LANSING, Mich. – Mark Dantonio spoke to hundreds of high school coaches today at the Lansing Center, as he does each year at the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association clinic.
This year was different, though. For one thing, the University of Michigan head coach did not attend and speak. For another, Dantonio usually doesn’t dance afterward.
But with Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh making news in droves as usual – a sleepover to help lure a recruit here, a former Michigan commitment telling the Detroit Free Press that Harbaugh pulled his offer with no explanation there – Dantonio did plenty of side-stepping as Harbaugh-inspired questions came his way.
For example, has he ever taken back a scholarship from a committed prospect?
“You do the best you can with your guys,” Dantonio said. “Obviously, there are always problems that occur that you have to deal with. Those are program decisions. But I think when you offer a scholarship, you do your best to honor those situations.”
And is that happening more often these days?
“It goes both ways,” Dantonio said. “You see players doing it as well. What we’ve tried to do is not rush anything. We’ve always tried to make sure that the young man committing to us is doing it by his own free will and that he is thinking about the process and that he is working slowly through the process. Usually what we’ve had is lasting effect. Very few have done that.”
The freedom of major programs to make late changes like this – is that why an early signing period still hasn’t happened?
“I can’t answer that,” Dantonio said.
And how about sleepovers? Any in the plans?
“No, I am not planning any sleepovers,” Dantonio said. “Just dealing with my own problems.”
So passed an opportunity to throw some shade at Harbaugh, mostly forfeited by Dantonio. Still, with Harbaugh not appearing and Michigan currently sitting with just one 2016 commitment from the state, extra emphasis could be perceived in the way Dantonio ended his hourlong presentation to the coaches.
“Our success is tied to the players in this state,” he said, “there’s no question in my mind.”
“I think it’s the backbone of who we are,” Dantonio said later of in-state players. “Tough, hard-working, good athletes. Play a high caliber of football. And we’ve been very, very successful with those guys throughout the years.”
Michigan State had 41 in-state players on its roster last season, and five members of its 2016 class – which can sign Feb. 3 – are from the state. MSU also is after Michigan’s in-state commitment, Michael Onwenu of Detroit Cass Tech, who is visiting East Lansing as part of a huge recruiting event for MSU involving 2016 commitments and targets, along with prospects from younger classes.