EAST LANSING – Saeed Khalif was inside a busy Duffy Daugherty Building watching former Michigan State players go through testing for NFL scouts.
Pro day was last week and organizing it is one of the many duties he’s responsible for. Khalif also added more to his plate when coach Mel Tucker in the offseason changed his title to general manager and executive director of player personnel and recruiting.
“I guess it was better than being miscellaneous, the catch-all for it,” Khalif said with a laugh of his new title. “Coach Tucker’s running the program in more of an NFL style where we actually have a management and a process to get things moving and with him coaching more and actually taking over the cornerbacks room, it gives him an opportunity to know that some other things are covered in his absence of him. “
Tucker, who is now coaching cornerbacks after offseason staff changes, hired Khalif away from Wisconsin in May 2021 as Michigan State’s new director of player personnel. Khalif got to work at a busy time, just days before the NCAA’s recruiting dead period that was implemented due to COVID-19 expired after nearly 15 months.
“He’s done a really nice job,” Tucker said of Khalif in December. “He really understands our brand, he understands what type of players we’re looking for and he understands the culture and the feel and the vibe of our program. With that, there’s certain types of players that we need. He has a really good idea and really good feel for what our immediate needs are and where we have the luxury of maybe developing some players as opposed to needing guys to come in and play right away. “
A look at Saeed Khalif’s vision for Michigan State football recruiting, roster management
It was a successful run as the Spartans landed a top-25 class for the 2022 cycle and the product on the field was strong as Michigan State finished 11-2 with a Peach Bowl win against Pittsburgh. That was the biggest single-season turnaround in program history after the Spartans posted a 2-5 record in Tucker’s debut leading them amid the pandemic-altered 2020 season. And it can’t hurt in recruiting.
“We get responses from kids that we otherwise weren’t getting responses from because we were recruiting some prior to the 11-2 season,” Khalif said. “(An) 11-2 season gets the phone answered, they return some DMs.”
Michigan State has five commits in its 2023 recruiting class in four-star defensive lineman Andrew Depaepe, four-star running back Kedrick Reescano, four-star tight end Brennan Parachek, three-star offensive lineman Johnathan Slack and three-star quarterback Bo Edmundson. Depaepe, Reescano, Slack and Edmundson all committed after being on campus in January.
“Now we’re going to see based on what’s been planned and what we implement what kind of results we can get,” Khalif said. “And it doesn’t hurt that we had a successful football team last year.”
Michigan State also now has one of the highest-paid coaches in the country. While Tucker was putting together an impressive turnaround season, he signed a 10-year, $ 95 million contract extension in November. That got plenty of notice at the time and continues to be a talking point in recruiting.
“You know what’s pretty cool? We can say Tuck staying, ”Khalif said. “That’s what it gave us a chance to do because when we were recruiting, everybody would say, ‘oh, the coach is not going to be there. This guy is heading back to the NFL, he’s going this place, that place. ‘ Well, you can say it won’t be for money. “
Former Michigan State players chase NFL hopes on pro day
In addition to landing high school recruits, Khalif works closely with Tucker on roster management. That was already a challenge and has become much more difficult due to the transfer portal and extra year of eligibility given to players in 2020 because of COVID-19.
Tucker overhauled the roster through the portal after his first season and it paid off last fall. It certainly didn’t hurt the Spartans landed Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III, who went on to win the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back in his lone season at Michigan State.
There was additional turnover in Tucker’s second year as 19 players left the team for the portal between September and February and linebacker Ben VanSumeren put in his name last week. Meanwhile, the Spartans added five midyear scholarship transfers who joined the program in January in running back Jalen Berger (Wisconsin), linebackers Aaron Brule (Mississippi State) and Jacoby Windmon (UNLV), defensive end Khris Bogle (Florida) and cornerback Ameer Speed ( Georgia). They’re a week into spring practice looking to carve out roles on a new team. Michigan State also has commitments from a trio of other players from the portal in running back Jarek Broussard (Colorado), tight end Daniel Barker (Illinois) and offensive lineman Brian Greene (Washington State).
“We’re excited about them,” Khalif said of the portal additions. “We think we filled some needs and some holes that we had. Still to be seen. “
The NCAA adopted a waiver for this year allowing teams to exceed the annual limit of 25 initial counters (new scholarship additions from either high school or the portal) and also replace up to seven transfers who leave. Khalif said the math can be complicated based on multiple factors but there may be the minimal amount of room left for the Spartans to add from the portal.
“A lot of it is based on spring grades of some of the guys that left because you can’t replace a guy who wasn’t in good standing academically,” Khalif said. “There’s a lot of stuff that goes into that. My prayer is we’ve got one more, but I can’t confirm we have one more until the end of the spring. “
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