Michigan State mailbag Part 2: Dante Moore and other big-name targets, best MSU logo

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Spring football is over, the second wave of transfers soon will arrive, and recruiting is a few weeks away from heating up. It’s a slow period in the college football calendar, but there’s still a lot to address.

As always, thank you for all the questions. We had so many good ones that we split this mailbag into two parts. You can find Part 1 here.

Note: Submitted questions have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Which members of the incoming 2022 recruiting class do you foresee making the biggest impact this year? —Stef C.

Jack Stone seems like a safe bet. Michigan State has to replace Matt Coghlin, and Stone is the only scholarship kicker on the roster. He it’s significant to be a specialist on scholarship. We saw Hank Pepper get one and quickly emerge as the starting long-snapper last year. I expect Stone, the No. 7 kicker in the country, to do the same.

As for others, I like Germie Bernard’s game a lot. Wide receiver is a relatively easy position to get snaps as a true freshman, so if Bernard is healthy and advancing well, he’s talented enough to play early. It also sounds like Jaden Mangham could get some playing time. Harlon Barnett said he’d like to give his safety more rest this year, and Mangham has the tools to be a good free safety one day. Getting him on the field now will help him down the road. I also could see Alex VanSumeren working his way into the defensive tackle picture, even though MSU won’t need him right away.

Hey Colton, what happened with Dante Moore that we are now seemingly out of the race entirely? Are there any other major QB targets in 2023 or 2024 to look out for? — GregW.

I don’t want to completely close the door here because I guess you never know these days, but I agree, I don’t see MSU landing Moore at this point.

Michigan State likes Bo Edmundson a lot and doesn’t need to take a second quarterback in this year’s class. When Edmundson committed, I was told that the coaches couldn’t pass him up. Michigan State had a kid in Edmundson who was a take and wanted to get him locked into the class, especially as Moore continued to take visits and let the process play out.

Last year, they waited out AJ Duffy and lost him to Florida State. They more than salvaged the situation with a great prospect in Katin Houser, who is on Duffy’s level of talent-wise in my opinion, but you can’t expect to have that same outcome every year. Waiting until June for a quarterback is risky. MSU understands that, so there wasn’t much hesitation when Edmundson was ready to commit.

It seems like Moore’s top schools right now are Notre Dame, Oregon and LSU. Granted, if he showed up on campus sometime before signing day and said, “I want to play for Michigan State,” you obviously make that work. I just wouldn’t count on it.

There has been so much fanfare and excitement about recruiting after the spring game weekend, but we haven’t seen much substance. Any insight into the timing of commitments? — JamesS.

Michigan State’s final spring practice generated quite a bit of buzz with so many high-profile prospects on campus. That remains true even though that hasn’t been reflected with commitments yet. Part of that has to do with timing.

If I were a recruit who was still undecided in May, I probably would hold off on committing until at least June. That’s when you’ll see a lot of players take their official visits. It’s a chance for coaching staffs across the country to go all-out and really make an event of it. We saw a ton of prospects commit to MSU while taking official visits that month. Mel Tucker had players over to his el house for dinner, with tables set up on his indoor basketball court and a replay of the 2020 MSU-UM game on several TVs. Some players described how they were welcomed to Spartan Stadium, entering the north end zone tunnel and being greeted by the entire staff split into two lines, cheering them on. Those experiences are so crucial, and it gives recruits a chance to see how valued they are by the schools they’re considering.

So I’d think of the spring game as a needle-mover and official visits in June as a chance to close. Obviously, some players might feel like they’ve seen enough to commit before then, but at this point, that’s when I would expect to see a flurry of commitments.


If you had to pick two MSU football coaches to travel with on a recruiting trip that allowed you full access for the entire trip, which coach would it be to what recruiting ground and why? — Jeff M.

This is a great question, and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been on my mind as I brainstorm offseason story ideas.

Not sure if this was supposed to be an assistant-specific question, but since you didn’t specify, I’m going with the obvious choice in Tucker. I mean, that’s his whole deal. Getting to see that process in action would be fascinating and would make for a fascinating story. Even if it’s just a ride on the private jet talking recruiting in the air (if you’re reading this, Mel, let’s make it happen).

My second choice with be Brandon Jordan, just because of his backstory. A self-made dude from Louisiana who was laid off from FCS Austin Peay and parlayed it into his own business working with NFL stars. Over time, Jordan should be able to attract high-level talent to East Lansing. It would be pretty interesting to see how he works his experience from him into conversations with recruits. Or maybe it speaks for itself. Either way, those are the two coaches with the most juice on staff.

