Mark Dantonio Signing Day Quotes
Feb. 7, 2007
Andre Anderson is a tailback from Barrington High School in Chicago, Illinois. He's one of the top prospects. When we saw Andre initially, he initially committed to Minnesota. After that recruitment and they had a change of coaches, we were able to get involved with Andre and he came for a visit and had a great visit.
He's an outstanding running back. He's a 23'7" long jumper which is outstanding. He ran the 600 meters I believe as a junior. He's over 2,000 yards this year. He has receiving ability, as well, out of the backfield, very extremely explosive player.
In the recruiting process, Illinois was still trying to get on him the last week and he held off and remained committed to Michigan State University. Great family and comes from a good high school, a good high school with solid academics, and we expect Andre to be a guy that would play in return situations and get involved in tailback situations. We really have three tailbacks on scholarship currently here, so we felt like we needed to go out and recruit at least two at that position.
You can't have enough running backs in your program, whether it's injuries, whether it's giving each other a good look as you go through the process. But he certainly is the back of the future and he certainly is one of the most talented football players in the Midwest, and you can see some of the different things regarding him. Joe Sanchez was his coach.
... He's got great ability, great acceleration, 190 pounds, very strong in that respect. Like I said, he has the ability to break with great speed.
Aaron Bates is from southeast Ohio, about 30 miles from where I grew up and where I lived, and as a matter of fact, his mom taught at the elementary school that I went to...
We like him as a punter. He can kick off and also obviously kick field goals, but we like him as a punter. He's a three sport athlete. He's an outstanding quarterback. He's all right at that level. He's a point guard on the basketball team. I believe he's a second baseman and shortstop on his baseball team. He's valedictorian of his class. If you watch him he has great extension with his legs on the punting motion.
Our former punter Craig Jarrett watched him a little bit and had some great things to say about him as a punter. You look at him here and you see the extension he has here as a punter. When you can put your knee to the chin like that, you have great power and great snap coming off. He's a guy that we will figure will vie for a job. He'll have to compete, but there's opportunities there for him. I do think he's a very mature young man, and the way he went through the recruiting process and was very mature already led us to believe he will be mature on the field, as well. We're very, very excited about having Aaron from John Glenn High School in Ohio.
Garrett Celek, an unusual little story, his brother played tight end for us at Cincinnati. His brother is the all time receiving tight end at Cincinnati. He played at LaSalle High School this year, and he's 240 pounds. He came to camp last year and he also went to Ohio State's camp. We brought him to camp initially as a tight end. He had great hands. He long jumped 9'10". If you ever go to the pro combine, 10 feet is the measuring stick for the NFL. If you can long jump 10 feet, that gets you in the game as a defensive back. He long jumped 9'10". He vertical jumped 34" and he ran four six something or other. He had great ball skills, and we were sold on him immediately. And then he went to his high school and they put him at tackle.
You do what you've got to do as far as a high school player because you have various players, various players that need to play relative to the offense.
But he's tough. He's a 3.5 student at LaSalle, which is an all boys' school in Cincinnati, Ohio, and he's got a tremendous upside. When I saw Jim Tressel, and that was still at Cincinnati, he made the statement to me that Garrett Celek they weren't taking a tight end, but Garrett Celek was the best football player out of 2,000 kids that came to their camp.
We're extremely excited about him and we feel like we've got a diamond in the rough. A lot of times you measure things in the recruiting process in terms of how the guy looks, and you hear all these different analyses on people. But the bottom line is what you do with players when they come to your program. We're very, very excited about Garrett coming here and being a part of Michigan State Spartans.
Kirk Cousins is a young man I was talking about. He was No. 16 in the Elite 11 selection, probably just didn't quite have the stats as a junior that allowed him to jump into that top 11. Quite a few schools, and also Colorado came in at the end, and we kept watching Kirk. He spent time with Dan Enos, who's been coaching here as the quarterback. We evaluated him, watched him play basketball, watched his athleticism on the basketball court, saw what type of person he is, and really got excited about him.
