Michigan State Recruiting: 5 needs to address by National Signing Day, ranked

Dec 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio looks on during warm-ups prior to the game Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2015 CFP semifinal at the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio looks on during warm-ups prior to the game Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2015 CFP semifinal at the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State recruiting has major needs to address by National Signing Day for its 2017 football class and here they are, ranked.

We are now about two weeks away from Feb. 1’s National Signing Day and Michigan State has some needs it still has to fill. The Spartans’ 2017 class is filling up fast, but the Spartans aren’t shy about extending last-minute offers as they have to multiple players in recent weeks.

One player who has been high on the board, Antjuan Simmons, committed last weekend and the linebacker position becomes more solidified. However, do the Spartans need to keep adding to that group to make up for the departures this year and lack of commits from 2016?

Take a look at the Spartans top five positional needs and which players could address them in the 2017 class just weeks away from National Signing Day.

5. Linebacker

This one has been addressed slightly with the addition of Antjuan Simmons last week, which was a huge get for the staff. The four-star linebacker from Ann Arbor was high on the Spartans’ recruiting board for a while before he committed to Ohio State.

After taking an unofficial visit to East Lansing in November, he de-committed from the Buckeyes and the Spartans were back in the running. He joins Darien Clemons, who is coming off a major knee injury, as the only other linebacker in the class — Clemons was a running back first in high school. Connor Heyward may also play the position.

So where does that leave the staff? Well, there are two main targets left on the board and they are Jaquan Henderson, a three-star Tennessee commit, and Nick Smith, a three-star recent de-commit of N.C. State. The latter took a visit to East Lansing this past weekend and liked what he saw, putting the Spartans in his list of top schools.

The Spartans are thin at the position and both Smith and Henderson would be ideal additions before signing day.

Brandon Randle and Joe Bachie were the only linebackers from the 2016 class.

Oct 3, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans offensive lineman Brian Allen (65) points out coverage before the snap of the ball during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 3, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans offensive lineman Brian Allen (65) points out coverage before the snap of the ball during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

4. Offensive Line

While it might look like the offensive line is relatively set for the next couple of years, adding depth to the position group is important. The Spartans added commitments from Luke Campbell, Matt Allen, AJ Arcuri and Thiyo Lukusa in the 2016 class and the 2017 group is on track to be solid as well.

Currently, Mustafa Khaleefah, Matt Carrick, Jordan Reid and Kevin Jarvis make a solid group of linemen, but you have to remember how many positions there are in the trenches. Each class should add about 4-5 guys on the line given that there are five starting spots to be filled each year.

As we found out this past season, the offensive line could use as much depth as possible. Injuries have plagued the Spartans up front for the past couple of years and an early departure to Jack Conklin before 2016 was devastating. The line was struggling all year long and the bright spots came at the end of the season in the form of up-and-coming stars.

Lukusa, Cole Chewins and Tyler Higby all showed that they can be key pieces for the future on the line, but there needs to be depth in case of injuries.

The Spartans are still looking at mammoth three-star offensive tackle Mekhi Becton from Virginia and they were eyeing Thayer Munford but he no longer seems like an option. Missing out on Becton, who has a visit on Jan. 27, to Michigan would be a tough blow.

Sep 24, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back LJ Scott (3) runs the ball during the first quarter of a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 24, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back LJ Scott (3) runs the ball during the first quarter of a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

3. Running Back

You might be wondering why running back is even listed here, but after missing out on a back in the 2016 class and only bringing in one thus far for 2017, the Spartans are in desperate need of a back.

Weston Bridges is the lone running back commit in the 2017 class and he’s coming off a major knee injury which will take him some time to heal from. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him redshirt in 2017. In fact, it’s almost expected, but there still needs to be depth at the position.

I know you’re probably thinking, “What about all three running backs MSU has right now?” It’s true, Michigan State has a potential three-headed monster in the backfield, but it’s very possible Madre London could transfer without the playing opportunities of LJ Scott and Gerald Holmes.

Plus, if that happens, Holmes is set to be a senior and Scott is likely to head to the NFL after the 2017 season, barring some sort of setback or disappointing year. That would leave the Spartans with only Bridges on the roster, with some deep depth chart guys, for 2018.

The Spartans have put feelers out for Cordarrian Richardson, a top-100 recruit for 2017 and former Clemson commit, who is expected to visit next week. Also, John Lovett, a three-star former Rutgers commit, was on campus this past weekend and rumors have been swirling about an imminent commitment.

Oct 24, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio leads the Michigan State Spartans onto the field prior to a game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 24, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio leads the Michigan State Spartans onto the field prior to a game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

2. Cornerback

A case could be made for both safety positions here as well, but the cornerback depth must be padded in this class. Austin Andrews was the only corner taken in the 2016 class and you know the depth isn’t great when two four-star receivers — Justin Layne and Donnie Corley — are out playing major roles at corner.

Both Layne and Corley fared well at the position, but the staff knows that it can’t continue to count on changing positions of future wide outs to fit the defensive side of the ball. Josiah Scott is the only cornerback currently committed, and enrolled early, to the Spartans’ 2017 class and that needs to change.

Michigan State is in on a number of guys at the position including top targets Ameer Speed and Naytron Culpepper (who is technically a safety, but can play both). Speed is a top priority and has visited Michigan State recently while Culpepper was also on campus last week.

The Spartans also extended offers to Tre Person and Emmanuel Flowers, a couple of two-star defensive backs. Person is a two-star from Georgia who is committed to Georgia Southern and Flowers is from Chino, Calif., and is visiting this weekend.

Addressing the cornerback situation is a major priority.

Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive lineman Malik McDowell (4) points to the sidelines during the first half of a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive lineman Malik McDowell (4) points to the sidelines during the first half of a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

1. Defensive Line

The defensive line is as important to address as any position on this team. The Spartans lost a ton of talent from 2015, heading into 2016. In fact, Joel heath, Lawrence Thomas and Shilique Calhoun all graduated while Cassius Peat, Enoch Smith, Montez Sweat and Craig Evans each transferred.

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What did that leave the Spartans? Not much depth.

Michigan State started the season with talent in the group such as Malik McDowell and Raequan Williams, but neither was really healthy at all. Demetrius Cooper was a disappointment, for the most part, and Evan Jones was a non-factor. Incoming transfers Gabe Sherrod and Kevin Williams were also underwhelming.

Now that Cooper and Raequan return from that group, along with four 2016 four-star commits on the line, the defensive front has the potential to be solid, but it needs numbers.

It’s obvious that this position group is a priority for the staff as they’ve been pushing for some defensive line targets in the past couple of weeks.

In fact, Robert Porcher IV was in for a visit last weekend, Koby Cumberlander could be close to pledging, Willie Rodgers (who seems like a strong MSU lean) and Victor Dimukeje (who the staff just stopped by to see and he visited last weekend as well).

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