Spartans gain recruiting traction with Terry

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Quarterback Damion Terry gave Michigan State something to build its 2013 football recruiting class around.

Terry threw for 3,599 yards and 50 touchdowns, and ran for 700 yards and another 12 touchdowns to lead Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep to a 15-0 record and a state championship. He is, according to Scout.com, the No. 9 quarterback in the country and one four four-star recruits in a class that Scout.com rates as No. 6 in the Big Ten.

The Spartans received 14 of their 18 commitments since April 16, 2012, the day Terry committed to Coach Mark Dantonio. At that point, Michigan State had another recruiter — one who could influence his peers.

“I talked to everybody I could after that,” Terry said in a Friday phone interview. “I talked to Jay Harris, a wide receiver and a Pennsylvania guy like me. I talked to Devyn (Salmon). And I got real close to Gerald Holmes, too. But he was the first commitment in our class.”

Birmingham Brother Rice (Mich.) outside linebacker Jon Reschke, Detroit Cass Tech offensive tackle Dennis Finley and Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller inside linebacker Shane Jones, join Terry as the Spartans’ four-star jewels.

Flint (Mich.) Carman Ainsworth tailback Holmes, Plant City (Fla.) High defensive tackle Salmon and Harris, from Exton (Pa.) Downington East High, are among the 11 three-star recruits in the class.

Terry was asked whether he felt his class had something special going.

“I really do,” he said. “On my official visit, it went real well and we all clicked.

“Aaron Burbridge was my host and he’s a really good receiver who showed a lot as a freshman. (Freshman linebacker) Riley Bullough and so many of the guys were guys I really liked.”

The Spartans also got the No. 1 placekicker in the nation, according to Rivals.com. Michael Geiger, from Ottawa Hills High near Toledo, Ohio, made 6 of 10 field goals, with a long of 54 yards. Ninety-two percent of his kickoffs were touchbacks, and he also had a 41.6-yard punting average.

“I grew up a Michigan fan, and that would have been my No. 1 school,” Geiger told the Toledo Blade. “But I don’t think they were looking for a scholarship kicker this year.”

With three-year placekicker Dan Conroy graduating, Geiger will challenge senior Kevin Muma for the starting spot.

Tight end Dylan Chmura — from West High in Waukesha, Wis., and the son of Green Bay Packers three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Chmura — could get considerable playing time with Dion Sims entering the NFL Draft after his junior year.

Tailback Le’Veon Bell also is off for the NFL, and Holmes (1,023 yards, 14 touchdowns) and R.J. Shelton of Beaver Dam (Wis.) High (2,048 yards rushing, 34 touchdowns) could be the top two at the position with no clear heir among returning running backs.

Terry could very well challenge senior starter Andrew Maxwell, whose grip on the job is tenuous after sophomore-to-be Connor Cook replaced him and engineered the winning drive in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor also has a shot at the job.

“It’s crazy to think I can compete next year,” Terry said. “I know they’ve got good quarterbacks and it will be tough. Whoever is named the starter will earn it.”

There’s a chance Terry will get immediate playing time, even if he doesn’t start.

“I’m excited and do not know what to expect,” he said. “Whatever they want, I’m down for it.”

Terry visited only Michigan State and West Virginia. He canceled a trip to Ohio State and turned back overtures from University of Florida after an outstanding senior season put him on the national map.

“I was supposed to visit Ohio State,” Terry said, “but I told them I was going to Michigan State. I’m a man of my word.

“I grew up an Ohio State and Florida fan, but I was not going to decommit and create a controversy. I’m happy where I’m at.”

He added that it “means a lot” to have good friend and Cathedral Prep teammate Delton Williams, who could play safety or running back, in the same Spartans class.

Cathedral Prep coach Mike Mischler said Terry, a three-year starter, can throw a smaller football 90 yards and regulation ball 75 yards.

“He can escape unbelievably well and is so big,” Mischler said of his 6-foot-4, 224-pound quarterback. “He makes no risky throws and has improved a lot with his mechanics.

“Damion is mentally on top of what every player at every position on the field is doing and put it all together this year. His out-cut (route) passes are unbelievable, and he really stands out on the field.”

Terry and several others are impressive recruits, but Scout.com rates the Spartans just 37th nationally. Big Ten teams ranked higher as of Monday morning are No. 1 Michigan, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 10 Nebraska, No. 32  Illinois and No. 34 Wisconsin.

National Signing Day is Wednesday.