April 13, 2012

Spartans offer super soph McDowell

EAST LANSING - Rivals.com Midwest Recruiting Analyst Josh Helmholdt is reporting tonight that Michigan State has offered a scholarship to super sophomore prospect Malik McDowell of Detroit Loyola.

McDowell and Loyola teammate [db]Ka'John Armstrong, who is also a 2014 prospect, attended Michigan State's scrimmage on Friday in East Lansing.

Helmholdt, who is en route to the Rivals/VTO Elite 100 Showcase in Cincinnati at the time of this article, conducted a phone interview with McDowell on Friday night. Helmholdt passed along the particulars of the interview to SpartanMag.com

"Malik said the Michigan State coaches were very profession and he was impressed by that," Helmholdt reports. "He said he had a good time and is excited about the offer and again was impressed by the professionalism."

McDowell is expected to be one of the best prospects in the Midwest and the country in 2014.

"The sky is the limit for this kid," Helmholdt said. "He is all of 6-foot-6 and he weighs in at a legit 270 but even at that size I think he is a true defensive end because he is explosive coming off that edge.

"He looks like a man on some levels, but he still looks like a kid in other ways; he hasn't spent a lot of time in the weight room yet.

"He tore up that big man camp in February against some pretty good offensive linemen and he had another good outing at the Adidas Invitational last weekend.

"Someone is going to have to do something special to bump him off of the top spot in the state for next year."

McDowell also has offers from Ohio State and Syracuse.

Comp's Take: Although Michigan State has enjoyed new levels of success on the field in the last two years with a share of the Big Ten championship in 2010 and the Big Ten Legends Division championship in 2011 and four straight wins over Michigan, in-state recruiting has become as difficult and challenging for MSU as it used to be in the '70s, '80s and '90s when the Spartans won championships much less frequently.

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has resurrected the type of recruiting success and momentum that the Wolverines enjoyed in earlier decades. That doesn't ensure a Lloyd Carr level of success on the field each autumn for the Wolverines, but Michigan certainly is enjoying a success rate in recruiting circles that is similar to the Carr era.

While MSU is doing a better job, in most cases, of holding off out-of-state programs in garnering a good share of in-state blue chippers, the Spartans have found it to be very difficult to beat the Wolverines over the last 15 months for in-state talent on the handful of occasions when MSU and Michigan have both offered kids from the Great Lakes State. On the infrequent occasions in the 1990s and 2000s when MSU beat Michigan for in-state recruits, the Spartans ALWAYS had to offer before the Wolverines. Offering first by no means guarantees the Spartans a recruiting victory, but I can't think of any in-state recruiting battle in the past 20 years when MSU defeated Michigan after allowing the Wolverines to offer first. I can't think of one.

Being the first to offer is never a determining factor in a recruiting race. But, like I said, history indicates that MSU can't afford to try to come from behind in a recruiting campaign against the Wolverines after allowing Michigan to become the first to offer.

This puts MSU in a tight spot because Michigan is offering earlier than in the past, and pushing for early commitments harder than in the past.

Michigan is going to be difficult to beat for McDowell. Alabama, Ohio State and other powers are also lurking. But I think it was compulsory and wise for the Spartans to step to the plate and go on record to become the first in-state school to offer McDowell. I think it's also the first time MSU has offered a scholarship to a sophomore during the Dantonio era. This looks like an adjustment to the expedited pace of in-state recruiting set forth by the Wolverines.

When MSU dominated in-state recruiting in 2009, the Spartans made early, decisive pushes for Edwin Baker, Larry Caper, Chris Norman, Donald Spencer, Dion Sims and Andrew Maxwell. Under Rich Rodriguez, Michigan was often a little slow out of the starting blocks in those races. Michigan capitalized.

In recent recruiting losses to Michigan, the Spartans had fallen into the trap of allowing Michigan to offer first. While MSU prides itself on making thorough evaluations before offering, the Spartans also need to understand that if they wait too long when going against the Wolverines it will be extremely difficult to overcome the Michigan recruiting machine with the way it is running right now if the Spartans let the Wolverines offer first. MSU has built its championship teams of the past two seasons based largely on strong camp evaluations as well as senior film evaluations and live scouting in the fall. With the expedited nature of today's recruiting calendar, and with Michigan making stronger pushes for early commitments than ever before, it is becoming a necessity for MSU to finish evaluations on the top players earlier and earlier and come forth with offers, perhaps earlier than Mark Dantonio would have done in the past.

Dantonio isn't going to stray too far from the recruiting model that enabled MSU to win two Big Ten trophies in the past two years and play for another in 2008. But the landscape has changed, and MSU appears to be changing with it - at least when it comes to trying to catch the biggest in-state fish.

Dantonio isn't the only coach who is a bit wary about early scholarship offers and overloading on junior commitments. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald had some interesting comments about the accelerated nature of recruiting during Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference:

"A big part of this process is young people are getting out earlier and earlier and taking a look at schools," Fitzgerald said. "When I was being recruited in the '90s, you heard from coaches in May with a phone call. They came out and looked at you. I was playing baseball, so they didn't get a great evaluation of me with my fat rear end sitting at first base or right field. But that's when you first got to know each other. Then you went to summer camps or you went on junior days. That has all moved up now to the fall of their junior year. You are getting players to games, getting them to bowl practices, your winter workouts and definitely to spring practice.

"You look at the number of commitments that some schools have here in the Midwest and I think it's a double-edged sword. I think it's great if you find the right fit. I think it's great for young people to be able to solidify and protect themselves from injury in their senior year if the coaches stand by their commitment.

"We might lose a kid because maybe we don't offer them early. I would rather be a day late or a month late and make sure we have evaluated the right fit on the front end."

It's not a major surprise the Michigan State offered McDowell. It was just a matter of time. But in this case, it is noteworthy - and a sign of change - that MSU pulled the trigger on the offer so soon. Consider that McDowell earned an MSU scholarship offer even earlier in the process than William Gholston.

I suspect that the new climate of early offers and earlier wholesale commitments could lead to more "misses" in evaluation. But in the case of a player like McDowell, the scholarship offer was a no-brainer. And when that's the case, might as well bat first and get a run scored in the top of the first inning, which is what the Spartans did on Friday.

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