pounds. Has great ability to run. I think he projects into a great football player for us. Was coached by Stephon Thompson. Brad Salem was the lead recruiter there. Should do a tremendous job for us.

Really excited about Jamal coming here. Had other opportunities as well. Tremendous upside. When you look at him, he has the ability to possibly grow into a defensive end and be 250 pounds, if you look at his father. If you look at him now, he's a guy that's very similar to Taiwan Jones we recruited last year. Taiwan was the one freshman who got on the field for us last year.

We recruited two linebackers this year, four last year. Ed Davis, L.T. (Lawrence) Thomas, Taiwan, and Darien Harris. We were able to redshirt three of those guys, so five freshmen linebackers working in August next year.

The one defensive lineman that we recruited, David Fennell, a little bit of a unique recruiting story. His father played for the Alouettes, and Jim Popp basically is the GM for the Alouettes, former head coach, goes to Oregon. They decide to get him down into the U.S. to play his last year of high school football. Just a tight circle really in terms of the people that we know. Ted Gill coached for the coach that eventually went to Oregon. It's a crazy circle.

But David Fennell, out of nowhere, became an all conference player, all state player, and the MVP in the conference his senior year. Great technician.

His father played 10 seasons and is in the Hall of Fame in the CFL. Great hands, great footwork, great punch, plays extremely hard, has ability to change direction and run things down. Played at 280 pounds at that point in time, weighs about 270 right now. I think he will be a tremendous football player for us and be a three technique defensive tackle for us as we move forward.

Move to our offense, our offensive line. Take three guys there. Zach Higgins is from Marlington High School in Alliance, Ohio. Coached by Ed Miley. Pat Narduzzi was his primary recruiter, and Coach Staten and Coach Roushar had a lot to do with that. Outstanding athlete. Was in camp with us, shows toughness. I think he finished fifth in wrestling his junior year, was out with a knee in one of his last games his senior year. So he's rehabbing that.

Big body athletic guy. He'll play offensive guard for us this year. Again, with Jack Allen last year and Donovan Clark is another young player coming into this program that will pay dividends in the future.

As always, the offensive line is difficult to grasp and learn as a young player, but you never know. Zach is a tremendous worker, extremely strong.

Next offensive lineman, Benny McGowan. And Benny is from Centerville, Ohio. Ron Ullery was his coach, Harlon Barnett, primary recruiter. Our offensive coaches did a great job with that. He was one of the guys invited to the Nike camp, one of the top offensive linemen in the state of Ohio, as well as Higgins was as well. Benny is a shot putter, he's sixth in the state in the big school division last year, also a discus thrower.

When you watch his film, he pancakes people. He has tremendous drive, foot drive and leg drive. I think he's an outstanding player. Much of same things fit with Benny as does Zach due to just the position that he plays. Both these guys are strong enough to play at this point now. They're both 300 pound guys. They both bench press probably in excess of 350 pounds. We're looking forward to both these guys coming and being a part of a great future on our offensive line.

Primarily run blockers, as they were in high school. Not many passes were thrown at either one of those schools, but those guys have a great ability to run with the flat back and punch.

Kodi Kieler, our lone offensive tackle that committed to us, very athletic, played on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, really caught my eye on defense due to his ability to run, change direction, big bodied guy, another 300 pounder, 6'5" plus. Another young man who throws the shot, et cetera.

Had an opportunity to watch him play, not me personally, but our coaches did. We were very impressed with him. He's a young man that I think much fits in - like the other guys. Tough, athletic, great future ahead of him in every respect. We'll play him at offensive tackle. Has the ability to move his feet and react. So he'll do a great job for us.

Evan Jones, tight end. 6-6, 240. West Lafayette, Ohio, Ridgewood High School. John Slusser is his coach. Mike Tressel, primary recruiter. Young man that plays on the defensive side of the ball as well, will get big. Already weighs 250 pounds plus. Can play at the point of attack very, very well. Catches the ball very well. Because of our needs at tight end, has an opportunity to be an immediate contributor, I feel, if he can learn the dynamics of the position.

Outstanding football player, was one of the guys that we recruited last spring and offered in the spring. Many of these guys were - in fact, almost every one of them we offered in the spring, which is a good sign in your class, I believe. Evan will be a tremendous football player here and has a great future in front of him. You'll be impressed with his film.

Josiah Price from Indiana. Mismatch tight end type guy. He's a guy that weighs about 225 right now because of basketball, spent a week in Honduras doing a mission trip. Outstanding leader in his class. Has caught almost 200 footballs in his career there, 190 catches in his four year career there, for over 1,000 yards plus. More of an H guy, move guy, guy that will catch the ball very, very well down the field. A guy we had in camp, much like Evan, again fits a position in need so there's opportunity to play.

Dave Warner was his recruiter, plays for Josh Edwards at Eastern High School in Greentown, Indiana. But an all state player as well.

Tyler O'Connor, outstanding athlete. Elite 11 athlete. Went to the Elite 11 camp in California. Had over 40 touchdowns, was involved in over 40 touchdowns as a junior and a guy that, I think, has great body mechanics, big, has ability to run, throws the ball on a rope. He's going to be a big bodied quarterback, very fast learner, 3.8 grade point average.

