By Ashley Dunkak

CBS DETROIT – Michigan State reaped the benefits of an excellent 2013 season in its 2014 signing class. Though the Spartans have not yet received a letter of intent from five-star defensive lineman Malik McDowell, the Southfield senior announced his choice Wednesday morning, selecting Michigan State over Big Ten powerhouses Michigan and Ohio State as well as defending national champion Florida State.

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McDowell evidently thought so highly of the Spartans that he announced a decision for Michigan State despite his mother going public about her strong preference that her son go elsewhere.

Not commenting specifically on McDowell, Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio commented later in the afternoon the importance of the athlete wanting to be at the college he decides to attend.

“I’ve seen great players go different places that they didn’t want to be and fail,” Dantonio said. “You’ve got to want to be where you’re going. That’s very very important in this process.”

Again, without commenting specifically about the five-star recruit, Dantonio said he does anticipate that more players will be committing.

“I do, I do expect that, but I think recruiting should be about a celebration for everybody involved and I think everybody needs to feel comfortable as they move through the process,” Dantonio said. “We’re excited about those opportunities as well.”

Aside from McDowell, three-star prospects populate Michigan State’s group, but there are a few four-star recruits in the mix as well, according to the rankings of Those higher-rated propsects include defensive tackle Craig Evans, center Brian Allen and defensive back Montae Nicholson.

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Overall, Dantonio seemed pleased with the group Michigan State has compiled.

“I feel like this is a very, very powerful class in terms of players that will get on the field very quickly and make a name for themselves,” Dantonio said.

The coach acknowledged that the success of the Spartans this season helped the school close down the stretch. With a final record of 13-1, Michigan State finished ranked No. 3 in the nation. Senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard won the Jim Thorpe Award, an honor bestowed on the country’s best defensive back.

Dantonio said seeing Dennard receive the award was a highlight of his coaching career, and he believes it shows the possibility for players who choose to become part of the Michigan State program.

“When you have people that are getting those type of awards, it points to the future that other people can do it, sort of like going to the Rose Bowl or winning the championship,” Dantonio said. “It’s been done. Once it’s been done once, you know that it can be done again, and it gives people an added incentive to understand great things are possible right here. You can become a Lombardi Award winner, you can become a Jim Thorpe Award winner, you can do amazing things here.

“Michigan State’s a great place,” Dantonio added, “and we’ll continue to be so.”

Below is the rundown of players who have signed their letters of intent for Michigan State, per the team’s official Twitter feed.

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Michigan State went 13-1 in 2013, winning both the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl. Not only did the Spartans have a tremendous season in general, they also further distanced themselves from in-state rival and longtime powerhouse Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 29-6 this season.