Michigan State Recruiting: 7 ideal 2018 football targets

Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio stands with his players between plays during the second half of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio stands with his players between plays during the second half of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State recruiting has been quiet in the 2017 football cycle, but here are seven guys who could change things in 2018.

It’s been a tough 2017 Michigan State recruiting cycle for Mark Dantonio and the Spartans. No, there haven’t been any de-commitments just yet, but the head coach has missed on multiple in-state targets and the Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes continue to beat him out for top prospects after a 3-9 season.

The Spartans added a commitment from Connor Heyward just a couple of weeks ago, but he’s the only pledge since the summer. The class might be all but sewn up at this point with maybe 5-7 spots left, but the staff isn’t done working.

Still, the 2018 class might make up for all of the glaring holes in 2017’s group. Although there are impressive prospects such as Kevin Jarvis, Lashawn Paulino-Bell, Cody White, Weston Bridges, Rocky Lombardi and Hunter Rison, there are some weaknesses in terms of depth at some positions.

Let’s take a look at seven guys from the 2018 class who would be ideal additions.

7. Trenton Gillison, 4-star TE/DE

Michigan State added two tight ends to its 2017 recruiting class with Jack Camper and Matt Dotson, but it wouldn’t hurt to add a four-star in Trenton Gillison who seems to be high on the Spartans.

Teammates with Xavier Henderson, the 2018 class’ only commit thus far, Gillison could follow his good friend’s footsteps to East Lansing. The Spartans will look to likely add one tight end to the class and Gillison has the potential to be that lone guy who could mold into an every-down type of end.

Heck, he’s versatile enough to play defensive end as well. We did see Jamal Lyles play both sides of the ball this season and Gillison could be that guy. However, the staff will likely take him as both and move him to the biggest position of need.

Gillison is ranked the No. 219 overall prospect and ninth-best tight end in the 2018 class, according to the 247Sports composite. Being from Pickerington, Ohio, the Buckeyes are the main competition to the Spartans for him.

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

6. Braden Lenzy, 4-star CB

There has been more interest shown from four-star cornerback Braden Lenzy in recent weeks to Michigan State as he even took an unofficial visit to East Lansing. That might not seem like a big deal, but when a kid pays his way for a trip across the country to see a program in the middle of fall/winter, it means he’s very interested.

After offering Lenzy on Nov. 19, the four-star cornerback from Portland, Ore., visited East Lansing on Dec. 10 and liked what he saw. Even 247Sports Michigan State recruiting analyst Sean Scherer put in a Crystal Ball for the Spartans after talking to Lenzy.

How does a kid from Oregon get interested in Michigan State? Well, he is family friends with former Spartan basketball star Gary Harris and he may have grown up watching the basketball team play which could have gotten him interested in MSU football.

It’s still very early in his recruitment, but the Spartans could use some defensive backs, especially after missing on a couple in the 2017 class. He’s ranked the No. 173 overall prospect and 20th-best cornerback in 2018, according to 247Sports.

Standing just 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, he could afford to add some weight/muscle.

Sep 2, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Monty Madaris (88) carries the ball during the second half against the Furman Paladins at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

5. Micah Jones, 4-star WR

There were a few receivers I could have put in this spot and the last time I went over the 2018 class, it was Joseph Scates. While I think they’re almost interchangeable, why not aim for both? The coaching staff will try to land Scates, a four-star wide out from Dayton, as well as Micah Jones.

Jones is a four-star from Gurnee, Ill., who stands 6-foot-5, and reminds me a little of Jaylen Harris from the 2017 class. While the Spartans haven’t learned the fate of that top wide out, if they miss on him, Jones could be the next best thing.

Not too often can you find a 6-foot-5 receiver with speed, good route-running ability and soft hands like Jones, but that’s what he brings to the table. The Spartans will likely be battling it out with Notre Dame, Illinois, Iowa and Northwestern for the four-star receiver from Illinois, but the Fighting Irish seem like the top competition.

With Donnie Corley and Trishton Jackson playing well and a nice haul of Cody White and Hunter Rison in the 2017 crop, Jones would be a different breed of wide out. He would be more of a jump-ball threat with some speed as well.

The four-star receiver currently ranks No. 282 in the class and as the 46th-best receiver. For the record, Scates got a recruiting bump and he’s close to the top-150.

Sep 2, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive end Demetrius Cooper (98) gestures to the sideline during the second half against the Furman Paladins at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

4. Malik Vann, 4-star DE

There’s something to be said about kids who have friends/teammates in later classes. Josiah Scott, a three-star Michigan State cornerback commit for 2017, is good friends with four-star defensive end Malik Vann.

