EAST LANSING, Mich. — While Michigan State is busy riding the momentum of its 2023 class, members from its 2022 class have arrived on campus ready to carve out their own career paths.
Michigan State’s 2022 recruiting haul ranked 24th nationally — the program’s first top-25 class since 2016. It features six four-star prospects, a national approach and plenty of the athletic and physical attributes the coaching staff looks for. Keep in mind: This class mostly was assembled coming off a 2-5 season.
Of course, expectations will be higher. Michigan State is already proving that in 2023. But this group could offer a handful of building blocks for teams that hope to contend for the Big Ten title. In the meantime, some players from this class might be able to contribute as soon as 2022.
Here’s a closer look at some of those players and how they’ve potentially positioned themselves for early playing time:
Wide receiver Germie Bernard
Michigan State first felt it had a chance with Bernard — previously committed to Washington — in late November. That’s when Washington head coach Jimmy Lake was fired and when Bernard quietly opened his recruitment. Offensive coordinator Jay Johnson flew to Las Vegas to meet with Bernard in December before signing day, which paved the way for Michigan State to become an option — should he decide to decommit. It ultimately took Bernard’s position coach, Junior Adams, leaving for Oregon, but Bernard ended up as a late addition to MSU’s 2022 class. He reunites with former high school quarterback and fellow 2022 signee Katin Houser.
Washington’s loss was Michigan State’s gain because Bernard has serious talent. A top-250 prospect in the class, the Vegas native is a smooth athlete with easy acceleration and good size at 6-foot-2. He has been on campus since January and already has impressed folks within the building. I’d expect Bernard to be one of MSU’s five best receivers from Day 1, passing some players who have more experience.
I have a feeling by the end of the season, Bernard will be close to a household name among MSU fans and position himself to take over as a starter in 2023 when Jayden Reed departs. The future is bright at wide receiver.
Kicker Jack Stone
After what felt like a decade on campus, Matt Coghlin finally has graduated, which means Michigan State has a hole at kicker. Luckily, the staff planned for his departure and recruited his heir apparent in the 2022 cycle.
That would be Jack Stone, a Texas native rated as the No. 7 kicker in the class. Michigan State zeroed in on Stone and invited him to campus for an official visit last June. This visit went well, as you can imagine, with Stone committing that same month. He has been locked in as the future of the position ever since.
Some schools allow scholarship specialists a year to redshirt before taking over, but Michigan State believes any specialist on scholarship should be playing right away. It’s a smart tactic. You want to get the most out of it. We saw that with Hank Pepper at long snapper last season, and I’d expect the same outcome with Stone this fall.
Defensive back Caleb Coley
First things first: I love Coley’s game. Love it. I make it a point to watch tape of every MSU signee, and Coley’s might have been my favorite (along with Houser’s). He’s just so instinctive, whether it’s in the running game or reading the quarterback. He diagnoses everything around him at a speed that isn’t common for high schoolers. I was shocked he wasn’t a four-star prospect, but maybe that worked out in MSU’s favor. When we talk about those three-star Georgia prospects replacing the Ohio pipeline, Coley is the perfect example of the player MSU will target.
Coley has been on campus since January and has been mentioned as a young player to watch. He was repping at nickel and corner this spring, but nickel might be where he makes his mark this season. Michigan State moved Darius Snow to linebacker, creating a hole at nickel. I’d expect Chester Kimbrough to get the first look given his experience, but Coley looks like the No. 2 there at the moment. If Kimbrough gets hurt or struggles, you could see Coley take over. I’m quite high on his ability, and after talking to him a bit this spring, you can tell he’s a high-character player with a good head on his shoulders.
Defensive tackle Alex VanSumeren
On the surface, this should be a no-brainer. VanSumeren is MSU’s highest-ranked 2022 signee, a top-200 prospect with an impressive offer sheet. That usually lends itself to early playing time, especially at a position that rotates frequently like defensive tackle. But it just so happens that this position is one of the strongest on the team, with plenty of depth. Simeon Barrow, Jacob Slade, Maverick Hansen, Jalen Hunt, Derrick Harmon and Dashaun Mallory could all be part of this rotation. Seven players could be fighting for snaps in 2022.
With that in mind, VanSumeren might not be needed. But knowing how this coaching staff operates, he’s going to be given every opportunity to earn snaps. VanSumeren is an impressive prospect. He’s a max-effort, no-nonsense kind of guy with a strong work ethic. He’s built like a fridge and possesses the sort of power and explosion to be a factor as a true freshman. If the staff feels he’s ready for the spotlight, he’ll play. It’s only a matter of time.
Safety Jaden Mangham
Mangham has the look of Michigan State’s free safety of the future. He is long, has good range, tracks the deep ball well and is just an athlete at the end of the day. The Spartans won him over with a late-July recruiting event last year, and it helped them land a building block.
The fact that Mangham enrolled early and was here for spring ball bodes well for his chances of early playing time. It looks like he’s already the backup free safety, with secondary coach Harlon Barnett telling reporters a few months ago that he wants to get Xavier Henderson and Angelo Grose more of a breather. If that comes to fruition, it could trigger Mangham’s path to the field. With his 6-3 size and natural ability, Mangham can be a star with the right coaching. He has a chance to have a standout career in East Lansing and could begin that journey this season.
Others: Antonio Gates Jr., Malik Spencer, Ade Willie, Jack Nickel, Zion Young.
(Top photo of Germie Bernard: Courtesy of Michigan State Athletics)