Ohio State and Michigan are Costco football recruit shoppers. They buy in bulk, perfectly happy purchasing a huge 10-pound roast knowing they'll probably only dine on half before throwing away the remainder. It's the volume that's more attractive. They can more easily afford any wastefulness because they have the capacity for spending more.
Michigan State isn't exactly a coupon clipper, but it's a more conscientious shopper. Value is more important than volume because attrition isn't a problem in East Lansing as it is elsewhere. There's actually a luxury when your shopping list becomes more exact.
"We have to be more selective," MSU coach Mark Dantonio said Thursday following his appearance at the Sound Mind Sound Body football camp at Southfield High.
Selectivity isn't a bad thing. It won't necessarily get you the big summer recruiting headlines and subsequent hype, but an indication of the Spartans' growing credibility as a sustainable Big Ten upper-tier program is how other more notable national programs are watching them closely as they mine talent that others missed. National recruiting analysts hailed Dantonio as one of the college game's premier talent evaluators.
So now they risk doing the legwork for other programs to come in later and swipe the hidden treasure they unearthed.
The Spartans got a verbal commitment from 6-foot-5 offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch out of Katy, Texas, an underappreciated talent that major schools blew off because he didn't attend many of the prescribed football camps. He didn't fit the major recruiting prototype. But as soon as word filtered out that Michigan State landed him, suddenly national players like Texas, Auburn and Oklahoma renewed interest, primarily because of Dantonio's success in identifying pearls from glass.
Benenoch recently announced that he has reopened the recruiting process, decommitting from Michigan State.
It's one part flattering, another part frustrating.
But Dantonio has found the right formula for his specific program although it runs counter to the predominant wisdom that the best recruiting classes are the ones that are stockpiled early. Often times, it's more about tailored fitting.
"It seems like nowadays they want to have the mythical national championship in terms of recruiting," Dantonio said. "But I think when you look at periods over time, it's not always the four- or five-star player that goes on to play. All you have to do is go to an NFL camp and look at the number of players that are from small schools or smaller schools. You know those guys have been overlooked in the recruiting process, so something's happened with those guys."
When asked how he keeps finding guys that others either missed or simply ignored, Dantonio said it comes down to not simply evaluating the player, but rather how that specific player fits into your program's scheme.
"(Recruiting) is not a science," he said. "We try to make it a science. Sometimes, it's not about timing, but rather it's about need. But the worst thing is that you bring in players who don't play for you or you don't win with them. That remains the bottom line. It's not what other people think about them or how they rank them, but rather are you going to win with these players?"
If Dantonio keeps winning, programs will even more closely watch where he shops.