Colton, I love how we now regularly change our helmet logo most weeks. Can you please rank them for us? It’s Gruff Party all day for me. Go Green. — JimJ.

I’m a big uniform combination guy in general, so seeing MSU embrace that with social media and creative videos has been cool. I’m guessing my rankings will differ from others, but here’s my list.

  1. Gruff Sparty
  2. spartan head
  3. Script State
  4. Block S

Gruff Sparty is just cool as hell, and it looks great on the field. You can’t wear it all the time these days, otherwise it would lose that “it” factor. But it’s an easy No. 1 for me. Nos. 2 and 3 were tougher choices.

The current Spartan head logo is probably what comes to mind for most outsiders like myself. It’s a staple of the university and brand awareness is important, so that’s worth a top-two spot. Don’t get me wrong — I sees it the Script State, and I’m glad it has been incorporated. But it’s associated more with basketball. I’d give a slight edge to the Spartan head.

A clear fourth on my list would be the Block S. It’s solid and represents an era, but it just doesn’t really do much for me. But, again, embracing tradition is never a bad thing. I’m already looking forward to the uniform reveal 40 years from now when MSU brings back the neons.

Who on the team could eat the most Melting Moments ice cream cookie sandwiches and how many could they eat in one sitting? — Jill D.

We’ve now reached the Melting Moments portion of the mailbag, and I’m glad you asked this, Jill.

No offense to Kenneth Walker III, who scored a deal with Melting Moments, but he’s not the player I would’ve chosen for that. Yes, he’s the most marketable, but do we really think K9 is knocking back ice cream sandwiches at the crib? Have you seen this man? He looks like he hasn’t had sugar since he was 5 years old.

Naturally, I have to go with an offensive lineman. MSU 2023 OL target Miles McVay — a known Melting Moments enthusiast — would’ve been an easy choice, but he’s still uncommitted. In the meantime, give me Kris “Big Dooley” Phillips, the first commit of MSU’s 2022 class. I think my personal record in the press box is three, which is a self-imposed cap and probably for the best. I imagine Phillips could clear double-digits pretty easily. Just don’t tell Amber Rinestine about it.

If you had to give up either Melting Moments ice cream sandwiches or Sbarro pizza forever, which would you choose and why? — RachelR.

A tough one here, Rachel. Sbarro is my favorite New York pizza joint. I go get a New York slice from Sbarro whenever I visit … since you can’t get it anywhere else in the country. But even though it’s the best pizza New York has to offer, the gap between Sbarro and the second-best pizza joint isn’t as large as the gap between Melting Moments and other ice cream sandwiches. And that, my friends, is why I’m going with Melting Moments.

How are you doing Colton? What has it been like to write about the team as it went from the basement to where it is today? —Patrick S.

Doing great, Patrick, thanks for asking! It has been an interesting few years, to say the least. I got to East Lansing in June 2018 to cover a team fresh off a 10-win season and a head coach who had unprecedented success in the modern era of this program. The team went 7-6 the following two seasons. Twenty months later, I was covering a coaching search and a rebuild (or so I thought). Life comes at you fast.

The 2020 season went just about as expected. A late-cycle hire, a pandemic that shut down spring football, limited offseason conditioning, no in-person recruiting, a shortened fall camp and a season briefly canceled, then pushed back to October. Michigan State went 2-5, and none of it was surprising.

Even with all of that, I felt like things were on the right track under this new staff, all things considered. I thought the talent level had improved thanks to some key additions. I thought a full year in the system would lead to strides in Year 2, as players got comfortable and developed a better understanding of their assignments. But you still never know what it’s going to look like until the year plays out. I certainly didn’t expect an 11-win season. If you did, I’m guessing your baby blanket was green and white.

Still, it has been fascinating to watch things unfold. Mark Dantonio and Tucker are vastly different personalities with vastly different philosophies, and I think about that often. It has been cool to see how both coaches operate — what worked for them, what didn’t and where their styles came from.

And to be clear: Michigan State is still a work in progress under Tucker. If we’re calling the 2020 season the basement, it was a short stint there. But while MSU’s 11-win season in 2021 was impressive, the challenge is making sure that it wasn’t the peak under Tucker. The recruiting wins we’re starting to see will need to translate to the field. MSU will need to be competitive in games against Ohio State to regularly compete for the Big Ten. That’s easier said than done, but things are clearly on the right track.

(Photo by Mel Tucker: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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