September 20, 2013 at 1:00 am

Allen Trieu

Michigan State commit Vayante Copeland off to fast start

Vayante Copeland shakes hands with MSU coach Mark Dantonio. (Photo courtesy of Dave Berk /

Dayton Thurgood Marshall currently sits at 2-1 with wins over top programs Clayton Northmont and Kettering Alter. A big reason for their success has been the play of senior Vayante Copeland. Committed to Michigan State as a cornerback, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Copeland has been a dangerous threat on offense as well, building upon his breakout junior season.

“He's more refined,” Ohio analyst Dave Berk said. “He's playing both ways. He's having a big year on both sides of the ball. I know the other week he really tore it up offensively. Defensively, he's a guy who is showing improved coverage skills. The break on the ball that he has is elite.”

In their opening win over Northmont, Copeland rushed for 111 yards on offense and intercepted two passes. Against Alter last week, he rushed for nearly 200 yards and a touchdown, and made seven tackles and broke up three passes from his defensive back spot.

After that impressive performance, he made his way up to East Lansing on Saturday and saw the Spartans take down Youngstown State.

“The trip was real good,” he said. “It’s always good to get back to the place I’m committed to. This time I took my grandmother and her husband along with my little brother. I spent a lot of time with Coach Barnett after the game. I also spoke with Coach Dantonio for a few minutes, but he spent more time with my grandmother.”

Copeland said he came away impressed with the Spartan defensive backs and their physicality, particularly that of fellow Dayton native R.J. Williamson. He says he will return to East Lansing for the Spartans’ Nov. 2 clash with Michigan and will bring his mother this time around, who missed this last trip because of work.

When she does step foot into Spartan Stadium, she will see the stage her son will perform on, and given what he has done this year, it may be sooner than most think.

“I think he's a guy that they'll look at (for early playing time),” Berk said. “He needs to get a little stronger, but there is definitely a chance.”

Copeland is currently ranked as a four-star prospect and the No. 15 cornerback in the country on

Colorado RB has MSU high on list

Falcon (Colo.) High running back Kalen Ballage, one of the top running backs in the West, has offers from across the country. He recently told’s Anna Hickey that despite all of those offers, three schools are standing out from the pack.

“I really like Michigan State, Boise State and Nebraska right now, but I’m still open to all schools,” he said. “After football season, I will probably decide.”

Ballage will play in the U.S. Army All-American Game and is expected to make his commitment public there. He stands 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, and has been clocked as fast as 4.39 in the 40-yard dash. He is currently ranked as a three-star and the No. 32 running back in the country by

Spartans continue hosting young standouts

Also in attendance at Saturday’s game were two young receivers from within state lines who, despite their youth, have already made impacts at the varsity level -- Detroit Cass Tech’s Demetric Vance and Clinton Township Chippewa Valley’s Stefan Claiborne.

Both played varsity as freshmen last fall. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Vance catches passes from future Spartan Jayru Campbell and says Michigan State Director of Player Advancement Curtis Blackwell is like “an uncle” to him.

“It was a really good feeling just seeing the fans,” he added. “Then seeing the team go out there and have fun and play hard then come out with the victory was really cool.”

Claiborne is a track standout who finished first in the state in the 100, 200 and 400 meters as an eighth grader. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound speedster, who was born in Ohio, says he had a good time on Saturday in East Lansing.

"I thought they did a good job of greeting me and getting to know me when I first came in and to start conversation,” he said. “I liked the experience of being on the field. I liked how they handled everything. It was very organized, they seemed very interested in me, and they were kind and talkative."

Vance is also hearing from Michigan, while Claiborne reports additional interest from Ohio State, Nebraska, Syracuse and Notre Dame.

More information

Vayante Copeland profile

Kalen Ballage profile

Stefan Claiborne profile

Allen Trieu began covering the state of Michigan for 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 For more on MSU recruiting, visit