January 6, 2011

Spartans move on, after spurned by Jackson, Grant

There were no surprises for Michigan State fans during Wednesday's night's Under Armour All-America Game, as the Spartans failed to gain commitments from a pair of blue chip recruits during in-game commitment announcements.

Akron, Ohio cornerback Doran Grant selected Ohio State over Michigan State, and Vero Beach, Fla. offensive guard Marcus Jackson committed to Tennessee over Miami and MSU.

Grant, a four-star recruit, ranked the No. 1 cornerback in the nation by Rivals.com and the No. 33 player overall, and the son of former Spartan wide receiver Ted Jones, placed a scarlet Ohio State baseball cap on his head after making his announcement.

"I've been ready for the longest, and it's time," Grant said during a sideline interview as part of the ESPN telecast. "I will be attending the Ohio State University.

"The relationship with the coaches was the greatest. Coach Taver (Johnson), Coach (Jim) Tressel, I'm ready to be part of the Buckeye family and do my thing in Columbus.

"With the Buckeyes, they are a strong contender every season, year-in and year-out, they are always good," Grant told Rivals.com. "They are consistent and play good ball."
Grant took official visits to only two schools, MSU and Ohio State. There were indications earlier in the recruiting year that MSU had at least drawn even with OSU, but Buckeye nationalism was too much for the Spartans to overcome.

"I've always been a Buckeye fans and when I opened that letter and I began to read it I couldn't help it, I cried, my heart told me that is where my son should be," Tanya Grant, Doran's mother, told the ESPN audience. "I'm proud of him, proud of his decision and go Bucks."

SpartanMag.com's Matt Dorsey heard from good sources in St. Petersburg earlier in the week that Grant had told other Under Armour All-Americans that he planned to commit to MSU. Spartan fans on the SpartanMag.com Underground Bunker message board were not surprised.

Shortly after Grant's decision, Jackson selected the Vols over Miami and MSU. Michigan State was not considered a close second or third for Jackson, but the offensive guard brought an MSU baseball hat, along with a Hurricane cap, to the proceedings nonetheless.

Jackson had committed to Miami over MSU, and others, in the fall, but reopened his recruiting process after the firing of Randy Shannon.

"I'm going to be playing ball at the University of Tennessee," said Jackson, a three-star prospect, ranked the No. 51 player in Florida by Rivals.com. "It's all about family up there. They are an up-and-coming program and I want to be a part of it. They said I'll have a slot, I'll be a No. 2 man on the rotation and I'll have a chance to start."

Eight players made verbal commitments on Wednesday night, with Auburn picking up two, while Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee, Oregon and USC each picked up one commitment.

Michigan State linebacker commitment Lawrence Thomas participated in the game. SpartanMag.com will have a breakdown of his performance soon.

Comp's Take ...

Losing out on Doran Grant was not a big surprise, but the predicted commitment to OSU did not entirely lessen the sting for MSU. Michigan State rarely gets a shot at such a highly-ranked defensive back. With his father having played at MSU, and Mark Dantonio having a stellar record of producing NFL defensive backs, and the fact that Grant took several serious visits to the East Lansing camps, there are few times MSU will have as good a chance to beat OSU for a Buckeye State blue chipper as this.

MSU would have loved to have added Grant to the list, but MSU is not lacking for DB talent in the 2011 recruiting class. Canadian athlete Arjen Colquhoun has the size (6-1, 180), speed and ball skills to be a big corner, or a physical safety. Rivals.com lists him as the No. 40 safety in the '11 class. Colquhoun is physically put together about as well as a 6-foot-1, 180-pound, teen-aged defensive back can hope to be. He earned his scholarship offer with a surprise, standout performance at MSU's summer camp. But he ix expected to be behind the curve in terms of fundamental football knowledge, coming from north of the border.

Wisconsin speedster Trae Waynes also emerged as a surprise scholarship offer recipient at MSU's camp. Waynes, who will rank among the fastest recruits in the Big Ten this season, possesses good size at 6-feet tall, on a solid frame. He had offers from Big Ten tri-champs MSU and Wisconsin, as well as Illinois and Iowa State, scholarship interest which belies his two-star rating.

I saw Colquhoun and Waynes play at MSU's camp. Colquhoun made big ball play after big ball play. Waynes' speed was the buzz of the day, with none other than Western Michigan assistant coach Amp Campbell leading the whispers.

Both players were impressive. But all you need to know is that they have the frame, the speed, the athletic ability, and the ball skills to understand MSU's scholarship interest. Combine it with Dantonio's choosy standards when it comes to DB evaluation, and Dantonio's penchant for turning sleeper DBs into NFL players, and that's worth another star or two added to each player's name on the Internet database. Seriously.

Grant would have been the crowning jewel of MSU's DB recruiting class, and the fact that he comes from Ohio almost guarantees that he has been better-coached than non-Ohio DB recruits in the Big Ten (we see this exemplified every year with Ohio freshmen at MSU). But Colquhoun and Waynes are keepers too.

Look for MSU to add at least one more defensive back recruit to the 2011 class, with Vero Beach, Fla., safety Larry Franklin a possible candidate. MSU has a had a scholarship offer on the table for Franklin for several weeks. The three-star recruit ranked the No. 55 safety in the nation, and has offers from Wisconsin, Illinos and Maryland among others. MSU might be more in need of a Franklin commitment today, now that Grant has made his decision official.

As for Jackson, the Spartans were not surprised, and have been working elsewhere to sign at least one more o-lineman in 2011, to go along with MSU's two o-line commitments to this point, Jack Allen and Donovan Clark. The Spartans are chasing California juco Fou Fonoti, and Top 250 Pennsylvania blue chipper Brandon Clemons. MSU is not seen as the favorite for Cleveland Glenville star Aundrey Walker.

MSU has known for weeks that they didn't have a solid shot to get Jackson. Closing on Clemons and Fonoti is a little more important today than yesterday, as Jackson made his commitment to Tennessee official. Clemons will visit MSU on Jan. 14, in what is expected to be his final visit. He has also visited Boston College, UConn and Maryland, the latter two before their coaching changes.

Overall, the Spartans usually like to have at least three DBs and at least three o-linemen in every recruiting class. MSU currently has two at each position. MSU doesn't want to fill these slots with mediocre bodies. Although the losses were expected and MSU has been planning to go forward without them, losing out on Grant and Jackson turns up the level of urgency just a bit. - By Jim Comparoni

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