SpartanDigest Mailbag: July 18

Answering your questions about Michigan State football, basketball and recruiting!

Who was the most improved player over the course of last football season?

My first thought is definitely Jack Conklin, but you could raise a case for Bennie Fowler, Josiah Price, Connor Cook or Jeremy Langford – in other words, a lot of the offense was improved. I lean Conklin as his rapid rise from walk on to starter in a year at left tackle was impressive and essential to Michigan State’s success last year. Having a true left tackle for the first time in a while went a long way.

Who could be this year’s biggest/best/most important/hyped recruit – already a verbal or otherwise?

Obviously, right now the recruit that fits all of those categories is L.J. Scott, the running back from Hubbard (Ohio) who recently committed. Many of the tops guys Michigan State was in on – tight end Chris Clark, defensive lineman Jashon Cornell – already committed elsewhere. So, at this time, I am tempted to stick with Scott as being the big fish in the class. Now, a Ricky DeBerry could definitely change that, but right now, I peg Scott as that guy.

Why do you think Tyler O’Connor will or will not stay ahead of Damion Terry to be the No. 1 backup this season?

Well, the argument for O’Conner to be the backup is an extra year in the system and playing experience. The argument for Terry is what he showed in the spring game – athleticism, running back-esque ability and raw upside. Now, who will be ranked ahead on the depth chart? I actually don’t think it matters a lot. It became pretty obvious this spring that Terry is going to play no matter where he is on the depth chart. If Connor Cook was to go down injured, though, then things get a little bit more interested … but we won’t go there.

How do you see Justice Alexander’s recruitment going? I know he is a verbal to Michigan State, but he still is being recruited by some big schools.

The day Alexander committed to Michigan State, my thought was the Spartans were headed for a fight to hold his commitment. It still appears that way. With his freak size and athleticism, it is little wonder other schools will be interested. He has re-affirmed he is a solid commitment, but if visits start happening, things will get interesting.

What do you think of MSU’s chances of landing Kaleel Gaines, Ryan Pulley, Josh Butler (individually or all three)? Do you see them committing within the next few weeks?

I feel okay saying MSU has a decent shot at landing one of the first two, given that both Gaines and Pulley have either claimed MSU as their leader or have/had them in a top group at some point. With Gaines, the Spartans already got him up on campus, which is a big part of the battle with recruits from Florida and other such states. Butler, I have not heard as much about, so I am not going to say too much on that one.

Lots of stuff behind the scenes that most of us do not see, but what is the real benefit of Curtis Blackwell now that he has had some significant time at Michigan State?

Blackwell has made a big impact at Michigan State, especially within the state. The biggest impact has been felt in getting recruits on campus more often and with more organization. There remains work to be done in forging harder into Ohio, but the operation at MSU is much better now. From recruiting mail to camp invites to visitors, Blackwell has been on it.

With the sudden depth in talent and incoming talent (stud L.J. Scott) at the running back position, do you feel as though the writing is on the wall with Nick Tompkins? Is he a prime candidate to become a transfer?

Tompkins and O’Connor both have mentioned in this capacity for the past year or so now, but neither has publicly shown any indication they plan on leaving. When I look at both, I see why transferring would have made sense last offseason, but now both have kind of missed the best window to leave and still have a shot to make a career elsewhere. The reality for Tompkins certainly is he is buried on a depth chart that is only going to keep getting deeper and the battle will only be steeper to play.

What are the chances that Bryn Forbes, the transfer from Cleveland State, will play for the Spartans this year?

Given the randomness of the NCAA, at times, I have no idea. Not much is known about what the “medical condition” his sister has, so that makes it tough to predict.

Do you think there will be more attrition in addition to Ezra Robinson and Noah Jones before the season – medical or other?

Barring some kind of trouble, I don’t think Michigan State should be expecting any more transfers before the season.

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