So he's a young man that, I think, possesses all the ability to be an instant contributor as we move forward. Will walk in the door as the number three quarterback. Very, very excited about Tyler and everything he brings. Outstanding basketball player as well, leader in the school, and was an all state player as well and took his team into, I believe, the state semifinals last year and this year. You have the stats on him. Great body mechanics and was in camp, did an outstanding job for us.

Nick Tompkins, running back, state champions, teammate of A.J. Sims, who came here as a wide receiver last year. Has the ability to play any place on the field, wide receiver, defensive back. Extremely explosive. Watch the film on him. Every snap he takes, he goes the distance. Great change of direction. Very explosive. Father played at Wisconsin. Came down to us and about 20 other, 30 other schools, committed in the summer.

Another young man that we offered in the spring; did not camp here, but we watched him play. Very excited about Nick, outstanding student. Again, has that ability to go and create and really fall into any category. He will play tailback for us, but we can do so many things with him as a kick returner, punt returner. Very exciting guy to watch on film, very productive guy as a tailback and returner and et cetera. Very excited. Played at the highest level of football in Georgia, which if you watch the film, there's some other great players playing on those films. Very excited about Nick Tompkins and what he brings to this football team, both on the field and off.

Aaron Burbridge. For the third straight year, Michigan State gets the top player, perceived top player by the media in the state of Michigan. 6-1, 190 pounds or more. I've seen him play tailback, corner, wide receiver. We expect him to be an immediate contributor on this football team, has great, great body control, catching ability, has size, has everything that you want as a wide receiver, breakaway threat, and comes from Harrison High School, where John Herrington is the coach, (He) worked with Mill Coleman and is a product of Mill Coleman's as well as Herrington. Played for state championships and won them.

Outstanding player, outstanding person, and great play ability. I can't say enough about Aaron Burbridge as a player. If you watch him - and many of you probably already have - he's a guy that can go the distance any time he touches the football and should be a tremendous contributor. Look for big things from him as we go. Brad Salem, recruiter. Terrence Samuel, obviously, our wide receiver coach, had a lot to do with this as well.

Kyle Kerrick, a young man on campus now. 6-3, 195 pounds, sitting in the back back there. Say hi, Kyle. Outstanding player. Committed to us early in the process. Took the opportunity to come in in January here. Big body wide receiver, shows tremendous acceleration, ability to catch the football. Again, because of his opportunity to come now and play in spring, should be an immediate contributor with our numbers.

Last year we took two. This year we're taking four, five, six, however many you want to look at really because there's so many players we're able to move back and forth in this capacity.

Kyle's an outstanding person, and hopefully you'll get a chance to interview him afterwards, and you can talk with him at length about this. With our wide receivers last year, we lost lost three starting wide receivers really and two others in C.D. Rucker and Brad Sonntag. So it is a position of need for us, and there's an opportunity to play immediately.

Macgarrett Kings. Macgarrett reminds me a lot of Keshawn Martin in a lot of respects. He's a guy that's a great punt returner, kick returner, has size 13 shoes. About the size of Keshawn, electrifying runner and catch and receiver. He's a guy that played tailback his junior year. He's got the ability to run with the football. Got the ability to throw the ball. Gets in the wildcat offense as well but can do so many different things. Again, another young man that I expect will be an immediate contributor. Had over 30 some scholarship offers, committed earlier in the process, but outstanding person.

Roger Harold is the coach, head coach down there. Plays in Nova High School, University School. Mark Staten was his primary recruiter, but, again, so many of our coaches, Coach Samuel had so much to do with that as well.

DeAnthony Arnett. DeAnthony Arnett was one of the top guys we were recruiting last year at this time. Made the decision to go to Tennessee, probably late in the process, probably in December or so. Has decided to transfer back to Michigan State to be closer to family, for family reasons. Outstanding football player. You had an opportunity to interview him prior to. He's a young man that I believe will certainly get on the field for us immediately, once hopefully a waiver clears. If not, we'll wait for him to play...Only the second time a freshman has ever I guess, how would you word this - freshman player, second-most receptions in the history of Tennessee football. Huge statement, but I think he's a young man that's got maturity. He's been coached on the college level. He's got three years left to play. Hopefully, he can play this year, but if not, we will wait for him anxiously, and he'll have an immediate impact on this program when he comes.

He's been in camp, two camps here. Great eye hand coordination, great ability to catch the ball and snatch it. Punt returner, kick returner. Like a lot of these guys, a great returner in that respect. That's where we're at, I believe, at this point.

In all due respect here, this sort of closes recruiting and sort of starts the next thing. We've got the Super Bowl this week with Greg Jones playing in it from our 2010 football team, with Devin Thomas playing in it from our 2007 team, and with Brian Hoyer playing in it from our 2008 team. So we're very well represented. So I want to congratulate them publicly as we move forward here. I think it's important to recognize that our players had a lot to do with this recruiting class. I would publicly like to thank our players and what they had to do with recruiting this class.

The numbers are not big, but when you look at the numbers of our seniors this year, those numbers were not big either. For that point, we have a lot of players coming back, and the future is extremely bright at Michigan State coming off of two 11 win season, a Legends Championship this year, a Bowl victory, a Big Ten Championship the year before. And when you look at our football team and you look and see how we progress and how we've transitioned and have been able to become a proven commodity in this conference, things are great in every respect.



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