No longer just Barksdale, MSU is gaining ground in "rebuilding an empire!"

Hondo S. Carpenter

Yesterday, Mark Dantonio confirmed what every Spartan fan already knew: he must win on the field in order to be deemed a success. While I will concede that fact, the off the field elements are what determine how much success you will have on the field; Coach Dantonio has started to build those elements in a strong way.

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Recently, I have caught up with several high school coaches, players and their families in Ohio and Michigan. They all continue to echo the same sentiment: with Mark Dantonio being hired, they want to send their players to MSU. Dantonio has all of the key elements to recruit in Ohio: he knows the schools and the coaches, he has coached there, and he understands the Michigan rivalry with a passion. A parent of a highly recruited Ohio player recently told me that “I can tell you that my son would have never considered MSU at all; Dantonio changed that.” When I asked him about Michigan, he sternly told me “We hate Michigan in this family…you can’t be from Ohio and embrace them. I don’t like the helmets, the song or the stadium.”Â

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On the recruiting trail, Coach Dantonio has been preaching that he is at MSU to win championships. It is no surprise that the kids and parents are buying into it. Now, not only is Coach Dantonio recruiting for MSU, so are his players that he just received commitments from. “Coach Dantonio is like the man that we all know” one parent said to me, “I can tell you that all (of) those kids that have said yes to him are already calling all of the other kids like my son; and even some kids that are going to be some real good recruits next year.” The roads have been paved; Coach Dantonio is not just trying to win games, he is trying to build a program.

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Aside from Jim Tressel, Mark Dantonio has established himself as the most popular coach in Ohio. With Coach Dantonio at Michigan State, Jim Tressel will have no problem passing off players that OSU may not need or have serious interest in. This doesn’t mean they are lower tiered athletes, it simply means that OSU does not have room for every player that has interest in them. A high school coach repeated this feeling. “I think he (Dantonio) and Coach Tressel have such great respect.” He also told me that “I know for a fact that, already he is telling those kids how great Mark is doing and will do in Michigan.” This steam that MSU is gaining is remarkable. Never has MSU had so many instant contacts in such a talent rich state. “I can tell you this—OSU may be 1A on every kid in Ohio’s list, but based on what has happened so far, MSU is 1B.” As more high school coaches realize what a great destination MSU is, the talent will continue to build at MSU. The seeds for a successful program have officially been planted.

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In addition to Ohio, the MSU coaches have started to move into the city of Detroit. The previous staff often neglected the Detroit region. Thomas Wilcher, the head coach at Cass Tech told us how impressed he was with the effort of Coach Dantonio. “I think that him (Dantonio) coming in here shows good honesty towards what Michigan State is trying to do in the city of Detroit.” He knows that Michigan State is back on the map. The toughness is back in East Lansing, and the coaches agree. Wilcher told us that Coach Dantonio is “…trying to come here to get his head off the chop block and put Michigan State up there so they can be able to chop other people’s heads back.”

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These coaches see the difference. This difference is the reason that MSU is gaining ground on recruits that were not even looking towards East Lansing a few months ago. Joseph Barksdale is one of these players. As we all know, he recently has visited MSU and mentioned them as one of his finalists. This can be attributed solely to the work that Coach Dantonio has done. Barksdale told us “Coach Dantonio seems like he’s going to be the person who is going to take it back to the 1980’s when they won the Rose Bowl.” It is clear that Barksdale fully believes in the Dantonio era. “Things like that take a special guy and I think that Coach Dantonio is the guy.” Barksdale realize that the turnaround at Cincinnati was extremely impressive and there is no reason that it won’t happen at MSU. He stated, “Him and his staff went to Cincinnati and changed around the whole program. I believe they have a really good chance of bringing back Michigan State to where it should be. “

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Barksdale seems to be intrigued by this. The chance to awake a sleeping giant does not come around very often. Yet, right now, for Barksdale, the opportunity is awaiting. “I would like to help Coach Dantonio rebuild the empire.”  He told us that when we asked him why Michigan State would be a good choice for him. He also mentioned that being close to home and the fact that he could play almost instantly were certainly perks. Yet, he was most excited when we were talking about rebuilding Michigan State. He knows this is his chance to be a hero in his home state. Although he is not ready to commit, Michigan State is in this. He was waiting for an excuse to look at Michigan State and Coach Dantonio has given it to him.

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Sources close to Barksdale are confirming that MSU is his top two along with Ohio State. Some analysts are even predicting that MSU will be his choice. While we will not find out for sure where he is heading for a few weeks, the impression that will be left on him is not something to ignore. Michigan State is making noise; coaches must now realize that under Dantonio, MSU will win a lot of games and fight for every recruit that they want to fight for. In all of his years Coach Dantonio has succeeded by treating people with respect. A coach in Ohio said “He does well because when he was at Youngstown State he treated us like gold. Now that he has hit the big time, we aren’t surprised that he hasn’t changed.”Â

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No single recruit has ever won a football game for MSU; in the future, no single recruit will win a football game either. Yet, now that Coach Dantonio is here, the recruits are aware that with a collective effort from everyone they will win games, together. This is the future of MSU football; it appears to be one that is getting greener every day.

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