It’s been as rough of an off-season for the Michigan State Spartans and head coach Mark Dantonio as it was during the season, as they have watched countless high school prospects in the state of Michigan (and around the Great Lakes, for that matter) commit to schools not named MSU.
But on Saturday, they picked up a pretty sizable win for 2017, nabbing 4-star linebacker Antjuan Simmons out of Ann Arbor Pioneer High School.
— Antjuan Simmons (@_antjuan_) January 14, 2017
Simmons, a former Ohio State pledge that reopened his commitment a month ago, is regarded as a top-10 talent in the state of Michigan and a top-20 linebacker in the country. A number of other schools were eyeing Simmons all season long, including Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State to name a few, in addition to the aforementioned Buckeyes.
The pledging announcement from Simmons gives MSU 18 commits for the Class of 2017. He’s also just the second one to commit to the Spartans since the beginning of the 2016 season. It was early in December when 3-star athlete Connor Heyward (Suwanee, GA) pledged to MSU. It’s a much-needed commitment for the Spartans too. Coming into Saturday, they had just one commit from the top 10 players in the state of Michigan – 4-star wide receiver Hunter Rison, who committed back in April of 2016 and is also one of three 2017 commits who enrolled early at the school this semester. Meanwhile, MSU’s rival down the road in Ann Arbor, Simmons’ stomping grounds, has pledges from the top six players in the state of Michigan and seven of the top 10.
The Class of 2017 for MSU currently ranks in the top 30 nationally and 6th in the Big Ten. Simmons took the time to talk about the decision to go green with his choice of college, saying it goes beyond football and a brutal season following an appearance in the College Football Playoff did not deter him in any way.
“It was never like a pitch. It was just a right fit,” Simmons said Saturday about the Spartans’ staff. “They weren’t trying to sell anything to me like, ‘Oh, this is where you need to be,’ or anything like that. It was just, ‘This is us, this is what we do.’ And I fit in it.
It’s a lot more than what people thought,” Simmons said, talking about the idea of staying close to home. “I took a visit out to Arizona, and there’s like no Midwest guys, maybe two. I kind of didn’t know anybody. Plus, my mom and my family want to be able to come to my games. If I was over on the West Coast, they would only come to like one game a year and that’s it.
Of course, it’s tough to see, being a home guy and seeing the home team struggle a little bit,” Simmons said of MSU’s struggling 2016 campaign. “But over the past five, six years, he’s won like 55 to 60 game, so it’s nothing to worry about.”
A reminder that National Signing Day is less than three weeks away on Wednesday, the 1st of February. It’s the day where players who have verbally pledged to play for a program next season must sign their national letter of intent for said program.