By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – Over the past several years, the Michigan State Spartans have thrived with a dominant defense that has included a formidable defensive line. After receiving letters of intent from several defensive linemen Wednesday, head coach Mark Dantonio expressed confidence that the line will remain strong.
“We have a group of guys from last year’s class that we redshirted, and we have got some guys that are seniors this year that will carry on, and we’ve got some young guys coming that are going to put their foot in the ground immediately,” Dantonio said, “and they are going to be a force.”
On National Signing Day, the Spartans received letters of intent from four defensive linemen: Justice Alexander, Mufi Hunt, Cassius Peat and Raequan Williams. Hunt will not play until 2017 because he will complete a two-year mission first, but Dantonio expects at least Peat and Williams to contribute quickly.
“When you look at guys like Cassius Peat, he has the mindset to be able to play early,” Dantonio said. “Justice probably is a redshirt guy. I think Williams also has the ability to play early, he’s so athletic on the inside. There’s certainly always going to be a jump in terms of level of play, so the more on the edge you can play, probably the faster you play, but I think Raequan has the ability to play outside as well, but we’ll see.
“All of those guys are very, very good players,” Dantonio added, “and we should be good for a long time there.”
The coach gave detailed descriptions of every recruit who signed, and his takes on Williams and Peat were among the most glowing.
“Raequan Williams … He’s a guy that probably has had 50-plus offers, Top 300 player,” Dantonio said. “Has not been playing football all that long. Extremely powerful, and ‘athletic’ is the word that you use. I guess you look at him as a larger Lawrence Thomas … but he will be a fixture here.
“When you are around Rae Rae, he just makes everybody better around him in terms of what he does, in terms of the intangibles, the way he brings forth effort from people and the way he works,” Dantonio continued. “When I saw him working on the basketball court, and they have an outstanding basketball team up at DePaul Catholic, the way he worked with his coach was very, very impressive.”
Dantonio described Peat as another player who chose Michigan State from among plenty of solid alternatives.
“Big time player,” Dantonio said. “Came down to obviously some very, very big programs throughout this country … The big body, power forward type guy, very, very athletic, shows a lot of power in everything he does. Plays with great effort and a guy that I think could get on the field very, very early for us at defensive end.”
The Spartans have won 11 or more games in four of the last five seasons. In 2014 they contended for inclusion in the inaugural college football playoff for much of the season, and in the Cotton Bowl they defeated the Baylor Bears, 42-41, thanks to a wild fourth-quarter comeback.