Michigan State football's top 2021 recruit Ma'a Gaoteote enters transfer portal

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Michigan State linebacker Ma'A Gaoteote (10) next to defensive end Zach Slade (55) during the second half against Youngstown State at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

After 12 scholarship players left the Michigan State football program in the month following the conclusion of the regular season, the exodus out of East Lansing attenuated.

But a new name popped in the NCAA transfer portal Wednesday: linebacker Ma'a Gaoteote, the top-rated recruit in the Spartans' 2021 recruiting class.

MORE MSU: Mel Tucker on recruiting, transfers and Spartans' bright future

MSU coach Mel Tucker made a major splash in December 2020 when he persuaded Gaoteote to drop his commitment with USC and sign with the Spartans.

As the lone four-star prospect among Tucker's first batch of recruits — a group the coach jokingly referred to as his "Zoom babies" — the Las Vegas product was expected to make an immediate impact. But he contributed just seven tackles as a freshman while playing 100 snaps on defense and special teams in eight games.

The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Gaoteote's future in East Lansing turned cloudy when the Spartans added a pair of transfer linebackers, UNLV's Jacoby Windmon and Mississippi State's Aaron Brule, last month.

Gaoteote is the 17th scholarship player on Michigan State's roster to enter the portal since September.

Contact Rainer Sabin at rsabin@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Big Ten newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State football's top 2021 recruit hits transfer portal