Monday, February 20, 2012

Two Spartans on All Two-Star (And Fewer) Team

A few weeks ago, Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated sent out a tweet that he was putting together a list of top college players who were overlooked by the recruiting services, given two stars or fewer.

The list came out today, and, to no surprise, a few Spartans made the team: Le'Veon Bell and Darqueze Dennard.

From Staples' story, on Bell:

"Edwin Baker might have turned pro because he thought he was ready for a new challenge, or he might have left East Lansing because he knew he was the second-best back on the Spartans' roster. The 6-foot-2, 237-pound Bell averaged 5.2 yards per carry and scored 13 rushing touchdowns while splitting time with Baker in 2011. Bell, who also caught 35 passes, will be a greater focal point of Michigan State's offense in 2012. Bell grew up in the Columbus suburb of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and played at Groveport Madison High, but Ohio State never offered. Michigan State gave Bell his only Big Ten offer, and the Spartans beat out Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan and Marshall for Bell."

And on Dennard:

"Dennard should thank Christian Bryant every day for choosing Ohio State. Had Bryant, a four-star cornerback from Cleveland, chosen Michigan State instead of the Buckeyes, Spartans coaches wouldn't have called Dennard in Dry Branch, Ga., days before National Signing Day with a scholarship offer. Dennard would have been choosing between Middle Tennessee State and Utah State. Instead, Dennard went to East Lansing, where he has become one of the Big Ten's best young cornerbacks. Dennard also managed to exact some revenge on the home state team that ignored him. In the Outback Bowl against Georgia, Dennard's third-quarter interception led to Michigan State's first touchdown. Later in the quarter, Dennard intercepted another pass and returned it for a touchdown."

Other notable Spartans who received two stars (or fewer) and will be contributing this year include Denicos Allen, Chris McDonald, Dan France, Bennie Fowler and Dan Conroy. (Mike Sadler actually was a consensus three-star recruit). 

This shouldn't come as a surprise, as Mark Dantonio has found consistent success without highly-ranked recruiting classes. Recent Spartans who weren't heavily recruited include Greg Jones, Kirk Cousins, Joel Foreman, Trenton Robinson and B.J. Cunningham, to name a few.

To my surprise, Michigan had three players on Staples' team, highlighted by walk-on safety Jordan Kovacs. While the Wolverines always have top-ranked classes (and continue to bring them in under Brady Hoke), there are plenty of hidden gems out there. That is what Dantonio has built his program on.

I have already documented my feelings on recruiting rankings. You could make a two-star (and fewer) team every season and have a pretty good team. (Just take a look at the 2011 team, which included Foreman). There's no doubt that bringing in top players often leads to success, but it's not the only way.

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