Mark Dantonio builds Michigan State 2019 recruiting class in trenches

EAST LANSING — Mark Dantonio looked to build Michigan State football’s 2019 recruiting class with a strong foundation.

That meant loading up the trenches.

Eight of the 18 players the Spartans signed Wednesday are either offensive and defensive linemen, a concerted effort by Dantonio and his staff to get stronger at the point of attack on both sides of the ball.

“We believe really the game of football starts up front,” Dantonio said during his signing day news conference at Spartan Stadium. “I thought we signed a great, very impressive group of what I call power football players.”

That includes what Dantonio deemed maybe “the best class we’ve ever signed in my 12 years here” along the offensive line. It is highlighted by his first 5-star blocker in Belleville’s Devontae Dobbs, and includes 3-star recruits Spencer Brown of Walled Lake Western, Damon Kaylor of Huntington, Ind., and Nick Samac from Mentor, Ohio.

Dantonio said the plan was always to take four offensive linemen, but he and his staff also landed J.D. Duplain from Strongsville, Ohio. The 6-foot-3, 303-pounder will begin his career on the defensive line because of his strength and speed, Dantonio said, but could move back and make that offensive group even stronger.

“We looked and said, ‘Can we take him as a defensive lineman? Possibly,’ ” Dantonio said. “Power guy, big, strong, athletic enough to do this. He was a guy we would have certainly taken. … At the end of the day, you’re going to take your best players. Wherever he can get on the field fastest, that’s where he’ll play.”

Maverick Hansen moved the other direction. The Farmington Hills Harrison senior had been committed to Central Michigan as an offensive tackle, but Dantonio said he decided Wednesday morning to give Hansen a scholarship offer as a defensive lineman. Hansen quickly signed on — and Dantonio raved about the 3-star recruit’s desire to become a Spartan.

“He’s a doer. I think you win with doers,” Dantonio said of the 6-5, 275-pound Hansen. “I started to believe, this is a guy like (Kenny) Willekes, a guy like maybe Jack Conklin, an effort guy, Kevin Pickelman, an effort guy. I think he’s going to overachieve.

“That’s what you have to do at this level. Everybody comes in with a foundation, who they are, and it’s what you do after that that really sends you to your limits.”

Dantonio also gushed about his two 3-star, in-state defensive end commitments: Adam Berghorst from Zeeland East and Michael Fletcher from Flint Carman-Ainsworth. He believes they could be “the best two defensive ends … that we’ve recruited.”

MSU’s early signees rank 28th nationally and seventh in the Big Ten according to 247Sports.com.

MSU adds two other running backs in the class in Anthony Williams from Bolingbrook, Ill., and Brandon Wright from Euclid, Ohio.

Thorne committed to MSU on Friday after being a long-time Western Michigan pledge. The Spartans at one point had a commitment from Oak Park’s Dwan Mathis, who signed with Georgia on Wednesday after his third decommitment, this time from Ohio State.

Seven players are planning to enroll when winter semester classes begin Jan. 7: Brown, Duplain, Kaylor, Samac, Williams, receiver Tre Mosley, and Australian punter Jack Bouwmeester.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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