Jayru Campbell has led Detroit Cass Tech to consecutive Division 1 state championships. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)
The hiring of Curtis Blackwell, who took the Sound Mind Sound Body and Max Ex programs in Detroit from the ground floor to high levels of success, naturally is making waves at Michigan State. The Spartans’ new Director of College Advancement and Camp Director lived up to early expectations this week.
Head coach Mark Dantonio called Blackwell a “game changer” – and Blackwell proved to be just that in his first few days on the job. Blackwell had many of the state’s top talents on campus for a fall practice on Wednesday. They ranged from class of 2015 standouts like Sagainw Heritage’s Brian Cole to rising freshmen like Orchard Lake St. Mary’s linebacker Joshua Ross and Detroit Cass Tech’s Donovan Peoples-Jones.
The biggest impact on the day was the commitment of Cass Tech junior quarterback Jayru Campbell. While many see Blackwell’s job as solely a recruiting position, he stressed that his role is to not only get these players to Michigan State, but mentor them once they are on campus.
“It's really helping the students advance through college,” he explained. “A lot of it is mentoring and getting them set up with career assessment and understanding how they can translate successfully from high school to college and maybe even the NFL, and helping to be a figure they can identify with. A lot of these guys need a person they can relate to in a lot of different ways outside of football.”
Several Spartan players, including Tony Lippett and Jon Reschke, have been through the Max Ex and Sound Mind Sound Body programs and already have a relationship with Blackwell. He says a big advantage now is being able to see the student-athletes each and every day, rather than just once or twice a week in his previous role.
“Coach Dantonio (told me), ‘I want to have a difference maker the same way I go get a four-star recruit or a five-star recruit. I'm looking for a player that can make plays and I want a person who can come here and make a difference and do something that has not been done, the same way you created something that hadn't been done with Sound Mind Sound Body and Max Ex,’” Blackwell said.
This move will obviously bring new connections within the state, but one overlooked aspect of Blackwell’s hire is the amount of contacts he has built outside the Motor City.
“We ran Sound Mind Sound Body in Detroit, Chicago, Washington, Tulsa, and Sound Mind's going to be going on in California,” Blackwell said. “Also, by us being one of the most widely-known 7-on-7 programs and for as much as we traveled, I know mostly all of the guys who run all of the 7-on-7 programs all across the country from L.A. to New York to Tampa. We played teams from Dallas, Atlanta, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Canada -- so just having those relationships and people respected our program, I have a rapport with those guys and I'm sure that's going to allow us to at least get those guys on campus and meet the coaches, and that's going to allow the coaches to do their job.”
Still, he will not forget where home is.
“That's where everything starts,” he said. “We definitely want to turn up the heat on the in-state kids and get as many in-state guys up here on campus as possible.”
Wilcher: Campbell is Detroit's best
Detroit Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher believes Michigan State’s first reported commitment for the 2015 class, his quarterback Jayru Campbell, is the type talent that has rarely been seen in the city at the position.
"He's one of the top, most efficient quarterbacks ever produced in the city of Detroit,” Wilcher said. “He's one of the best quarterbacks produced by city of Detroit in my opinion, just how he's able to manage the game and run the game."
The 6-3, 190-pound Campbell took the reigns as a freshman and led the Technicians to their first ever state title in 2011. He followed it up last year with yet another state championship. Through all of his success, Campbell has continued to work on his game and Wilcher notes the improvements he has seen since that first year.
"He's smart. He knows where to go with the ball,” Wilcher said. “He knows how to get you in the right play. He knows how to make adjustments better."
Stallworth almost ready?
It was reported that St. Clair Shores South Lake junior offensive lineman Kyonta Stallworth committed to the Spartans on Wednesday, but the 6-4, 280-pound prospect later refuted those reports. Despite the confusion, there is no doubting how he feels about Michigan State.
“I liked everything,” he said. “They took us a locker room tour, the dorms, the coaches -- I liked everything. This is what I told Coach (Dantonio): ‘In 2015, there is a 90-percent chance that I will be there.’ So, I guess people took that as like I committed.”
Stallworth will return to campus for the season opener against Western Michigan. It is believed that once he is able to get his family to MSU with him, the commitment will be made official. Stallworth himself says he is not ready to say that yet and he is currently waiting on announcing a commitment date or timeline.
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.