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Michigan State football 2021 recruiting class: Where are they now?

Where are the 2021 class recruits now?



Michigan State football
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Mel Tucker’s 2021 Michigan State football recruiting class was his first and here’s where the players are now.

With the recent departure of Hamp Fay, I wanted to do a deep dive into Mel Tucker’s first true recruiting class during his time with Michigan State football. Bear in mind that this class was assembled over Zoom, with no true ability to assess the recruits in person. I also will only be looking at high school and JUCO recruits.

With that said, let’s see what the 2021 class has accomplished thus far.

Ma’a Gaoteote (LB)

Ma’a Gaoteote’s journey at MSU has been an interesting one, to say the least. After originally pledging to USC, he flipped his commitment over to MSU. He wound up as the highest-rated recruit in the class (No. 163). Following a quiet freshman year with just seven tackles, he entered the transfer portal, only to withdraw his name before his sophomore season. He again had a quiet outing in 2022 with just eight tackles.

Most recently, Gaoteote sustained an injury in the spring game, and his health status will be up in the air going into 2023. Most projected him as second string, however, there is a very deep linebacker room around him so he will need to compete hard for snaps.

Keon Coleman (WR)

Two words: Neon. Keon. This is the crown jewel of the class, and Mel’s only other four-star in 2021. Keon had a relatively modest freshman year, posting seven receptions for 50 yards and a single touchdown in garbage time against Ohio State. However, his sophomore season he exploded onto the scene with 58 catches, 798 yards, and seven touchdowns. Even better yet, he called his own shot saying that any ball headed his way was a 100/0 ball.

He shows a swagger both on and off the field, basically daring you to stop him. Many expect him to depart for the NFL after a big junior season.

Geno VanDeMark (OL)

Redshirted his freshman year. Played in 10 games in 2022, with a total of 215 offensive snaps. Earned starts at the end of the season against Penn State and Indiana. Projects to start at right guard entering this season.

Charles Brantley (CB)

Brantley was one of the top cornerbacks in the class coming out of Florida, and an early sign that Tucker was starting to expand MSU’s geographical reach further south.

During his freshman season, Brantley netted one particularly memorable moment. I would vouch most Michigan State football fans can tell you where they were when he secured the game-sealing one-handed interception against top-10 Michigan in Spartan Stadium. Following the interception, Brantley earned his first career start against Purdue.

Unfortunately, he sustained an injury during that game and sat the remainder of the 2021 season. He followed up with a strong sophomore campaign, with 11 starts, 48 total tackles, one sack, and a pick-six on likely top-10 NFL pick CJ Stroud.

Brantley is almost assuredly one of the two starters at corner heading into 2023.

AJ Kirk (S)

Redshirted his freshman year and did not see the field in 2022. Not projected to crack the top two rotation in 2023.

Ethan Boyd (OL)

Redshirted his freshman year. Played in 10 games in 2022 for a total of 23 snaps. Projected to be in the third-string rotation at right tackle.

Tyson Watson (DE)

Redshirted his freshman year. Transferred to UMass in 2022 where he did not play any snaps.

Derrick Harmon (DT)

Redshirted his freshman year while appearing in four games. Appeared in all 12 games in 2022, netting 28 tackles, two sacks, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery. His 468 snaps were the second most among MSU defensive tackles, and he is poised for a big season. Projected starter going into 2023.

Alex Okelo (DE)

Joined MSU’s recruiting class as a bit of a project with some questionable fundamentals for a defensive end. Transferred out after just a month into the 2021 season. Did not land on another roster.

Michael Gravely (CB)

Did not play in the 2021 season and transferred at the conclusion of the season. Did not land on another roster.

Davion Primm (RB)

Redshirted his freshman year. Briefly moved to defensive back before returning to running back in 2022, only playing one game. He will contend with Jalen Berger, Nate Carter, and Jalen Mangham for snaps. Given the abundance of talent in the running back room, I would not expect to see much of him on the field in 2023.

Hamp Fay (QB)

Redshirted his freshman year. After an injury, he switched positions from quarterback to tight end in 2022. Recently entered the transfer portal this week.

Antoine Booth (CB)

Redshirted his freshman year. Transferred to James Madison after one season.

Kameron Allen (TE)

Redshirted his freshman year. Transferred to SMU after one season.

Brandon Baldwin (OL)

High-level JUCO recruit who did not play his sophomore year. As a redshirt sophomore he played in nine games, logging 405 snaps. Was a starter at left tackle in five games in 2022 and is projected at starter heading into his redshirt junior year.

Kevin Wigenton (OL)

Redshirted his freshman year. Played in four games in 2022 and logged a total of 26 snaps between offense and special teams. Projected as the backup RG behind J.D. Duplain in 2023.

Carson Casteel (LB)

Redshirted his freshman year. Played in eight games his second year on special teams, and then transferred to Vanderbilt after the season.

Hank Pepper (LS)

The heir apparent to Taybor Pepper (no relation). Started all 13 games as a true freshman, proving to be a reliable asset early on. Played the first five games of 2022, then sat out the remainder of the season with an injury. MSU’s special teams suffered as a result, showing his true value on the field. Projects to be the starter going into 2023.

In summary

Of Mel Tucker’s 18 commits in the 2021 class, eight of them have now transferred out. Of the 10 who remain, six of them are projected starters. Three are in the 2-deep or 3-deep rotation. And only one is likely to not see the field.

In the age of the transfer portal, it’s not surprising to see heavy attrition from classes where situations did not work out. For the large majority of Michigan State football transfers, they either went to a lesser FBS school or down to the FCS. This is a sign that the players leaving were likely never a fit in the first place, and that the cream is rising to the top.

Tucker’s 2022 and 2023 classes are trending in a much better direction, with a combined 14 four-stars between them. But those who have stayed from 2021 are poised to contribute in a significant way. And Mel has plugged the holes with transfers until he gets his guys a season or two in the weight room. This season we will start to see some of the fruits of this staff’s development, and I am very much looking forward to it.

I graduated from MSU in 2016 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. I met my wife there, and we now live in Madison, WI with our two boys (ages 2 and 0). I write on here and spew on Twitter as an outlet for my useless MSU sports knowledge.