Jalen Watts-Jackson goes through drills at Michigan State's camp. (Photo courtesy of Allen Trieu)
Michigan State’s one-day camp once again provided high school players a chance to be coached by a college staff and be evaluated, and in some cases earn scholarship offers. This year was no different than previous years, with kids who went from under the radar to receiving Spartan offers in the blink of an eye.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s cornerback Jalen Watts-Jackson is the prime example of that this year. Going into camp, there were other defensive backs many felt were in line for an offer ahead of him. But the 5-11, 170-pound rising senior seized the moment, made numerous plays throughout the day, ran in the 4.4s during his 40-yard dash and walked away with a Spartan offer. On Wednesday, he returned to East Lansing and officially committed to Michigan State.
"I was always interested in Michigan State,” he said, “and always liked the way they played. I like their defense and it's cool how the coaches are -- that's what really brought me on to the school."
Watts-Jackson held offers from Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Idaho at the time of his commitment. He is the type of under-the-radar recruit coach Mark Dantonio and his staff have had lots of success with throughout their time at MSU, and thus, were happy to add another.
"Coach Dantonio seemed real excited, Coach (Harlon) Barnett seemed excited, and it's good know they also want me there and I didn't just want to be there. They said they really liked my ball skills, my jamming ability and how I can get running at corner."
With his team camp starting, Watts-Jackson can now concentrate on getting the Eaglets back to the state title game this year and ideally, change the result this time around. They lost to Grand Rapids Christian in overtime, 40-37, in last season’s Division 3 state title game.
Watts-Jackson has been polishing his skills with Justin Cessante and his staff at HYPE Athletics, based in Dearborn Heights, and the former Grand Valley State linebacker sees talent, but also character, in the newest Spartan.
“Jalen is an exceptional young man with great leadership qualities and work ethic,” Cessante said. “His competitiveness and drive made him a leader and dominant player on the 2013 HYPE 7 vs. 7 team. He continually challenged himself on both sides of the ball against the best players in the Midwest. Jalen attended every practice and speed and agility session. It was a true pleasure to have him on this year’s team.”
After admitting this was the offer he was waiting for the whole time, Watts-Jackson can take satisfaction in knowing that he went out and did not just stumble into reaching his goal, but earned it in front of the coaches.
"It's a real relief,” he said. “I've been on a long journey from sophomore year to now and I’m happy to finish and get the weight off my shoulder and help my team win."
Copeland also pulls the trigger
The same day Watts-Jackson earned his offer, Michigan State received a commitment from fellow cornerback Vayante Copeland of Dayton Marshall, a four-star prospect who had numerous offers from other BCS programs.
“The first thing that should impress Spartan fans is how Mark Dantonio and Harlon Barnett targeted Copeland early as a top prospect and did the things needed to earn the trust and respect of the future defensive back,” said Fox Sports Next’s Dave Berk. “Dantonio showing up at school to personally extend the Spartans offer helped in the end.”
Programs like Arkansas, West Virginia, Iowa and Purdue also came calling for Copeland.
At 5-11 and 180 pounds, and with speed and physicality, Copeland fits the mold of what the Spartans want in a cornerback and was another big addition to the class.
“Having watched Copeland in multiple games I’m secure in saying he’s one of the top prospects I’ve seen in the region over the past several years,” Berk states. “Explosive on both sides of the ball, he is a top athlete and quality person off the field. If he can stay healthy during his career, he’ll have a chance to take his game to the next level.”
Additional camp offers
Watts-Jackson’s teammate and fellow cornerback Tyson Smith was also offered following a strong camp. A good sized prospect at 6-1 and 190 pounds, this is the first offer for the rising junior.
“I waited for it,” Smith said of the offer. “It wasn't easy, but it feels good. It's a good atmosphere and they have a good staff, the kind of coaches you want to be a part of as a player. "
Schools like Alabama, UCLA, Florida, Michigan, Toledo, USC and others are in contact with Smith, but with Watts-Jackson already in the fold, Smith admitted they have already started discussing the possibility of being teammates again in college.
"Yeah, we both (talked about it) before we went to the camp and after,” Smith said.
Clarkston defensive tackle David Beedle had a big day at the recent lineman camp and was subsequently offered after the Spartan staff had an opportunity to see him again at the Sound Mind Sound Body Academy. The 6-5, 270-pound Beedle has additional offers from Illinois, Cincinnati and more, but the Spartans are considered the leader at this point, and a commitment could come soon.
Jalen Watts-Jackson profile: http://bit.ly/13Wl77Z
Vayante Copeland profile: http://bit.ly/11BQ5iE
Tyson Smith profile: http://bit.ly/16k33Ff
David Beedle profile: http://bit.ly/12tx4DX
Allen Trieu began covering the state of Michigan for Scout.com in 2005 and began managing the entire Midwest in 2009. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan State recruiting column appears every Friday at detroitnews.com. For more on MSU recruiting, visit michiganstate.scout.com.