Grinz On Green Blog: Stories From The Recruiting Trail
Recruiting coordinator Brad Salem talks about the challenges of managing travel schedules, while assistants Harlon Barnett and Mark Staten share some behind-the-scenes stories.
Feb. 6, 2013
By Steve Grinczel, MSUSpartans.com Online Columnist
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The recruiting trail is always filled with twists and turns, and even the occasional detour, as Michigan State running backs coach Brad Salem discovered recently.
The plan for the final Monday of the recruiting season was to have Salem and head coach Mark Dantonio visit incoming offensive lineman Dennis Finley at Detroit's Cass Tech High School and Bloomfield Hills' Brother Rice linebacker Jon Reschke, along with a handful of underclassmen MSU is looking at for 2014 and '15.
After school, Dantonio, who under NCAA rules is permitted just one official home visit while assistants have six, and Salem were to go to Finley and Reschke's houses to meet with their parents.
"Well, I got a call at 5:15 (a.m.) that my kids' school was canceled because of ice here," Salem said. "So then I get on my iPad looking around and sure enough, Detroit's canceled, too."
That was a problem because although Dantonio could have still made the home visits, he wouldn't have been able to get back to Cass Tech and Brother Rice because of his restrictive schedule.
"If (Dantonio) goes to a recruit's house, he needs to go to the school the same day, and if school's closed, there's nobody there," Salem said. "So, he can't meet any of the underclassmen and there's a ton of offer-kids that are sophomores and juniors. The head coach from Michigan State never makes it to their school but the other head coaches made it?
"All of the sudden, we can't do Detroit that day, which is what occurs at 5:30 in the morning. So, (Dantonio) says, `I'm going to Fort Lauderdale (to see defensive lineman Noah Jones).'"
At the last minute, Dantonio had defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett switch his Michigan trip to another day so the two could meet in Detroit and fly to Florida.
"And I'm sitting here saying, `Where do I go?'" Salem said. "There are juniors in the Midwest I had to see, so it was five plane trips to four cities in 48 hours.
"I ended up meeting Coach D back here on Wednesday and we were able to do Detroit and see Finley and Reschke. If things went normally, I would have had a full-Detroit Monday, I would have seen our Wisconsin kids on Tuesday and I was supposed to be off on Wednesday. Oh well."
Recruiting requires the staff to get as much done in as little time possible.
"People don't understand how limited you are on the road," Salem said. "Each week is a puzzle because only seven of the 10 coaches can be on the road. So which three are off and which seven are out? Generally at the end of one week, you get your whole schedule mapped out for the next week.
"And the last week is always crunch time because Coach Dantonio really enjoys getting into the home of every committed kid that you continue to recruit."
Flint Carman-Ainsworth basketball fans are still getting over the way Barnett's recruitment of running back Gerald Holmes might have cost them a basketball game.
"I went and saw Gerald play basketball," Barnett said. "He is not a basketball player, but he admitted that to me before I came to watch him, so that wasn't a big deal. But, he was a starter, and he's a rebounder and he runs up and down the court.
"Put it this way. His coach didn't want him to miss the game that he came here for his official (campus) visit weekend. The basketball coach called me and said, `We need him.' But he and his dad (Gerald Sr.) were big on getting the full effect of an official visit.
"So, he missed that particular game, and they lost. Hopefully, the basketball coach isn't too mad at me."
Offensive line coach Mark Staten learned that Damion Terry had demonstrated the cerebral nature needed to play quarterback at a very young age. The Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep standout was into X's and O's at an age most boys are trying to figure out how to make Legos work.
"His third-grade teacher gave him his very first detention because he was filling his schoolwork notebook with football plays," Staten said. "He said they were mostly trick plays, like a triple-reverse. You know, the fun type of plays.
"He and I were laughing about that because I love trick plays."
Terry will be joined at MSU by his Cathedral Prep teammate Delton Williams, who is listed as an athlete but likely will start his Spartan career as a running back.
"Damion's unbelievable when it comes to that stuff," Staten said. "Delton and Damion were sitting there when we had Coach D visiting and he said, `Yeah, Delton just set the school record for receptions in a year.'
"And Delton's like, `I did?' He told Delton how many catches he had, what the previous record was and the year the previous record-holder had it. That's just the Damion I've gotten to know."
Terry and Williams were the fire and ice of Cathedral Prep's state championship team.
"Damion is very calm and he knows what's going on," Staten said. "He keeps up with everything involving his teammates and with Michigan State. He's a catalyst with the recruits making sure they're all communicating and talking and planning on being in the Rose Bowl. Delton's the pound-the-table, get-the-big-hit guy."