He has a lot of tendencies when we used to play I coached against Drew Brees when I was here before four straight years, and I think he has a lot of those type of tendencies, being able to deliver the ball at different angles, different variations, quick release, good arm strength. I think he'll be an excellent quarterback for us, an excellent player, a great person. Again, valedictorian of the class and majoring in pre med.
Again, quick release, stays strong under pressure, great reads. You're never sure where he's looking. He's an excellent student of the game. I think as a football player just like anything else, just like your job, you have to have great attention to detail. The same thing can be said for any kind of mechanics that are involved in football, I think it's important to pay attention to those, and Kirk Cousins is definitely one of those people. He is a very mature individual, he is very thorough in all of his evaluation of where to go, what to do, how to do it, and I think he'll be an excellent quarterback here.
B.J. Cunningham, wide receiver, only played football for two years, outstanding jumper. Last year as a junior he was the MVP in his basketball conference in Ohio, which had about 16 teams in it. It was one of the better basketball conferences in central Ohio, in fact the top basketball conference in central Ohio. He's a tremendous leaper, had 40 plus catches this year, plays corner, as well.
The thing that I like, as a defensive back, wide receiver, we like to recruit defensive backs that have ball skills which means they were wide receivers. We like to recruit receivers that have the ability to play corner and the toughness to play corner because it will show up on special teams and all different areas.
B.J. is about 6'2", he's got great hand eye coordination, can take off from the foul line and go and slam it. Tremendous basketball player, averaging about 20 points a game or so at this point.
Mark Dell, an outstanding wide receiver who committed early on, we were able to keep that commitment, an outstanding young person, came down at the end of recruiting and it looked like Miami of Florida was making a push, but made the decision to stay with his commitment. Extremely happy.
(He's an) outstanding receiver, outstanding basketball player, again, averages over 20 points, 6'2", 185, an outstanding program. As far as comparison, I've heard John Herrington make the statement that he's one of the finest football players he's ever had there. You can see him go up, you can see the body control here.
He's another guy that again played defensive back, as well. So he brings toughness to the table on the offensive side of the ball. He's not a guy that's just going to play wide receiver and that's it. He can possibly play on special teams. He's an outstanding wide receiver, good speed, won the AAU 400 meters I think as an eighth grader, the national AAU, 400 meters as an eighth grader, outstanding basketball player. 21 yards a catch as a receiver last year, and obviously has the ability to run away from people, as well. An outstanding person.
As we go through this thing I want to recount who recruited these guys really quickly so we're all on the same page. Andre Anderson was recruited by Dan Roushar, our offensive line coach; Aaron Bates by Mike Tressel; Garrett Celek by Mark Staten; Kirk Cousins by Dan Enos; B.J. Cunningham by Don Treadwell; Mark Dell was recruited by Dan Enos.
And obviously it takes a whole staff to recruit these guys, but if you want to ask somebody specifically about a guy after the fact, these would be the guys to talk to.
Chase Dumphord is about 6'5", 320, plays basketball right now, averages about 20 plus a game, 18 rebounds, named one of the nation's top offensive tackles by scout.com. Plays for a small school in Paris, Kentucky, has an uncle from the Michigan area, big athletic guy, and football is ahead of him. Outstanding point 3.0 student, and you can see him coming right here. He can run. For a guy that big, he can run.
He's a guy that when he visited us after visits to Auburn and Florida, as well, when he made the commitment to us, which he did over Christmas. He stayed strong with that commitment. Great family, outstanding family, honor roll student.
David Duran, tight end from Atlanta, Georgia, Cal High School. His high school coach Irv Sigler coached up here in Michigan, as well. David has played tight end. He's also played defensive end.
He's a guy that had gone on to the University of Cincinnati and a guy that when we watched him really felt like he was an outstanding football player in all respects. He plays in a good league in the Atlanta, Georgia, area, Marietta, Georgia, excellent student, as well. And a huge frame, 250, 260. Outstanding ball skills, tough, can run. In all respects a very, very good football player. Good body control.
Joel Foreman, 6'3", 291, Milford High School. Pat Fox is the coach, and Dan Enos recruited Joel. When we watched Joel, outstanding tough guy. As you can imagine he's the MVP in his league as an offensive lineman. That's a huge statement.
