EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State introduced a football recruiting class Wednesday ranked among the nation's best, building on a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl victory.
The Spartans added several key pieces late, including Sun Prairie (Wis.) High defensive tackle Craig Evans. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman had been committed to Wisconsin.
Michigan State also landed defensive back T.J. Harrell, who chose the Spartans over Louisville and Texas. Coach Mark Dantonio said the Rose Bowl win had an impact on the late additions.
"I think it helped us close," Dantonio said. "I think it helped us get on national recruits down the stretch and it sort of ensured what we were doing as a program. Basically, I think it gave people a stamp of approval."
There was some early-morning drama as well. Five-star Southfield (Mich.) High defensive lineman Malik McDowell verbally committed to the Spartans during a news conference at his high school, but his faxed letter of intent had not shown up by the time the news conference was held.
Coaches are not allowed to discuss prospects until they have a signed letter of intent due to NCAA regulations. Even without McDowell officially inked, Dantonio pointed to prospects such as Evans and defensive tackle Enoch Smith Jr. out of Chicago as a big strength of the class.
"I think it's a dominant class on the defensive line," Dantonio said. "I think with this defensive line class we continue to establish ourselves and continue to be one of the top defenses in the country and in this conference."
The Spartans did not sign a quarterback or wide receiver. Quarterback Chris Durkin decommitted in December and signed with Virginia Tech. The Spartans did sign defensive back Montae Nicholson, a consensus four-star prospect out of Pennsylvania who could end up on offense as well.
"Montae Nicholson is a complete football player," Dantonio said. "He's a two-way performer who excelled at both wide receiver and safety."
Four-star Hinsdale Central center Brian Allen represents the top-ranked offensive lineman in the Spartans' 2014 class.
National rankings (Rivals 21; Scout 21).
Best in class: Montae Nicholson, db, Monroeville (Pa.).
Best of the rest: Brian Allen, ol, Hinsdale (Ill.)
Late addition: T.J. Harrell, db, Tampa (Fla.)
One that got away: Darius Slade, de, Montclair, N.J.
NOTE: Slade committed to Michigan State in mid-January but had a late change of heart and signed with Urban Meyer and Ohio State on Wednesday.