January 23, 2011

Will it come down to Pitt vs MSU for athletic DE/TE?

Michigan State expected four of the prospects on its recruiting wish list to take official visits to Rutgers this weekend. But one of the four, edge athlete Desimon Green, canceled his trip to Piscataway, N.J., and instead stayed closer home for one long, last look at the University of Pittsburgh. And the Panthers are shaping up to be a formidable foe for the Spartans in this recruitment.

SpartanMag.com will work to get comments from Green, and other MSU target recruits who took official visits elsewhere this weekend on Sunday night and Monday, such as:

  • Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha DT Darian Cooper, who is visiting Iowa this weekend.

  • Cleveland Glenville LB Frank Clark, who is visiting Michigan.

  • Cerritos (Calif.) Community College OT Fou Fonoti, who is visiting Rutgers.

  • Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep RB Savon Huggins, who is visting Rutgers.

  • Paramus (N.J.) Catholic DT Marquise Wright, who is visiting Rutgers.

    As for Green, he was scheduled to join fellow former Pittsburgh commitment Marquise Wright at Rutgers this week. Green had become such an important item on Rutgers wish list that head coach Greg Schiano attended Green's high school basketball game on Wednesday night.

    However, Green decided the next day to replace the planned trip to Rutgers with a trip instead to Pittsburgh.

    Green originally planned to visit Illinois this weekend, but replaced it with Rutgers.

    "He was thinking about visiting Illinois but there just wasn't enough time to get it in there," said Tom Nola, who is Green's head coach at Clairton (Pa.) High School, which is located just 17 miles south of Pittsburgh. "Rutgers just jumped in there as the new one. He seemed to like the head coach."

    But Green's affinity for the University of Pittsburgh showed itself when he canceled the trip to Rutgers to take a look at the new Panthers staff.

    "The Pitt coaches are coming back," Nola said. "They are trying to get people back. Desimon was one of the ones they lost."

    And Green has been receptive.

    "Yeah, he likes this guy, this new guy," Nola said.

    This new guy would be Pitt head coach Todd Graham. Graham, formerly head coach at Tulsa, was hired on Jan. 11, to replace Mike Haywood, who held the job for about two weeks before being fired on Jan. 2 due to a domestic dispute.

    Green came back from his official visit at Michigan State (Jan. 15) raving about Spartanland. But his old favorite Pittsburgh is looking appealing again.

    "I think it's going to be a hard decision for him," Nola said. "Just my personal opinion, I really don't know for sure, but I think it's between Michigan State and Pitt."

    Pitt's coming back that strong?

    "Yeah," Nola said.

    Nola made these comments before Green announced that he was replacing Rutgers with Pittsburgh. And this was before Green told Rivals.com on Thursday that Texas Tech was still his leader.

    "It's down to Texas Tech, Pitt, and Michigan State, but Texas Tech is in the lead," Green said. "They're my leader, just so that's clear."

    When Green decommitted from Pitt and reopened the process, he listed MSU, Illinois and Texas Tech as the programs that would get first dibs on official visits. He said Tech was the school that had been with him the longest, other than Pitt. He wanted to show them some appreciation. And although he has never been to Lubbock, Texas and probably has little idea of what to expect when he gets there, he still feels compelled to list them as No. 1 for now, for what it's worth.

    But the guy who sees him everyday in school, Coach Nola, the vibe he gets is that it's going to be Panthers vs. Spartans.

    "I honestly think Michigan State is leading right now, but who knows what's going to happen," Nola said.

    Green is meeting Graham and the brand new Pitt staff for the first time this weekend.

    "He (Graham) brought in all of his own people," Nola said.

    For Green, he has to measure the mixture of the school he has always loved and probably still does (Pitt) with the new caretakers of the program, and potentially his future. Green is one of 13 official visitors at Pittsburgh this weekend.

    "It's not like I've never been down there, but I'm excited to spend some more time with the coaches," Green told Rivals.com late last week. "I've been to Pittsburgh a thousand times; now it's just all about the coaches."

    But Graham has a formidable challenge in upstaging upstart Michigan State.

    "Desimon liked that visit to Michigan State," Nola said. "He really did. He said he just liked the atmosphere. He said it was like things around here, and he liked the basketball game a lot. He said the gym was like crazy.

    "He likes them a lot. Coach Dantonio coming and seeing him helped, and he just liked it up there, he really did."

    Because Green was committed to Pittsburgh for several months, and reopened the process in mid-December, he has not been worn down by his re-opened, seven-week recruiting process. He isn't nearly as fatigued by it as recruits who have been courted nonstop for several months.

    "He likes this stuff," Nola said. "He likes the attention."

    Green is that kind of person, that kind of player. He's an up-front guy, and an out-front guy.

    During his senior season, Green was the cornerstone player for a legendarily dominant Clairton defense in 2010. His team allowed only 26 points through the first 14 games of the season, and shut out 10 opponents en route to winning the state championship. He played as an outside linebacker in Clairton's 3-4 defense. On offense, he starred at quarterback.

    In the Western Pennsylvania title game at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green was somewhat quiet on defense, partly because the opponent, Rochester High, repeatedly ran away from Green. Additionally, Green suffered from cramps on that day.

    But Green managed to carry his team on offense in the Western Pennsylvania title game. Out of the shot gun spread, Green cut and weaved through the Rochester defense for a 26-yard TD run on a zone read option keeper. On that play, the deceptively quick and fast Green showed cutting ability and athleticism that makes him a blue chip edge defender.

    "He has really good size and that's why everybody wants him," Nola said. "He's athletic. He was a quarterback and a defensive end for us, which is kind of a weird mix. He can play anywhere."

    Green proved it again on Dec. 30 at the inaugural Chesapeake Bowl, which pitted players from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware against players from Maryland, Virginia, D.C. and West Virginia.

    "They recruited him in the all-star game to play defensive end," Nola said. "Well, he gets there and there are six defensive ends and they are all going to have to rotate one third of the game. So he said, 'What can I do to play more?'"

    That's that out-going, out-front personality again.

    "So they put him at wide receiver," Nola said.

    Green, who has been clocked by Nola at 4.7 in the 40-yard dash, promptly hauled in a team-high six catches for the North, good for 48 yards and a 13-yard TD.

    Perhaps film of Green going to work as a wide receiver in that all-star game led Michigan State to tell him during his official visit to East Lansing last weekend that the Spartans intended to use him as a defensive end AND a tight end, something that Kellen Davis did as a senior for Dantonio and company in 2007. And if Green ended up developing rapidly at tight end, who knows, perhaps that the position at which he could have the most pro potential.

    "At 6-5, 230, he can move and he's got good hands because he's a good basketball player too," Nola said. "He had 58 sacks in three years, for his career. And he had a lot of batted balls. He gets his hands up real well."

    And now there are at least three schools - Pitt, MSU, Texas Tech - with their hands up, hoping Green selects them. With MSU and Texas Tech running low on scholarship slots, and Pittsburgh desperately trying to salvage a potentially disastrous recruiting year, it's no surprise if the Panthers emerge as the school that is beating down the hardest path to Green's door.

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