Joel is another outstanding student, brings toughness to the table. He ran for 3,300 yards this year on offense, and again, you guys can see all the different stats.
Pat Fox is a guy that coached Eric Morris when I was here before, and I have great respect for Pat Fox and what he says about his players. Extremely tough guy. Penn State tried to come in on him after the week we finally offered him. Penn State was coming in, as well, and he committed to Michigan State Spartans, and we're excited about Joel, very much so. A tremendous person, and also a tremendous football player.
Antonio Jeremiah is a four star defensive lineman from Columbus, Ohio, who probably had better than 40 plus scholarship offers. He'll play the North South game in Ohio. He played in the East West game in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which is the nation's toughest league. I'm not sure if it's Florida versus the rest or if it's east west really, but it's the national all star game. He's coached by Paul Jenne.
We're very excited to get Antonio. He's extremely strong, I think he's lost twice in wrestling this year, and he's a big guy that can run. A great person, great mother. Another program that is in Ohio that's a strong program.
He'll have various opportunities to be starting defensive lineman for us. He'll have an opportunity to show up early. Ranked one of the top prospects by SuperPrep, No. 25.
Ishmyl Johnson from New Jersey, Milford Academy in New York. A small place for right now. About 6'5", 260, figures to be a factor immediately. Has a tremendous motor, various offers. The guy can run, big strong guy that can run, gives us an edge on defense. Got great power, great upside. Ranked among the nation's top 50 prospects by Rivals, top defensive ends by Scout, No. 64. They're playing good football up there. Bill Chaplick is the coach, Pat Narduzzi is the recruiter. They did a tremendous job. There were a lot of people looking at him early on and then late, as well. He stayed with his commitment and he'll be an excellent football player for us.
Greg Jones is from Cincinnati. He's a guy that we had a relationship with, had originally committed to Minnesota, and then the coaching change, he made the decision to come to Michigan State. Very explosive player. Had him in camp in Cincinnati. Coached by Bob Crable who played in the NFL for a long time at Moeller High School, which probably that particular conference, Cincinnati football, has created the last four out of five state champions. The state of Ohio, excellent football, all boys' school, about 1,200 people. Very explosive player. He'll figure in immediately for us at our linebacker position. He also played in the all star game North South game, led the team in tackles.
Ashton Leggett, he has great ability...will be used as a tailback. I think he has power. He's the kind of guy that can run through some tackles, great speed. We'll use him as a tailback. He's a very exciting football player, good solid student.
Jared McGaha from Knoxville, Tennessee. You don't get down to Knoxville very much to recruit, but again, I was at Ohio State's camp, their select camp which recruits players from throughout the Midwest, and I saw Jared pass blocking, and that's about all you needed to see. His pass blocking gets a few things. He has excellent feet, weighs about 278 right now, he's an excellent student...Excellent football player, power, one of the top offensive tackles in the nation.
You can see it doesn't take long to watch him as an offensive lineman. He's very, very athletic. He's going to continue to get bigger and bigger.
Kevin Pickelman, Marshall High School. Kevin is a guy from Marshall that I watched his sophomore highlight film, his junior highlight film and senior highlight film. He's a contact football player. He can play on both sides of the ball. For Marshall he'll start on the offensive side of the ball. We will give him an opportunity to play defense to see how it pans out. He's about 245 pounds right now...Great ball skills, great movement, outstanding motor, good student. Another guy that had numerous opportunities where to go, numerous opportunities.
Arthur Ray, Chicago Mount Carmel, another Catholic school, excellent student. Comes from a family that has huge size on both sides, 6'8" and 6'11" on both sides of his family.
I found something out in recruiting the other day. They said if you don't shave, you're going to continue to grow, so I was looking for the whiskers, he had no whiskers. So he'll be a guy that will get bigger. He's a guy that committed to BC early on, left tackle, but then they had the coaching change, reopened the process. Explosive, powerful, very well coached, plays for Frank Lenti over there and Dan Roushar recruited him.
Mark Staten recruited Pickelman, left tackle.
