June 15, 2016
The last decade has been a golden era of Michigan State football, with 87 wins and two Big Ten championships. In Ann Arbor, Michigan has transitioned from the end of the Lloyd Carr era to the beginning of Jim Harbaugh with a couple of bumpy patches in between.
Through it all, recruiting has served as a foundation for each program.
Michigan State relies more on in-state commits and players from Ohio. And while Michigan has regularly outpaced the Spartans in terms of average recruit ranking, that gap has closed.
MLive has broken down the last 10 recruiting classes from each school, starting in 2007 with Mark Dantonio’s first class and Carr’s last through the players signed this past February.
Although a star rating can have little bearing on how a player performs in college, it’s a reflection of their talent, at least in the eyes of recruiting services.
• Since 2011, Michigan State’s average player recruiting ranking has been on the rise, peaking at 3.5 stars in 2016, according to 247 Sports. Overall, it’s three consecutive top 25 classes for Dantonio after his first group in 2007 was ranked just 50th nationally.
• Over the last 10 years, Michigan has signed four five-star players, 101 four-stars, 116 three-stars and two two-stars. By contrast, Michigan State has grabbed two five-star players, 39 four-stars, 149 three-stars, 16 two-stars and three players not rated by 247 Sports.
• Michigan has had five top-10 classes in the past decade, including No. 5 overall in 2016, according to 247 Sports. The only year the Spartans had a class ranked higher overall than the Wolverines was 2015 (Michigan State was No. 22 and Michigan No. 37), when Harbaugh was picking up the pieces after Brady Hoke was fired.
• Although Michigan has raked in higher-ranked classes, it hasn’t translated into victories in the rivalry. Since 2007, the Spartans have won the Paul Bunyan Trophy seven of nine years, including four straight from 2008-11 and each of the last three.
Although Michigan and Michigan State are bitter rivals and Harbaugh and Dantonio have very different personalities, both programs rely heavily on recruiting at home and right across the border in Ohio.
• In the last decade, Michigan State has signed 34.4 percent of its players (72) from the state of Michigan. The Wolverines have grabbed 22.8 percent of their recruits (51) within state lines.
• The top high school Michigan recruited is Detroit Cass Tech, with 11 players from the program. Dantonio’s go-to schools in Michigan have been Detroit Renaissance and Detroit Southeastern, with four players signed from each.
• Dantonio, who served as an assistant coach at Akron, Youngstown State and Ohio State and as head coach at Cincinnati before arriving in East Lansing, calls Ohio a “base camp” for recruiting. He’s pulled 28.2 percent of his players (59) from there since 2007.
• After Michigan and Ohio, Dantonio has signed 10 or more players from only two states: 14 from Illinois and 13 from Florida. In total, Michigan State has gotten recruits from 22 states and Canada.
• Michigan has signed 22.8 percent of its players (51) from Ohio since 2007, and landed players from 29 different states over the past decade, as well as Canada.
• Michigan’s focus has varied, depending on the coach. Rich Rodriguez signed more players from Ohio (21) and Florida (14) than the state of Michigan (13). Hoke inked 27 players each from both Michigan and Ohio, and Illinois was third on the list with five. The top three states Harbaugh signed players from in his first two seasons were Florida (nine), New Jersey (seven) and Michigan (six). He’s taken the national approach to an even higher level with his massive satellite camp tour.
The 2007-16 timeframe reflects the 10 classes signed by Mark Dantonio since he was hired at Michigan State. Michigan is on its fourth coach over that span, as the last decade of recruiting encompasses Lloyd Carr’s final class, three years of Rich Rodriguez, four years of Brady Hoke and Jim Harbaugh’s first two classes.
— Database, map and graphic production by Scott Levin
Below is a searchable database that features all 432 players signed by Michigan and Michigan State over the last decade.