Recruiting & Scouting

FOOTBALL RECRUITING: UofM, MSU in heat of in-state recruiting tussle

Football   | Scott Burnstein

FOOTBALL RECRUITING: UofM, MSU in heat of in-state recruiting tussle

Entering the 2014 football season, the recruiting battle between Michigan and Michigan State remains heated for in-state talent.

Michigan State may be leading in the number of in-state commits headed into the fall (holding a 4-to-3 edge), however Michigan could have the best three seniors in the entire state bound for Ann Arbor in Saginaw Heritage wide receiver Brian Cole, Birmingham Brother Rice quarterback Alex Malzone and Detroit Cass Tech tailback Mike Weber (listed alphabetically).

All seven of the in-state commits staying in-state to play their college pigskin collected victories in Week 1.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Tyson Smith (cornerback), Jackson Lumen Christi’s Khari Willis (running back) and Detroit King’s Kyonte Stallworth (offensive lineman) and Tyrique Thompson (linebacker) are each committed to Michigan State.

Malzone showed off his golden arm and pinpoint accuracy in Brother Rice’s 40-34 victory over its sister school in the Windy City, Chicago Brother Rice, throwing for 363 yards (20-of-34) and four touchdowns. Weber dazzled in his 2014 debut too, rushing for 155 yards and three scores in Cass Tech’s 27-26 edging of Oak Park. Cole displayed his relentless versatility in Heritage’s 24-6 defeat of Saginaw Arthur Hill, finding the end zone on a punt return, an interception return and a long touchdown reception (all in the first half).

Smith was excellent on both sides of the ball in St. Mary’s 21-19 clipping of Southfield. Even though Smith has been recruited to East Lansing as a cornerback, his increasingly-lethal offensive abilities could have the Spartans’ coaching staff reexamining where they intend to play him once he gets on campus. In addition to a trio of pass-deflections out of the secondary, Smith, a three-year two-way starter, also made a 60-yard touchdown grab at receiver.

Smith’s St. Mary’s teammates, sophomore linebacker Josh Ross and sophomore wide receiver K.J. Hamler, are two of the top recruits in the state’s Class of 2017. Michigan and Michigan State are in hot pursuit of both young playmakers. Ross and Hamler were hosted by Michigan this weekend and were on the sidelines for the Wolverines' 52-14 pasting of Appalachian State Saturday.

Ross’ big brother is Michigan linebacker and former St. Mary’s all-state selection James Ross. He already holds an offer from the Wolverines. Hamler, a small and shifty speedster in the slot and on returns, impressed greatly in his first varsity game, scoring on a 48-yard punt return and having a 47-yard touchdown catch called back on a penalty. Michigan State offered Hamler this summer.

Squaring off against Weber in a one-on-one tailback tug-of-war, Oak Park’s Johnny Kelly, the state’s No. 1 uncommitted senior, more than held his own. Kelly rushed for 141 yards and scored two touchdowns in the loss. Insiders view Kelly’s college choices being widdled down to Michigan and Minnesota.

Several of Weber’s Cass Tech teammates have Michigan and Michigan State after their services at the next level, including sophomore wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, junior lineman Mike Onwenu and junior defensive back LaVert Hill. Against Oak Park, Hill had a key ball-strip near the goal-line preventing a touchdown in the first half. Onwenu had a number of big tackles and big blocks and Peoples-Jones hauled in a 48-yard touchdown snag.

Another set of underclassmen getting interest thrown their way by the Wolverines and Spartans are Southfield junior running back Matt Falcon, St. Claire Shores South Lake junior running back Martell Pettaway and Farmington junior wide receiver Desmond Fitzpatrick.

Falcon has an Ohio State offer, with Michigan believed to be on the verge of extending a bid. Pettaway currently holds a Michigan State offer and Fitzpatrick has close to a dozen offers around the country (some FBS), with both Michigan and Michigan State reportedly keeping close tabs.

Last year, Michigan State beat Michigan in the in-state recruiting game with six commits compared to Michigan's four.