You can see his athletic ability here. He'll be a very good football player for us, very good football player.
Arthur is, again, one of the top high school offensive guards by all these different people, Chicago Tribune, one of the top players in Chicago.
Chris Rucker from Detroit. Dan Enos recruited him, 5'10", 172. He's the 100 meter champion in the state of Michigan, good 500 meter guy. In the slot here. Excellent ball skills. He's a multidimensional player in terms of being a defensive back, a returner, obviously a wide receiver, and he's played tailback, as well, gets in the crease and can go. He's about 185 pounds. Excellent student at Country Day. You can see him outrunning the angles there. He ran the ball 62 times for 640 yards, 10.3 average, 21 yard average. With career receptions, he averaged 21 yards per catch, 72 catches. And as I said, 100 meter champion.
Again, here's a guy that can go on the outside and run past people.
Chris Rucker, 6'2", 185, a guy who's the state he's the 60 meter champion, and he's qualified for the nationals in the 60 meter as a junior, very explosive player, about 6'2". Top corner, punt returner, kick returner, plays wide out, one of the nation's top cornerbacks.
He has size, toughness, coached by Thom McDaniels, a legendary coach in Ohio at Warren Harding High School, which is one of the top programs in the state of Ohio.
I think it's important that your defensive backs have deep ball judgment so when the ball goes up they can make the play when they're in position. We look for defensive backs who can play both wide receiver and DB in a kick returner, punt returner type mode, and with the idea that they'll be coming up with an opportunities for reception.
Same thing with wide receivers, looking for guys that will make tackles, can play on special teams and not just be one dimensional.
Ryan Wheat, defensive tackle from Carman Ainsworth in Flint. He's on the Dream Team, as well, I believe. Extremely powerful guy, big.
I think our three defensive tackles, we've got Jeremiah, Ryan Wheat and Oren Wilson are very, very good players. Obviously when you look at our offensive lineup situation, we have good, big people that are athletic, that can run.
In the recruiting process when the coaching change happened we needed to go back and recruit Ryan. A lot of people were involved with him. He made the decision to stay with his commitment. But again, you had three established relationships there with him, but an outstanding football player and another Michigan guy. We're extremely pleased with him.
Oren Wilson is from Jersey, and he went to Harmony Prep School, 6'3", 290. To the left, he's a nose tackle there coming off. Ability to run, runs for a big guy. I think he's very similar to OG for us. Powerful guy who's played center as well as defensive tackle. He has played center in the past. Very athletic, a good athletic guy.
Those are our 20 recruits this year, and we're extremely happy with these guys because they come from great families. I think that you cannot estimate the value of character in your recruiting class, also the value of what type of competition that they're playing against, who they play against.
I think a lot of times you see a guy making plays trying to look at when we evaluate the film, we have categories that says competition level, who are they playing against relative to the success that they're having. I think you have to evaluate things from the top to the bottom. A lot of those things are character issues, how they handle adversity, what is his background as a person, has he been into problems and what kind of football player he is. We're building a foundation. This will give us an opportunity to move forward, I think, and we're extremely pleased with that.
But at this point in time what I'll do is just take questions.
Q. Did you say that you think B.J. Cunningham will play quarterback for you?
COACH Mark Dantonio: No, he'll be recruited here as a wide receiver, but he has the ability all three of those guys that play corner, and I like the fact that they show toughness on that side of the ball which allow them to play on special teams and be active in other areas of our football team, not just catching passes. They show the ability to block.
When I was at Ohio State as a graduate, Cris Carter was a great wide receiver. But one thing that people don't realize about Cris Carter is how outstanding a blocker he is. He was a fearless and an extremely talented individual, and that's what we hope these people bring to the table, as well.
Q. I was wondering if you could expand a little bit on the defensive line recruits that you did sign today and what have you been able to determine about the people you have coming back, just how important those recruits are and which of them you think might be able to contribute right away?
COACH Mark Dantonio: We signed four guys on the defensive line, and I think that that's one of the areas where the current our current football team, I think we have some good players, but I think we need to add depth to that position. We have some guys that are banged up a little bit. So those guys will probably have an opportunity to play very, very quickly.
