Earlier in the summer, Birmingham (Ala.) Mountain Brook rising senior running back Harold Joiner named Michigan State his leader. Since then, a visit to LSU has made the Tigers the favorite in the minds of many recruiting analysts.
The Spartans will have an opportunity to impress Joiner, an unusually sized 6-foot-3, 225-pound running back, as he is expected to take an official visit to East Lansing on Sept. 23 when MSU plays host to Notre Dame.
Joiner’s other options include USC, Alabama, Auburn, Texas and UCLA. Michigan State is the lone northern school on his list, and they are there because of the way they have recruited him.
“From talking to Harold, I think there was an instant connection there with the coaches on staff,” Mountain Brook head coach Chris Yeager said. “He’s a people person and I do believe this: His dad’s involved in the process and we’re the highest academic school in state of Alabama, we average a 27.5 on the ACT and his dad said, ‘One day I may not be around and Coach, you may not be around,’ so he wants him trained to succeed when we aren’t there. So I think he’s looking at the total package.
“He can cut through the bull pretty quick, and if all (college coaches) talk about is football, there’s a lot more to Harold than that. He’s told me about his conversation with recruiters, and I like where he’s going with this; I know his connection to people has drawn him to Michigan State.”
Yeager calls Joiner an “unbelievably gifted athlete.” He is a young one, as well. He has a May birthday and at age 17, Joiner could easily be entering his junior year instead of his senior year right now.
“He might be the top prospect in the country if he was in the 2019 class,” Yeager said, “but he has the measureables. He’s an unbelievably gifted athlete, the type of athleticism you usually find in the body of a 5-9, 160-pound football player, not 6-3, 220-plus-pound football player. He has body control, body awareness, the ability to explode, hand-eye coordination – the whole package makes him so rare.
“And one of the things away from the field, an intangible quality – he’s grown, not just physically, but I’ve watched him mature and being receptive to the lessons the game of football teaches. He’s coachable and teachable.”
When Joiner first came to Mountain Brook, his plan was to play one more year of football and then give up the sport in favor of chasing his dream of being a top basketball recruit and playing in the NBA one day. His father would not allow him to give up football, Yeager says. After schools saw what he did in spring ball that year, he earned his first two scholarship offers, and quickly became dedicated to football again.
At his size, there have been questions about what Joiner will be in college, but schools, including Michigan State, continue to recruit him as a running back.
“This is my thing, and some recruiters agree with me and others disagree,” Yeager said, “but I think there’s a certain temperament offensive players have and a certain temperament defensive players have. Offensive players are a bit more analytical and a person on defense is more reactionary, and I think Harold’s personality makeup is more of an offensive person. They’ve talked about moving him all over – they say he’s the next O.J. Howard or next Julio Jones or whatever it is, and I’ve heard talk about him playing on defense. Wherever he goes, I hope they have enough insight to take it all into the conversation. But there’s no question physically, he can play anything.”
Joiner is currently rated as a four-star prospect and No. 68 player in the country by 247 Sports. He is a four-star and No. 15 running back by Scout.
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 and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at detroitnews.com.