EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan State's recruiting class is relatively small.
Mark Dantonio insisted that's not a bad thing.
"I don't get too concerned about the size of the class as much as the quality of the class," Dantonio said after the Spartans received 18 national letters of intent Wednesday. "A lot of these guys were targeted early on and have remained consistent throughout the process.
"People tested the waters to see how firm they were in their commitments, and they stayed firm."
Michigan State is soft at some key positions because three standouts are skipping their senior seasons for the NFL draft.
Running back Le'Veon Bell, tight end Dion Sims and defensive end William Gholston left voids that became opportunities for others, including some incoming prospects.
The class includes three running backs: Michigan's Gerald Holmes, Pennsylvania's Delton Williams and Wisconsin's R.J. Shelton.
"It's a position that can be played by a freshman," Dantonio said. "I think all three of these guys physically are very gifted."
The only tight end signed was Dylan Chmura of Waukesha, Wis. Chmura's father, Mark, was a three-time Pro Bowl tight end for the Green Bay Packers from 1993-99.
"There's a need at that position, so he's going to have opportunities," Dantonio said. "He's a confident young man, and he has a great background, with what he's been exposed to at the high school level or the fact that his father played that position at high level."
Chicago's Demetrius Cooper seems to have the best shot to play as a freshman at defensive end.
Michigan State kicker Dan Conroy was a third-year starter last season as a senior, creating an opportunity next season for high touted Michael Geiger from Ohio.
"He'll be a guy that'll compete for the position right off the bat," Dantonio said.
The Spartans don't have glaring needs at linebacker, but that's the position of perhaps their top two recruits - Ohio's Shane Jones and Michigan's Jon Reschke - and Dantonio said he'll continue to put the best players on the field.
Damion Terry might test that policy next fall.
The three-year starting quarterback for Cathedral Preparatory School in Erie, Pa., where Williams was a teammate, could be talented enough as a thrower and runner to compete with returning starter Andrew Maxwell.
"Damion has the physical skills to play at this level - right now," Dantonio said. "Now, the rest of it is up to him and our coaching staff, and obviously he has to fit the situation. A lot of this is timing and opportunity."
Michigan State didn't have much of a chance to sign a large class. Dantonio said he lost just nine players who were seniors, and that may have played a part in recruiting analysts ranking the group in the middle of pack among Big Ten schools.
"The bottom line is if you recruit 25 guys, you've lost a lot of players," Dantonio said. "When you don't lose as many players, that's a good thing when spring ball comes around.
"But I think this is a talented class, top to bottom."
Dantonio was proud to say that none of the recruits wavered in their commitments despite some schools, including some in the Southeastern Conference, trying to lure them away.
"We're going to invest in these guys," he said. "We're going to make their dreams come true."
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