I think the guys who are able to learn we insist on three things as a football team; knowledge, first of all, play with effort and toughness. And if the guys come in and they're in shape and they can take coaching, I think Ted Gill, our defensive line coach, does an excellent job with those guys. He'll get them playing. They've got to have power and got to have the ability to play against Big Ten football offensive lines.
Certainly these guys all have the size and the strength. Ryan Wheat is a 400 pound bench press guy. Antonio Jeremiah, I'm not sure how much, but he's big and he's strong. You've got Ishmyl Johnson, who's a year out of high school really. And you have Oren Wilson who's a year out of high school. They're used to playing against more physical players because they played at the prep school level.
I think all four of those guys will be in the hunt for an opportunity to play, but it will depend on how mature they are when they hit the ground here and how they handle adversity.
And just like our program, these players will have growing pains. There's no perfect place. They're going to have issues they're going to have to overcome. Part of their success will be based on their ability to overcome adversity.
Q. Specifically Jeremiah, obviously it's tough for a guy right out of high school to play inside, but is he one of those extraordinary guys in terms of his athletic ability that might be able to do it?
COACH Mark Dantonio: I think that he might be able to do it, but I think all of these guys have that opportunity. When you look across the board, all four of those guys are very good athletes for their size, so I don't want to sit there and say this one will, this one won't.
I remember when I came here in '95 to Michigan State we ended up starting five true freshman on defense by about the fifth game. One of those was the defensive line position. So it can be done, but it's going to take an ability to handle some adversity and it's going to take one of the advantages nowadays is that you can bring them here in the summer, and that will certainly give them an advantage in terms of just getting acclimated to college life and life away from home. I don't think there will be quite the anxiety there usually is.
Q. How would you evaluate the overall speed of this class; an upgrade, do you think, from what you've got coming back? That's always a primary issue with teams these days.
COACH Mark Dantonio: I think you look at the speed and you have to look at it relative to the positions they're playing certainly. The thing that happens I think in recruiting, especially when you're a new staff, you start with a pool of players and you feel good about those players. But because we have not been here for six, seven months recruiting, at this point that pool becomes smaller and smaller as you go.
I think the worst thing we can do is take players who can't play, take a player that can't succeed here just to fill up a position. So we wanted to make sure we took quality players.
I think that Mark Dell has great speed. He has great ball control. Same with B.J. Cunningham, great ball control. Obviously we have guys who are sprinters in terms of Chris Rucker and Chris Rucker. Then you look at a linebacker like Greg Jones, and his speed relative to his position is excellent.
I have not seen anybody catch Anderson, the tailback, nor really have I seen anybody catch Ashton Leggett. So it's speed that can be felt on the football field, but we'll certainly continue to recruit speed. That will be a point of emphasis as we move into next year's recruiting class.
When you look at our board, I look at our defensive back situation, we really only have two seniors that are secondary this year, so we really felt like those players, with Ross Weaver coming back from injury and possibly Jeremy Ware beating a guy that was red shirted on transfer status from South Carolina, those are two new guys to add into what was there last year, so we sort of felt pretty good about that aspect at that point in time.
Q. Could you just tell me how do you grade this class if you were to give it a letter grade considering when you came in? What do you grade it as?
COACH Mark Dantonio: I would grade our class just because I wish we would have come out with a couple different positions, wish we would have gotten maybe another quarterback because we only have three quarterbacks on scholarship, I wish we would have gotten another maybe skill guy or two on defense, so I would grade it probably a C+ from our standpoint.
But I'm realistic enough to know that you begin slow. That's my evaluation. But I only say that because of two or three guys we get one guy, we get the one guy that went to USC, you get that guy, another guy stays, and then you're probably talking B, which is good.
What we do with this class will be the important thing, what we do with this class. I remember Ohio State's class in 2002 was ranked as the No. 1 class in the nation, and I remember some individuals were coming out as the No. 1 linebacker, and a guy by the name of A.J. Hawk, they didn't even talk about him. A.J. Hawk is the guy that came out of there.
