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Maybe not in the lead, MSU is very much in the hunt for Joseph Barksdale!

While many sports fans are sometimes aloof to the recruiting scene, generally even the biggest prospects receive some fan and media attention. However, for those unfamiliar, it is time that everyone becomes aware of Joseph Barksdale. Barksdale is the number one rated prospect in the state of Michigan. Playing on the defensive line at Detroit Cass Tech, he has been hailed as one of the greatest defenders in Michigan high school history. Further, many recruiting analysts have him listed as a top five defensive tackle in the country, if not number one. Every big school—USC, Texas, Notre Dame, to name a few—have all offered. However, this late in the game, why are we still talking of Barksdale. It’s simple; since Dantonio was hired, he has managed to put MSU into play along with Ohio State, Notre Dame and LSU. Today, I had discussions with three sources (VERY CLOSE TO HIM) that indicated that MSU was very much a player in the Barksdale Sweepstakes.

The first person I had discussions with explained to me that the decision for Barksdale was about far more than football. He told me that Barksdale is a young individual who is making a decision that is about life, not simply football. He explained that this is a big picture decision; he told me “He and his families priorities are really much more organized than what some folks are. They are faith, family, academics and football…” This source stressed to me that the priorities listed were listed in order for a reason. “Joseph’s dad is a minister,” he explained; he added, “Joseph’s faith is the center of his life.” What has impressed Barksdale so much is that Coach Dantonio does not just have faith because he and his parents do. The source was confident when he told me ��Dantonio’s very strong faith is something that one conversation reveals is what he is; not just what he wants you to think he is.” Once again, Dantonio has made it clear that he is committed to his players as individuals and everything that encompasses that, on and off the field.

Make no mistake about it; MSU is clearly on Barksdale’s radar. I was told that by a source that “MSU is all he has been talking about.” It appears that Coach Dantonio has made quite the impression and done so quickly. When I asked for rough odds as to where the recruiting battle was right now he told that “…it is 51% to 49% in favor of OSU over MSU, but that can very well change.” This week, Jim Tressel will have his in home visit at the Barksdale residence. It will be his last chance to really impress him. This could certainly tilt the balance more in favor of Ohio State; however, the source I was speaking to did not really think this was the case. He let it be known that the Barksdale family is very close. He even went on to tell me that if it were solely up to them, MSU would be the choice. He stated, “One thing about this family is that they are so close. His parents will guide him…Joseph is really praying hard and asking God what to do.” At that point, we exchanged a few jokes about how God must be a Spartan as they are somehow miraculously on a player of his caliber this late. He agreed at first, but then was clear to add, “They respect MSU; but you need to now that Coach Dantonio is why MSU has a chance. They believe in that man”.

While MSU and OSU are clearly two of the main leaders this late, it has been known that LSU and Notre Dame are still vying for Barksdale. One source reiterated that it really was down to Michigan State and Ohio State. He told me “LSU is too far away I believe.” He told me that the Barksdale family loved the academic environment at LSU but when compared to MSU it was just “Nick copying what he did at MSU.” Further, even though LSU is certainly a championship team he told me “Dantonio will bring the championships back to MSU.” When I asked about Notre Dame, the answer was a “no”, but he did not specify why, declining to go into detail.Â

When inquiring about what MSU was doing so well to get back into the game so late, this same source replied with, “What didn’t they do.” Most coaches use negative recruiting to try and lure players their way; however, according to this source, “MSU didn’t say one bad word about anybody.” He told me how Coach Dantonio was very respectful of Ohio State and praised them about as well as he could. This source made it clear to me that Coach Dantonio was interested in selling MSU as a great school with great fans, facilities and alumni. One source told me that Coach Dantonio told the Barksdale family “I think I can sell you on MSU without having to tear anyone down.” Very early in the state, it is evident that Coach Dantonio is echoing just what he said he would do in his press conference: Coach Dantonio does things the “right way.”

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When trying to determine if a commitment was looming, one source told me that he would commit “…as soon as he feels in his heart that he has a direction…” It appears Barksdale is just as invested in doing this the right way as Coach Dantonio is. The source added that “He isn’t at all interested in the attention; he just wants to get it right.”Â

Both of Barksdale’s parents appear to be favoring MSU. When talking to one source, they told me that beyond the issue of faith, Coach Dantonio’s interest in Joseph getting an engineering degree really sold them. While other schools are talking about getting Joseph in the NFL, MSU is talking about getting Joseph a degree. One source stressed to me “MSU wants him for all the right reasons. It’s just a fit.” Coach Dantonio cares a lot about his players and he is doing a great job of letting this be known in the recruiting process. I was told “…they liked how coach saw Joe as man and not as a kid that he can exploit.”

Last night, all of the state’s best players were in attendance for the annual All-Star Banquet. Joseph Barksdale was one of them. It was a great opportunity for the premier players to interact in one room before they all went their separate ways. While it isn’t clear that MSU is the leader, in fact, I can admit they might be trailing Ohio State by a little, I was told that Joseph was “looking forward to last nights banquet” and this source had a hunch that Barksdale “really liked that speaker.” If you weren’t aware, the speaker was Coach Dantonio.

In the end, it is unclear which school Barksdale will choose. However, we must recognize the work that Coach Dantonio has done to get MSU right in the mix. Barskdale’s coach at Cass Tech, Thomas Wilcher, told me yesterday “He likes Dantonio a lot and that is huge.” We are truly fortunately to have Coach Dantonio at the helm and with him there we will continue to fight for recruits like Barksdale in the future. Whichever school Barksdale chooses will be very fortunate. They are not only getting a great football player, they are also getting a great young man. But, for the home team’s sake, let’s just hope he ends up at the school of the speaker at last nights banquet.