Nov 26, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio looks on from the sideline during the second quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Michigan State 45-12. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O
Michigan State recruiting is far from over in the 2017 football class and here are five under-the-radar targets.
Buckle your seatbelts, folks, Michigan State recruiting is gearing up for a wild ride over the next few months. With National Signing Day about two months away, the Spartans are getting a head start on the final stretch of recruiting.
Mark Dantonio and his staff have already hit the road in the early contact period and have been paying visits to current commits and top targets. The Spartans are hoping to add about 5-7 guys to their 2017 class still and there are a number of players who haven’t even been talked about as much as the rest.
Looking at the remaining targets, you have the obvious ones with KJ Hamler, Ambry Thomas, Deron Irving-Bey, Lynn Bowden and Jaylen Harris, but there are still a number of other guys who are being visited and targeted, but fans know very little about.
Let’s take a look at the five under-the-radar recruits left in the 2017 class who the Spartans could potentially land.
5. Connor Heyward, 3-star ATH (Suwanee, Ga.)
Michigan State didn’t offer three-star athlete Connor Heyward until Nov. 11 but the Spartans have already made an impression on him.
Playing primarily wide receiver at the high school level, Heyward is an athlete who could fit into multiple positions, if the coaching staff asked that of him. He could play defensive back, running back and, heck, he even has the body of a potential linebacker.
The Spartans have had some major success recruiting in the state of Georgia in the past and they’re hoping to have the same luck in this year’s class with Heyward. The staff even stopped in to see him this week and he seems to be high on Michigan State.
You can never have a shortage of athletes in a class and he would be a nice addition if the Spartans were unable to land Bowden. He ranks as the No. 676 overall prospect and 50th-best athlete in the class, according to 247Sports. Pitt is also a major player.
Sep 24, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans cornerback Darian Hicks (2) looks to the sidelines during the first quarter of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
It’s not going to be easy to win over Tariq Castro-Fields as the Maryland-native has a pretty loaded top-six. Alabama, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Penn State and North Carolina are the schools that Michigan State needs to beat out in order to land one of the more under-the-radar prospects in the 2017 class.
No one has really talked about Michigan State landed Castro-Fields but he might be a better option than a guy like Christian Cumber. Although Cumber, a three-star corner from Colorado, has talent, I think Castro-Fields could have an instant impact.
Michigan State stopped in to see the four-star cornerback from Upper Marlboro, Md., on Wednesday and it seems like he has a growing interest in the program.
Heck, if Michigan State isn’t able to pull Ambry Thomas, the Spartans would love to have a guy like Castro-Fields take his place. Even if the Spartans can get Thomas, Castro-Fields would be a perfect addition and those two could be starting cornerbacks at the same time in a couple years.
Castro-Fields stands 6-foot-1 and weighs about 175 pounds, ranking as the No. 218 overall prospect and 18th-best cornerback in the 2017 class. Hometown Maryland might be the favorite right now, but don’t count the Spartans out.
Sep 17, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (6) has pass broken up by Michigan State Spartans cornerback Vayante Copeland (13) during the second half a game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
3. Ameer Speed, 3-star CB (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Ameer Speed seems to really like Michigan State. He visited East Lansing for an official back in October and I heard nothing but good things about it. He enjoyed every aspect and it’s pretty obvious he can see himself playing at Spartan Stadium, donning the green and white.
Speed has great size for a cornerback, standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 195 pounds and playing a physical brand of football. He could be a huge addition, both figuratively and literally. Not many cornerbacks can equal the size of an opposing receiver, but that’s the kind of advantage Speed would bring.
Not only that, but his name is awesome and he lives up to it. He has great coverage ability and can turn his hips quickly enough to stick with receivers. He could be a lockdown cornerback at the next level with a couple of years experience.
Again, if Thomas were to commit elsewhere, Speed would be a nice addition and even a trio of him, Thomas and Castro-Fields would be ideal, but the staff is likely to only take one or two of those three.
The three-star cornerback from Florida might be a slight North Carolina-lean right now, but his visit to MSU may have swung the momentum a bit. Also, the staff stopped in to see him this week already. He’s the No. 453 overall recruit and 41st-best cornerback in the 2017 class.
Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) is tackled by Michigan State Spartans linebacker Ed Davis (43) and safety Montae Nicholson (9) during the first half of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
2. Jaquan Henderson, 3-star LB (Covington, Ga.)
I can’t think of a better under-the-radar player than a committed Jaquan Henderson. The three-star linebacker from Georgia is committed to Tennessee, but that might be changing. The tides have been turning with this kid for a while, but after an official visit to East Lansing a few weeks ago, it seems like the Spartans are making a serious push.
Henderson already took his official to MSU, on Oct. 29, and while he maintains his commitment to Tennessee, insiders say the Spartans are still very much in the running.
Listed as a linebacker via most recruiting services, Henderson could also transition to safety, if need be. He stands 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and looks like a linebacker, but he is athletic enough to play in the defensive backfield. He could afford to add a little meat to his bones if he plans on linebacking in college.
Michigan State doesn’t have a single linebacker commit for 2017 and Henderson could look at that as a potential opportunity to play early in his career. He’s ranked the No. 420 overall prospect in the 2017 class.
Sep 19, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; dMichigan State Spartans linebacker Andrew Dowell (5) celebrates fumble recovery during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
1. Antjuan Simmons, 4-star LB (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
There’s little doubt in my mind that Antjuan Simmons is the most underrated of recruits left on Michigan State’s big board. What makes this situation even more intriguing is the fact that he just de-committed from Ohio State on Wednesday night, leaving the door open for Michigan State.
Moreover, he took an official visit to Michigan State on Nov. 12 and was in attendance with a number of current commits to the Spartans’ 2017 class. Connecting with potential future teammates is a big deal and Simmons got a glimpse of what his future could look like.
Simmons might be the best linebacker in the state of Michigan, and that includes four-star Michigan commit Josh Ross. He works hard on every single play and he is, without a doubt, the hardest hitter, pound-for-pound, in the state.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker from Ann Arbor has liked Michigan State for some time and even included the Spartans in his top schools prior to committing to Ohio State. Michigan State is in a good spot.
Antjuan is one of the more athletic linebackers out there and would be a nice first commit at the position for the Spartans in 2017. He’s ranked as the No. 298 overall prospect and 19th-best outside linebacker.