It's all relative to what they do and what kind of attitude they bring to the table. I want to re emphasize we have great people coming with character and they're tough. Any time you have character and toughness and you can add those dimensions together, I think you have the formula for success. Those are the two key ingredients we look for.
I want to make sure we bring good people here that will represent us off the field as well as on, but that it's important, too, to be a Michigan State Spartan and embrace the traditions here and play four and five years and understand what it means.
Q. As a coach how tough is it for you to try to balance being excited for what you've got with also giving a realistic to the fans out there, that yeah, these are fine players but still...
COACH Mark Dantonio: I think that the internet has created a lot of excitement. A lot of people have recruiting services, and the data finding that guy out there in that little town in Michigan as a superlative player, those days are over because of the internet and because of the recruiting services and all the combines and all these different things.
I think people get excited about it, but you have a lot of people making decisions on how good a player is that don't coach him and they don't play for them when they come to their program, and quite frankly they may not fit into the offense or defense that they're running.
So you have a lot of speculation, and I think it makes for good reporting. But I think the end result is how are these guys going to be not next year, but how are they going to be as sophomores, what kind of players are they going to be as sophomores.
I know that based on the type of people that they are, the quality that they bring and the programs that they've come from, we have a lot of guys from tremendous quality programs, guys that have won state championships, guys that have won state championships in track, they continue to achieve and are mature in the way they handle things, I think they'll be successful.
Q. Can any of these guys eventually start?
COACH Mark Dantonio: You mean next year? Like I said, that's tough to say because I haven't seen these guys over here very much. We've had an opportunity to watch maybe one or two games, practice or workouts in order to get an impression. So this is the beginning of the program, this is not the end of the program, and I think that's what we have to remember, that we're at the starting line. It's a race, so we have to endure things along the way. We have to get there by moving forward, and we'll try and make good decisions.
That's our coaches and that's our players. I do believe that through the passion of people and through the energy of people, do those guys have a chance to play next year? Absolutely. Every one of them have the thought that they could possibly come in and play. These are skilled players.
We'll see when they get here. That's the exciting part of it. That's the challenge. And what we talked to them about is this is a new beginning. This is a day they'll remember for the rest of their lives. I think all coaches remember a day like that, remember it for the rest of your life. But it's the beginning, it's not the end, and their next step is just around the corner.
Q. Can you talk about the quarterback situation?
COACH Mark Dantonio: Well, we wanted to take a we offered one, two, three quarterbacks. We offered three quarterbacks. All of them were nationally respected quarterbacks. You know, you need a great quarterback. You need a quarterback that can make plays, that can make decisions at the line, take a bad play and make it a good one, get out of trouble, be a good leader on your football team. So we wanted to give back to those quarterbacks that we were taking. We took Kirk with the understanding that he could be that type of player.
If we could take another one, then it would be one that could fit that mold, and that would be it for next year. If we don't then we'll recruit with the idea that we have an excellent opportunity for somebody next year, a senior, a freshman, a sophomore. So I think it's a great situation at Michigan State for someone to come and be recruited here. There's going to be competition. There always is competition. The cream will rise to the top. But we're extremely excited about Kirk Cousins.
If you look around and look at some of the quarterbacks that have been tremendously successful, Drew Brees was not a highly recruited quarterback. I mean, what makes a great quarterback? There's all kinds of different things; we're looking for someone that's great awareness, great intelligence, outstanding intelligence and a great arm.
Q. How difficult was it to keep the previous commitments while trying to get new players?
COACH Mark Dantonio: Our coaches did an outstanding job. It's very tough because you come in here, it's very sudden, coming here. You're playing in Connecticut (with Cincinnati), two days later you're coming to Michigan State. You try and call them and introduce yourself to them. Then you go three or four weeks or a month, and they're going different directions and everything else. You have to make tough decisions sometimes, and these are business decisions.
You have to reevaluate things sometimes. It all goes both ways. That's why I said before, it goes both ways. We wish everybody that we ever had experiences with well.
I'd like to say at the end of the day, if you had any experience with Michigan State that you can at least say, hey, they were straight up with me. I hope that people can say that. I hope that that's the case.
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