GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD/AP) – Wednesday was the first day high school student-athletes from the Class of 2014 can officially commit to the college of their choice.
Students around the nation signed their National Letters of Intent, including many from West Michigan.
==Watch above: 24 Hour News 8′s Casey Jones breaks down the signees==
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State introduced a football recruiting class Wednesday ranked among the nation’s best, building on a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl victory. The Spartans added several key pieces late, including Sun Prairie (Wis.) High defensive tackle Craig Evans. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman had been committed to Wisconsin. Michigan State also landed defensive back T.J. Harrell, who chose the Spartans over Louisville and Texas. Coach Mark Dantonio said the Rose Bowl win had an impact on the late additions. “I think it helped us close,” Dantonio said. “I think it helped us get on national recruits down the stretch and it sort of ensured what we were doing as a program. Basically, I think it gave people a stamp of approval.” There was some early-morning drama as well. Five-star Southfield (Mich.) High defensive lineman Malik McDowell verbally committed to the Spartans during a press conference at his high school, but his faxed letter of intent had not shown up by the time the news conference was held. Coaches are not allowed to discuss prospects until they have a signed letter of intent due to NCAA regulations. Even without McDowell officially inked, Dantonio pointed to prospects such as Evans and defensive tackle Enoch Smith Jr. out of Chicago as a big strength of the class. “I think it’s a dominant class on the defensive line,” Dantonio said. “I think with this defensive line class we continue to establish ourselves and continue to be one of the top defenses in the country and in this conference.” The Spartans did not sign a quarterback or wide receiver. Quarterback Chris Durkin decommitted in December and signed with Virginia Tech. The Spartans did sign defensive back Montae Nicholson, a consensus four-star prospect out of Pennsylvania who could end up on offense as well. “Montae Nicholson is a complete football player,” Dantonio said. “He’s a two-way performer who excelled at both wide receiver and safety.” Four-star Chicago (Ill.) Hinsdale Central center Brian Allen represents the top-ranked offensive lineman in the Spartans’ 2014 class.
National rankings (Rivals 21; Scout 21)
Best in class: Montae Nicholson, db, Monroeville (Pa.)
Best of the rest: Brian Allen, ol, Hinsdale (Ill.)
Late addition: T.J. Harrell, db, Tampa (Fla.)
One that got away: Darius Slade, de, Montclair, N.J.
NOTE: Slade committed to Michigan State in mid-January but had a late change of heart and signed with Urban Meyer and Ohio State on Wednesday.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — It has been a couple of seasons since Brady Hoke appeared to be leading a Michigan resurgence, having taken the Wolverines to the Sugar Bowl in his first year as coach. That honeymoon is over. Michigan introduced a recruiting class of 16 players, a group ranked 27th in the nation by Scout.com as of Wednesday afternoon. Hoke’s previous two classes were ranked in the top four by Scout. “I would say size of class had something to do with it,” Hoke said of the lower ranking. “But I really don’t think I care. I think of guys who have been pretty good football players here and at other schools that were three-stars and two-stars.” Michigan went 7-6 last season, then fired offensive coordinator Al Borges and replaced him with Doug Nussmeier. The school has also been dealing with the fallout from a recent report that kicker Brendan Gibbons was expelled for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policies. Michigan’s recruiting class includes defensive back Jabrill Peppers of Paramus, N.J., who received a five-star ranking from Scout. The Wolverines signed players from nine different states, including four from Michigan. “You know, 7-6 is not good enough. We know that, and we’ve got to become better,” Hoke said. “But if you look at the class, they’ve stayed together the whole time.” Michigan struggled to overcome a porous offensive line last season, but quarterback Devin Gardner did show flashes of ability while under constant pressure. He’ll be back next season, and so will Shane Morris, a freshman who became the first Michigan quarterback to make his starting debut in the postseason. The Wolverines lost to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Michigan has signed one quarterback — Wilton Speight of Richmond, Va. Wide receivers Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris and Maurice Ways are also part of this class. The Wolverines have not signed a running back this year. The pressure is now on Hoke to win more games next season. This will be his fourth year at the helm, and fans are growing restless again. “I don’t really listen to outside people,” Hoke said. “The guys who are in the offices, the guys who are in the meetings, I think the players — those are the ones that you listen to.”
National rankings (Rivals 31; Scout 27)
Best in class: Jabrill Peppers, DB, Paramus, N.J.
Best of the rest: Drake Harris, WR, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Late addition: Jared Wangler, LB, Warren, Mich.
One that got away: Damon Webb, DB, Detroit
NOTE: Wangler’s father, John, was a quarterback for the Wolverines from 1977-80