It took nearly two months longer than expected but Malik McDowell is officially a member of Michigan State's 2014 recruiting class. The 5-star defensive lineman, who dealt with resistance from family following his signing day decision, sent a completed letter of intent to East Lansing late Tuesday evening:
The Southfield High School senior has been at the center of a recruiting firestorm since declaring his intentions to attend the university Feb. 5. The 6'7", 290-pound prospect put himself on the map with strong play and a powerful frame, but recent events have kept McDowell in the spotlight for much different reasons.
McDowell visited Ohio State and Michigan State during the final week of January, heightening speculation of where he would end up at the next level. The process featured several programs, including Florida State, LSU and Florida.
Signs of a house divided were evident during the final stretch toward signing day. Greg McDowell, Malik McDowell's father, told 247Sports writer Steve Wiltfong shortly before signing day:
We’re basically at the same point, his mother and I, as long as he gets away from Michigan we don’t care where he goes...I want him out of Michigan. I don’t care if that’s Ohio State or Florida State.
Still, when Malik McDowell's announcement occurred and he settled on Michigan State, his father willingly co-signed the presumed letter of intent. His mother, Joya Crowe, took a different approach.
She didn't attend his signing day ceremony at school and refused to approve the decision, which is paramount because of her reported role as a sole-custody parent. NCAA regulations require a signature from Crowe, setting the stage for a dramatic stretch that sparked rampant speculation.
Crowe told MLive.com:
No one knows what we as a family are going through at all, no one. They are just guessing, everyone is making accusations that aren't even true. One thing they are out there hollering about, (that) I'm offered money, that's not true.
The drama lasted eight weeks, with the coveted prospect's collegiate future hanging in the balance. One way or another, Malik McDowell is now seemingly signed, sealed and delivered to the Spartans.
Michigan State understands he's worth the wait.
There were never expectations of Malik McDowell enrolling on campus early, so he hasn't lost any ground on fellow 2014 signees set to arrive in East Lansing this summer. Amid recent rumors and confusion, his skill set has been a secondary story.
Malik McDowell is rated No. 3 nationally among 2014 strong-side defensive ends in 247Sports' composite rankings, which also lists him as the top prospect in Michigan. He totaled 89 tackles, seven sacks and three forced fumbles during his senior season.
Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio quickly took to Twitter to formally welcome his newest addition. He also shared a video produced by Michigan State that's been waiting to reach its audience for far longer than the program would've preferred:
The Spartans welcome a top-level talent who displays enough versatility to become a factor in a variety of roles. Malik McDowell is a massive specimen who can hold down the outside edge with authority or rotate inside to provide a presence up the middle.
From a physical standpoint, he is strong enough to command immediate consideration for playing time in a defense that ranked among the nation's best last season. An early rotational role could quickly lead to Malik McDowell's emergence as a mainstay along the Michigan State front.
Big Ten opponents Ohio State and Michigan made strong efforts to secure a signature from the disruptive defender, but instead must contend with him during autumns ahead. Malik McDowell already played with intensity but should be further fueled by the events that occurred in the aftermath of his commitment.
It would surprise no one if he arrives on campus with a chip on his shoulder, intent on legitimizing his steadfast devotion to the Spartans. A strong career at Michigan State would help make this stunning saga a distant memory.
Coach Dantonio and his staff can also move forward, knowing they've finally landed a long-established recruiting target. Now that they have him, the Spartans won't waste time implementing Malik McDowell into future defensive plans.
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