MSU Football Coach Jonathan Smith's Actions Tell Rival Wolverines 'Let's Get It On'

Michigan State's first-year head coach Jonathan Smith is sending a clear message to bitter rival Michigan through his attempts to flip top recruit Bobby Kanka -- Smith's Spartans are ready to rumble.
Michigan State's new football coach Jonathan Smith speaks to the crowd during a timeout in the basketball game against Georgia Southern on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Michigan State's new football coach Jonathan Smith speaks to the crowd during a timeout in the basketball game against Georgia Southern on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. / Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA

The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is always at the forefront of Spartan Nation's mind. Spartans basketball coach Tom Izzo once needed Michigan to win a game for the Spartans to win the Big Ten championship. Izzo still rooted against the Wolverines. Why?

Izzo said rooting for Michigan was "un-American."

Spartans coach Jonathan Smith has not taken the field against the Wolverines, let alone against any team at the helm of Michigan State football, but he is already on the attack against the bitter neighbor in Ann Arbor.

One of the visitors that came to East Lansing for the June 14 official visit was 2025 Wolverine commit Bobby Kanka. Kanka is a four-star prospect, per 247Sports' composite rankings, and the Pinckney, Michigan native is the fourth-ranked recruit from the state.

He is the 42nd-ranked defensive lineman in the 2025 class. Per 247Sports, Michigan's new staff has let Kanka's recruitment slip to the wayside, and the Spartans have jumped in to try to flip the highly touted in-state recruit.

"Michigan State coaches have visited Kanka multiple times at Howell High School during the contact periods," 247Sports' Corey Robinson wrote. "Sending nearly the entire staff to his school in the spring."

Since his official visit, Michigan has now "turned their attention" to Kanka in an attempt to keep him from flipping.

Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi and defensive line coach Legi Suiaunoa seem to have a good relationship with Kanka, and that could make a difference. Rossi has proven to be the X-factor for several recruits, but that has been the story for every Spartan target -- this new staff knows how to recruit.

Smith is building something special in East Lansing, implementing his vision with his staff to lead the Spartans in a new direction after the calamity of the Mel Tucker era. Recruits have lauded the sincerity of Smith and his staff -- and that includes recruits who didn't choose Michigan State.

Smith's attempt to flip Kanka sends a clear message to Ann Arbor:

The Spartans will not be intimidated by the reigning national champions, to the point where the Green and White will actively attempt to poach Maize and Blue talent.

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.

Don’t forget to follow the official Spartan Nation Page on Facebook Spartan Nation WHEN YOU CLICK RIGHT HERE, and be a part of our vibrant community group Go Green Go White as well WHEN YOU CLICK RIGHT HERE.


Published
Michael France

MICHAEL FRANCE