EXCLUSIVE: Elite 2026 Jonathan Smith, MSU Football Target Hints at Potential Selling Point

The Michigan State Spartans are turning to the 2026 class on the recruiting trail. Among their top priorities is one of the best offensive lineman in the country, Maxwell Riley, who likes the Spartans and gave Spartan Nation valuable insights.
Michigan State offensive lineman Geno VanDeMark (74) warms up before the game against Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022.
Michigan State offensive lineman Geno VanDeMark (74) warms up before the game against Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Maxwell Riley of Avon Lake High School is one of the most highly recruited offensive linemen in the 2026 class. He is the 6th-ranked offensive tackle by 247Sports, the No. 1 player in Ohio, and the 35th overall prospect nationally. He holds 26 offers, but he narrowed it down to seven.

The Michigan State Spartans were among the Top 7 teams Riley released. The company is elite -- Alabama, Oklahoma, Florida State, Missouri, Clemson and Ohio State.

I spoke with Riley, who told me he had a busy summer. He worked out at his visits to Alabama and Ohio State, working on pass protection, inside zone and outside zone blocking, agility drills and tests. He also visited Clemson, Oklahoma, and he plans to head down to Missouri, too.

Riley was offered by the previous Spartans regime under Mel Tucker. He said that this past spring, Michigan State offensive line coach Jim Michalczik, a key part of the new staff, visited his school and offered him again.

"We talked for quite a bit," Riley said. "I've been in pretty frequent contact with him. I visited, I think, two months after that, in April or May."

Riley said that what stood out to him upon meeting Michalczik was how genuine he was. He said Michalczik is always quizzing him about football strategy.

"I really like him a lot," Riley said. "He's just a really good dude. Has got a great history of development. Coached in the NFL, for the Raiders, for a little bit, too. Which is always a pro."

Riley said the new regime is more consistent with communication. Former Michigan State offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic is now at Alabama and recruiting Riley heavily. Both schools have undergone significant changes, and Riley is keeping note.

"You kinda just gotta re-evaluate," Riley said. "I think the thing with Michigan State, Alabama, with the new staffs, there's gonna be maybe not like improvements very quickly. I think Alabama is going to be very good still, it's 'Bama, I think Michigan State is definitely going to make a climb up and be really good. But you just gotta really see how you fit in to the new coaching staff, new schemes, the culture there."

Riley said he wants to play for a winning program and he's waiting until the end of the season to see how teams do. He will still have official visits to take in the spring and summer. A good season from Jonathan Smith could be huge in the recruitment of Riley.

Michael France is Sports Illustrated's Michigan State recruiting beat writer, covering all things Big Ten recruiting for Spartan Nation. Be sure to follow him on Twitter/X@michaelfrancesi for exclusive Spartans recruiting coverage.

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Michael France

MICHAEL FRANCE