It’s hard to imagine that Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio just wrapped up his 11th recruiting class at Michigan State this past February. The previous ten seasons for MSU under Dantonio have been among the better runs in program history, a combined 90-42 record. However, recency bias will allow those to raise questions after a disastrous 3-9 campaign.

More often than not, Dantonio has done well with his relatively ‘under the radar’ recruiting classes, taking them from average to above that and some. Given that Michigan State has to compete with the likes of Ohio State, Notre Dame, and in-state rival Michigan when it comes to recruiting, it speaks volumes to the success he has had, and Spartan fans are hoping this year is no exception.

In all, 23 players have signed their national letter of intent to play at Michigan State come next fall. Here are five who could be making an impact starting in Game 1.

1KEVIN JARVIS, OG

So here’s a guy that will be a problem for opposing defensive lineman in the Big Ten for years to come.

Offensive guard Kevin Jarvis (Park Ridge, IL) was the highest-rated player that Michigan State reeled in this year, according to 247Sports. The 4-star lineman is regarded as a top-5 player in the state of Illinois and is an imposing figure, to say the least, standing at 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds.

Jarvis though should have a pretty good chance to start from day one. He’s one of four incoming freshmen on the offensive line after four Spartan seniors graduated. It’s a relatively young group collectively for MSU in 2017, as Brian Allen will be the lone senior up front.

Dantonio has had to shuffle around his line in a rotation over the past few seasons due to injuries, opening the door for newcomers like Jarvis to earn playing time. Should Jarvis or any of the other three OL freshmen start this year, it’d mark the third time in four years a true freshman started on the offensive line for MSU under Dantonio, something that wasn’t done in his first seven seasons as head coach.

2HUNTER RISON, WR

One problem for Michigan State last season on offense was undoubtedly the passing game, from the quarterback play to the weapons at their disposal on the outside. Spartans fans will be hoping Hunter Rison can step in and make a big impact, especially more so now with Donnie Corley having been dismissed following criminal sexual conduct charges.

Rison, another 4-star prospect out of Ann Arbor Skyline High School, was one of three players from the MSU Class of 2017 who committed and enrolled early to the school. The name ‘Rison’ should certainly ring a bell with Spartan faithful, Hunter’s dad Andre played the wide receiver position at Michigan State back in the late 80’s and was big in helping the 1987 team en route to the Rose Bowl that season. Andre had been spending the last couple seasons as a coach for Skyline while Hunter was playing football for them.

Fast forward to today. Like the aforementioned Corley was in 2016, Rison should be a favorite target for whoever the MSU quarterback is in 2017. The Spartans are losing their top three receivers from a season ago, leaving not only room for the young incumbents to step up, but for freshmen like Rison to step in and assume an important role.

3MATT DOTSON, TE

Matt Dotson is in a very similar boat as Rison and he may very well have the easiest path to starting on day one, barring some collapse of sorts.

Dotson (Cincinnati, OH), a 4-star tight end, is one of two tight ends committed to MSU for 2017, the other being early enrollee 3-star Jack Camper. But based solely on how heralded he is, Dotson could be plugged in right away come fall. He’s already a good size at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds with time to beef up some and it will only add another reliable target for [insert MSU QB here] and take pressure off guys like Rison, Cam Chambers, and Trishton Jackson.

Could very well see both Dotson and Camper see playing time from day one. Michigan State is losing both Josiah Price and Jamal Lyles, who combined for over 500 yards receiving and six touchdowns (Price was responsible for five of those). Matt Sokol is the only other scholarship tight end who earned playing time last year, catching two passes for 26 yards, and will be a redshirt junior come next season.

4JACUB PANASIUK, DE

Considering how terrible the Spartans were in 2016, anything is fair game at this point when it comes to players competing for playing time and position on the totem pole. And for defensive lineman Jacub Panasiuk, it should be no different.

Could ‘Panasiuk’ be the next line of great footballers at Michigan State? Jacub (Roselle, IL) will be joining older brother Mike next season. Mike was one of three true freshmen to see the field rather regularly for MSU in 2016. It was a struggle for the group overall, a bunch that almost never created enough pressure to opposing quarterbacks and disrupt running games. So it is safe to say that the defensive line will continue to be a work in progress for East Lansing.

But that allows for freshmen like Panasiuk to gain his footing as early as game one. Jacub stands just as tall as his older brother Mike, about 6-foot-3, but weighs a good 20 pounds less than him currently. He’s not as heralded coming out of high school as Mike was, but that alone should spur him on more to make his presence known. And now with a big hole left by Malik McDowell, there are big shoes to fill up front.

5ANTJUAN SIMMONS, LB

What was supposed to be one of the biggest strengths, if not the biggest, for Michigan State in 2016 was the linebacking corps ended up being just another disappointing aspect of the team overall. This could very well mean good things for someone like Antjuan Simmons.

Simmons, a 4-star prospect from Ann Arbor Pioneer High, is listed as a top-10 player in the state of Michigan. He will be joining a group of linebackers that, albeit injury-riddled at times in 2016, were nearly ineffective. MSU got solid seasons from Chris Frey and Andrew Dowell, but that was about it. Senior Riley Bullough took a step back in production. Ed Davis returned and was virtually non-existent. And Jon Reschke was limited to just two games after a breakout sophomore season in 2015. This ultimately led to a rotation of players to play at linebacker and opened the door for true freshman Joe Bachie, who only appeared in two games and recorded 11 tackles.

Frey will be the unquestioned leader of the linebacking corps in 2017 for Michigan State. A. Dowell is an emerging star and after a standout performance in spring, Bachie is penciled in to start at middle linebacker.

But given his talent level and prowess as a high school prospect, Simmons is one that could find the field with regularity in a rotation of sorts as opposed to having redshirt his first season at MSU.


**Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports
**Player/Team stats courtesy of Sports-Reference
**Team depth chart courtesy of Ourlads.com