Sean Merriman is a recruiting aficionado who used to work for rivals.com and the Big Ten Network and now is with Intersport. Look for his mailbag every other week (with some live chats sprinkled in, too). If you have a recruiting question for Sean, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @merrimantweets.
Hi Sean, How do you think this weekend’s (the 13th) group of recruits in East Lansing will become Spartan Dawgs? Also who else will join Tom Izzo’s incoming class for 2017? — Sparty Jimmy
There are a couple of high-level prospects planning to visit East Lansing this weekend. The players on whom I would keep a close eye are Koby Cumberlander, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound defensive end out of Georgia; Oliver Martin, a four-star wide receiver out of Iowa, and Robert Porcher IV, a 6-3, 250-pound DE out of Florida.
Cumberlander has been vocal about his interest in Michigan State, and I expect a commitment to come soon, assuming his visit goes well. He’s only listed as a two-star prospect, but after a big senior season, Cumberlander’s stock is at an all-time high.
Martin is a kid the Spartans have been after for a while. There were rumors that Michigan was his leader at one time, but that relationship has appeared to cool. I think that this comes down to Michigan State or Notre Dame. Martin is an elite WR prospect who would be a perfect fit for the Spartans’ pro-style offense.
Porcher is the son of former Detroit Lions standout Robert Porcher. He decommitted from Nebraska and has shown interest in Michigan State. A four-star prospect and the No. 10-ranked strongside DE in the 2017 class, per rivals.com, Porcher would be a huge addition for the Spartans’ 2017 recruiting class.
As for basketball, Brian Bowen and Brandon McCoy are the two remaining big-time MSU prospects for 2017. Both are five-star prospects and both have Michigan State in their final group. Landing both would be a dream come true for Tom Izzo and his staff. Bowen had been considered an MSU lean for a long time, but his recruitment seems wide open right now, which is rare to see this late in the process. As for McCoy, he had a great visit to East Lansing earlier this year and has the Spartans among his top schools. If he wants to stay near his hometown of San Diego, I think it’s Oregon or Arizona for McCoy. However, if he’s willing to leave home, Michigan State is the choice for this elite big man.
How is Michigan looking for Aubrey Solomon? — Jay
I think this is going to come down to Alabama and Michigan. I know 2017 commitment Corey Malone Hatcher is recruiting Solomon heavily to come and join him in Ann Arbor. There’s a chance Jim Harbaugh makes an in-house visit to Solomon next week before he makes his official announcement on Feb. 1 at his high school. If that visit goes well, I could certainly see Solomon end up in Ann Arbor. Right now, I give a slight lean to Alabama, but that could change at any given moment.
I don’t see why Cesar Ruiz isn’t a five-star prospect? — Rod
I was in Orlando for the Under Armour All-American Game a couple weeks ago and Cesar Ruiz was one of, if not the most dominant lineman out there. Not once did I see him get beat by a defender, and there were plenty of elite interior linemen going up against him throughout the week. This may be bold, but in my time covering recruiting, I have not seen a center this dominant coming out of high school. If there were to ever be a five-star center prospect, this is your guy.
What’s going on with the top 2 DT targets for UofM, do we have a chance? — Alpha Dogs
I’m guessing you’re referring to Aubrey Solomon and Jay Tufele. As mentioned earlier, I think Solomon’s final decision on Feb. 1 will come down to Alabama and Michigan, with Alabama holding a slight lead as of right now. However, that could change after an upcoming in-home visit from the Michigan coaching staff next week. As for Tufele, he announced a Top 5 of USC, BYU, Ohio State, Utah and Michigan. He’s expected to visit BYU, USC and Utah, in that order, in the upcoming weeks. I don’t think you can make a call on the four-star DT until we see how those visits end up. He was dominant during Army week, which will only make him that much more desired.
What’s the difference between an official and an unofficial visit? — Alpha Dogs
That’s a great question and one that often causes a great deal of confusion. When a prospect takes an official visit to a school, that visit is paid for by the university. Coaches often target top prospects and reach out to them about taking an official visit, which generally last over a weekend. It is also key to understand that an official visit is only open to seniors, not underclassmen. At the Division I level, a prospect is allowed five official visits and one official visit per school.
An unofficial visit is not paid for by the university. Prospects are able to take as many unofficial visits to a school as they please. You also don’t have to be a senior to take an unofficial visit, as big games are often heavily populated with underclassmen taking unofficial visits. You can speak with college coaches on unofficial visits, as long as it takes place on the campus you are visiting.
What does Rocky Lombardi’s time line look like? Who will he be up against at Michigan State? — Doug Wagner
Mark Dantonio has already made it clear that Brian Lewerke is in position to be the Spartans’ starting quarterback heading into spring ball, assuming he has fully recovered from his season-ending leg injury. With senior Damion Terry and redshirt freshman Mesiah deWeaver expected to be in the mix as well next season, all signs point to Lombardi redshirting in 2017.