Spartan Recruiting Success Builds Depth, Fosters Competition
Strong recruiting does a lot for a football program. There's the buzz factor that keeps a program's name bouncing off players' and their families' minds, an influx of talent, keeping players away from rivals and positive impressions in the media and fandom.
But for a football team, where each player battles individually at the position level within the framework of a team, recruiting addresses the most important of concepts: competition.
If nothing else, football is a sport that manifests competition, within players on the field, in the strategic scheming of coaches and off the field as programs compete to build their name into powerhouse status. And one of the best ways to do that, Spartan offensive coordinator Don Treadwell will tell you, is to recruit well.
"The more you keep brining in players that are playing at a high level, then it does one of two things," Treadwell told Spartan Nation. "It brings the other players up to that level or they clearly distinguish themselves."
Treadwell pointed to Devin Thomas as an example, the former Spartan wide receiver who separated himself from the pack in the staff's first year. Perhaps one reason Thomas improved so much was the presence of freshman Mark Dell, a talented rookie who made a quick transition from high school ball to the college game in relatively short order. Especially at the skill positions, recruiting can instantly upgrade a team's weaknesses.
Last season, the wide receiver corps suffered from dropped balls, some at unfortunately inopportune moments. After the season and through the next year, the coaching staff didnâ€™t just have to hope its players were working on squeezing the pigskin. The staff could take a more proactive approach and find the right kind receiver for the Spartan offense.
"The best way to address and get the result is continuing to upgrade what we do in recruiting," Treadwell said, "where you bring in a young man that that's kind of second nature to him and you can just polish up concepts."
The trick, sometimes, is to build a culture of competition, and not just implement such a philosophy selectively or when opportunity calls for it. On football teams with tremendous depth, it's not just bringing in talented players. It's making sure that, at all times, each individual focuses on excellence and domination of the opposition. Some young men have that seared into their psyche already. Others need inspiration to channel it to its fullest. Either way, it stars from a culture of competition.
"Every position, as you go across it," Treadwell said. "They all know, and I think the more competition, the better result."
And perhaps the toughest act to balance as a coaching staff is how to approach the idea of competition. Some take the route of berating and tearing down to build a player back up. Others say players learn best in a sink-or-swim situation. But one style of coaching the MSU staff employs, apparently to tremendous results, is establishing a family atmosphere, one that embraces the entirety of a young man and provides him with the tools he needs for success, one that may be tolerable to mistakes â€” we all make them â€” but punishes repeated errors, when growth and learning have stagnated..
"One of the most important things in recruiting is simply get the young man and his family on campus," Treadwell said. "Michigan State provides so many things that you may not know about on the outside, but once you get in on the inside you see so much more of what we have to offer, that's the biggest part of the battle. We really believe that once a young man and his family have seen what we have to offer, than they can make a good decision."