The two have played high school ball together at Fairfield High in Ohio and it’s clear that they are very close. When Scott was pictured signing with Michigan State last week on Twitter, officially, Vann quoted the tweet and said how he was going to do big things for the Spartans. Scott responded with “I can’t wait until you announce your commitment to Michigan State.”

Sure, it’s just two kids having fun with the recruiting process and by no means does that mean he’s a lock to sign with Michigan State, but you know Scott will be in his ear. The Spartans are in desperate need for defensive line depth after the mass exodus following the 2015 season.

It was never more clear that the Spartans needed help on the defensive like than in 2016 when the team recorded 11 total sacks — a very low number compared to years past. Vann could provide that spark in the trenches and he’s talented enough to develop early on.

Vann is ranked the No. 289 overall prospect and 11th-best strong-side defensive end in the 2018 class.

Nov 19, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio leads his team onto the field prior to the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

3. L’Christian Smith, 4-star ATH

One of the guys who Michigan State should be going all out for in the 2018 class is L’Christian ‘Blue’ Smith. He is one of the top recruits in the country and actually a good friend of Messiah deWeaver.

The Spartans’ freshman was a teammate of Smith at Wayne High in Dayton, Ohio, and the two seemed to form a solid connection as wide receiver and QB. Smith might be the best athlete in this class and he could be a phenomenal receiver at the next level.

While he’s considered an athlete, receiver is definitely his go-to position and I’d assume that’s where the coaching staff will be recruiting him at. Not many guys can stand 6-foot-6 and have the type of athleticism that Smith has. He’s also a great basketball player, so Tom Izzo might be calling for him as well.

Right now, being an Ohio kid, the Buckeyes are the main competition for the top prospect with the Spartans. Michigan State has recruited Ohio very well in recent years, but Urban Meyer is going to do everything in his power to make sure Smith doesn’t get away.

Smith is currently ranked the No. 101 overall prospect and third-best athlete in the 2017 class, according to the 247Sports composite.

Oct 8, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans offensive lineman Brian Allen (65) prepares to snap the ball during the first half of a game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

2. Marquan McCall, 4-star OG

It’s safe to say Michigan State needs some major help along the offensive line. Marquan McCall of Oak Park (Mich.) High is one guy who could help out almost instantly. There are plenty of potential suitors for the Michigan-native, but he might just stick with an in-state program.

Both Michigan and Michigan State will be targeting him heavily in the next recruiting cycle and why not? The 6-foot-3, 280-pound junior guard is still growing and he looks like one of the best offensive linemen in the 2018 class. Heck, he might end up remaining the top prospect in the state of Michigan.

McCall is currently hearing from both the top in-state programs as well as Tennessee and he has recent offers from TCU and Penn State. His recruitment is going to absolutely blow up in the near future, so it’s important for the Spartan coaching staff to remain consistent in targeting him.

Ranked the No. 77 overall prospect and third-best offensive guard in the country, McCall would be an instant help to an ailing Michigan State offensive line. Tyler Higby, Thiyo Lukusa and Cole Chewins are the future of this line, but throw in McCall and you have quite the formidable, young group.

Nov 26, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back LJ Scott (3) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Michigan State 45-12. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O

1. Jaelen Gill, 4-star RB

The chances of landing Jaelen Gill aren’t great right now. The four-star all-purpose back likes Michigan State, but Ohio State is currently the team to beat for his services. However, the last time Ohio State led for a top-tier back from Ohio, the Spartans snagged LJ Scott.

Must Read: MSU Recruiting: Top 10 football targets for 2018

Gill is an even better prospect than Scott was, if you can believe that. He can do everything, hence the distinction of all-purpose back, and he will likely be a five-star recruit by the time the rankings are updated.

Right now, Gill is the top all-purpose back in the country as well as the No. 32 prospect and second-best recruit from the state of Ohio, according to 247Sports. He is an incredible talent who might just be an instant starter at the next level.

The usual suspects are battling it out with the Spartans for Gill’s services such as Michigan, Notre Dame and even Tennessee is in the mix.

However, seeing how Michigan State has given Scott the reigns to the backfield, it could be attractive for a kid like Gill, especially with Scott leaving in the next year or two.

Is it possible that the Spartans could wrestle Gill away from Ohio State? That would be the biggest recruiting victory since Scott, Donnie Corley or Malik McDowell.

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