Five-star recruit Malik McDowell picks Michigan State, but hasn’t signed yet

McDowell, a 6-foot-6, 292-pound defensive end from Southfield (Mich.) High, is rated the No. 5 defensive end and No. 36 overall prospect by Scout.com.

EAST LANSING, Mich. — When Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio addressed reporters late Wednesday afternoon, he could not mention Southfield (Mich.) High defensive end Malik McDowell by name. That’s because coaches are not allowed, under NCAA rules, to comment on recruits until their official NCAA letter of intent is received by the school.

McDowell and his father, Greg, signed something during a Wednesday morning press conference at Southfield High. However, Rivals.com reported that the paper they signed was not the official document. And a parent or guardian is required to sign the binding letter for those under 21.

Still, his father said, "I feel good about the decision." And his son, while admitting to feeling "really stressed" this week, said, "I feel it’s an elephant off my shoulders."

It appeared to be a done deal. However, a Sports Xchange story posted on Yahoo! Sports on Monday quoted McDowell’s mother, Joya Crowe, with some strong comments in regard to her son and the Spartans:

"We don’t want him at MSU," Crowe said. "Something happened, I don’t want to put it out there what it was, but I had a bad experience at MSU.

MSU recruits

"It was something on my end, I don’t want to get into specifics.

"I want him to get a good education. Not that he can’t get a good education at MSU. But he also wants to be a first-round pick after college. Nothing is guaranteed, but I don’t think their defensive line coach (Ron Burton) has the background for that."

Burton played four years in the NFL as a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys, Phoenix Cardinals and Los Angeles Raiders before retiring in 1990 to enter college coaching.

Greg McDowell also expressed concerns about his son playing for either MSU or Michigan because he wanted him to leave the state and get away from some of his friends. McDowell was quoted by 247 Sports as wanting his son to attend Ohio State or Florida State, but appeared to support his son’s decision on Wednesday.

"Mom was a bit iffy," Malik McDowell said. "My dad said he was backing me."

Dantonio said, "All in all we’ve had an outstanding recruiting class. We have some on the fence or not completely signed."

Asked if he expected those on "the fence" to sign, Dantonio said, "Yeah, I do. I do expect that."

Darius Slade, a three-star defensive end from Montclair, N.J., opted not to sign with MSU at this time. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Slade will on Feb. 15 visit Ohio State, which is holding a scholarship for him.

"You’ve got to want to be where you are going," said Dantonio, adding that some players fail by going where they are not comfortable.

This week, MSU benefitted from four-star defensive tackle Craig Evans de-committing from Wisconsin. Evans, a 6-foot-2, 305-pound fireplug, is from Sun Prairie (Wis.) High.

Getting Evans and possibly McDowell caused the Spartans to vault to No. 2 in the Big Ten and No. 21 nationally in Scout.com’s rankings. They had been No. 6 in the conference and No. 32 overall on Monday.

Dantonio said that winning the Rose Bowl last month was an important factor.

"I think it helped us close and get the national recruits down the stretch," said Dantonio, calling it "a stamp of approval" for the program.

One player to keep an eye on is Hinsdale (Ill.) Central center Brian Allen, the 6-foot-1, 287-pound brother of current Spartans center Jack Allen.

"He’s as good a lineman as I’ve seen in high school this year," said former LSU, Vanderbilt and Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo on the Big Ten Network. "I want this guy on my team; he’s underrated as a three-star."

MSU’s other four-star recruits were safety Montae Nicholson of Monroeville, Pa., cornerback Vayante Copeland of Dayton, Ohio (Dantonio compared him to Darqueze Dennard) and safety Byron Bullough of Traverse City (Mich.) St. Francis. Bullough, a third-generation Spartan who is following brothers Max and Riley to East Lansing, is expected to play outside linebacker.

The Spartans lost a four-star quarterback in Chris Durkin of Ursuline (Ohio) High, who opted for Virginia Tech.

"From top to bottom," Dantonio said, "this is a very, very powerful class … I’m excited about it. But when they come in in August and start moving around with our players, we’ll know more."

Will McDowell and Slade be among those recruits? That is not yet decided in Slade’s case or known in regard to the mystery surrounding McDowell’s letter of intent, which MSU was not posting on its website as of early Wednesday evening.