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Michigan Football Recruiting: Rivals.com's Josh Helmholdt Discusses Preps' Perception of Spartans, Wolverines

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Is Michigan State's perception at an all-time high? Maybe. Prospects are certainly talking about the Spartans' success, and that's leading to a shift, says Rivals.com's Midwest expert Josh Helmholdt, who also discusses some of the best in-state freshmen at each school.

Gregory Shamus

At one time, the top high school players in The Great Lakes State were Michigan's.

All Michigan's.

Today, it's a different story. More and more, our state's best preps are looking toward East Lansing--and so are players in other areas.

"Michigan State's brand has really gone national, especially since that Rose Bowl win this last year," Rivals.com's Josh Helmholdt said Tuesday during an interview with the Sports in the Mitten podcast. The Midwest expert noted that four of the five past No. 1s in the state have chosen the Spartans and that Dantonio seems to have a slight edge in the perception game.

"Michigan State has had the upper hand [recently]," but in the grand scheme of things, the head-to-heads battles are "still pretty close" in many regards, says Helmholdt, who mentioned that Brady Hoke's Wolverines could easily tilt the balance in their favor with a strong showing this fall.

Names and Faces

This past period, Malik McDowell's parents wanted Michigan. But Malik wanted Michigan State. Win goes to Dantonio.

Helmholdt believes that the former Southfield monster will be a versatile piece to Pat Narduzzi's D-Line: "He can play the 3-technique or the 5-technique," Helmholdt said, who relayed positive information regarding McDowell's condition (he's a staggering 6'7", 292 pounds).

Two years ago, Drake Harris wanted to ball for Tom Izzo. Hoke probably thought something such as, "Um, no Drake. You're playing for me."

And so it happened: The former Grand Rapids Christian prep superstar--a kid "who could jump out of the gym," per Helmholdt--pulled his commitment to the Spartans and pledged to Hoke. Harris is set to debut this fall, but, due to a pesky hamstring injury, Helmholdt believes that 6'4" frosh is slightly behind the pack. However, he says once fully healthy, Harris will be in position to reach an apex.

Brian Cole, a 2015 ATH, was supposed to be Dantonio's. His commitment to Michigan "kind of surprised everyone," laughed Helmholdt, who once believed that Cole was en route to Michigan State. The fact that the Saginaw Hertiage bluechip went "underground" during the final month of his recruitment threw everyone off his trail, said Helmholdt.

Mike Weber is serves as the final UM vs. MSU fight of 2015. A few months ago, Weber was thought to be a Spartans-lean. But that's changed, and Michigan seems to be in better position for his pledge these days. But  don't rule out USC, says Helmholdt.

The 5'10", 205-pounder just visited SoCal...

...and he really liked it.

Of course, Michigan is Michigan. The brand sells itself, and recruits aren't exactly denying Hoke. But the shift in momentum certainly adds to the discussion.

Follow Maize 'n Brew's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81