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Belleville – Devontae Dobbs has established himself as one of the premier offensive linemen in the country during his high school career, leading Belleville to a 10-1 record and first postseason win in 15 years his junior year, then to its first regional championship in 2018.
Dobbs, who will be Michigan State’s highest-ranked national recruit since Charles Rogers (No. 3, 2000), is The Detroit News’ No. 1 Blue Chip player.
Dobbs, a five-star prospect who was named to The Detroit News’ Dream Team, is ranked the No. 1 guard in the nation by 247Sports Composite. He is the No. 5 tackle in the country by ESPN and No. 6 tackle by Rivals.
Dobbs’ offer list included 42 schools, including defending national champion Alabama.
He narrowed his list to eight – MSU, Ohio State, USC, Auburn, Oklahoma, Georgia, Clemson and Florida State – before picking the Spartans in June.
“It was a fun process, a long process, but at the end of the day I got to go wherever I wanted to go in the country and I chose Michigan State, and I love it there,” Dobbs told The News. “I took visits to Auburn and USC. It was nice and quiet at Auburn and I liked the vibe that the players had. There was a whole lot to do at USC, a nice atmosphere to be in and I had a nice trip.
“But it feels like a second home at Michigan State. It doesn’t feel like I’m out of place when I get there. I like the people that are there. So many people are similar to me and do similar things that I do. It’s basically in my backyard so my family and friends can watch me play too.”
Dobbs, 18, is looking forward to putting his name on his national letter of intent during Early Signing Day on Wednesday. His Belleville teammate, four-star receiver/defensive back Julian Barnett, will also be signing that day with the Spartans. Dobbs and Barnett also will participate in the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 3 in Orlando.
And while Dobbs’ future is at MSU with Spartans fans excited over the thought of him pancaking defensive linemen, he is still a normal teenager. Dobbs was at the Secretary of State office last week to get his driver’s permit. The 6-foot-4, 297-pound star lineman had to wait in line just like everyone else.
But on the football field Dobbs is in a class of his own.
As the season started Dobbs was nursing a shoulder injury, but he dominated on both sides of the ball during the second half of the season.
Dobbs took official visits to Auburn and USC head of his official to MSU on Dec. 7-9. He stayed at the Kellogg Center and bonded with several other 2019 recruits and coaches.
“There were probably 16 of us on my official visit,” Dobbs said. “Alante Brown (receiver, Chicago Simeon) was there, Marcel Lewis (linebacker, Chippewa Valley), Jase Bowen (receiver, Toledo Catholic Central) and Tate Hallock (athlete, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central). I just want to get more connected with my class. I want to come in and work hard with them and just establish something and play for Green.”
Dobbs helped Belleville average 32 points while displaying his ability as a strong run blocker, as well as an outstanding pass blocker, allowing sophomore Christian Dhue-Reid to throw for 2,759 yards and 39 TDs.
“It took him about to midseason to look like the old Dobbs (due to the injury),” said Belleville coach Jermain Crowell. “But I thought he did a really good job of handling the criticism that he was taking early and not making excuses, and doing whatever people asked him to do whether he was in pain or not. He fought through it and kept his mouth quiet.
“We would have private talks and he would tell me, ‘My shoulder still hurts,’ or, ‘I just don’t have that much strength in it,’ or, ‘I’m still not in shape.’ I thought since he had a lot of expectations coming in and wasn’t performing as well as folks would have liked those first few games – and he didn’t make excuses or use the ‘I’m still hurt’ card and just took it – I liked that sign of growth and maturity.”
John Niyo and Dave Goricki talk about college football's early signing period with analyst Allen Trieu and four local players, including Canton's Darius Robinson. The Detroit News
Dobbs played with a torn labrum his junior year, then had surgery last winter, but was apprehensive with the shoulder heading into his season. He was also out of shape.
“He got in shape,” Crowell said. “He hadn’t done anything other than physical therapy for so long. He was winded a lot early and we tried to get him in shape as much as we could. Toward the middle of the season you could tell he was ready to go.
“I think early on he was more scared of hurting (his shoulder). Whenever he would do something it would feel funny. But as the weeks went on and we took him back to physical therapy he was strong. It was more mental than anything.”
MSU coach Mark Dantonio recruited Dobbs to play on the offensive line, but Crowell thinks Dobbs can be a force on the defensive line, as well.
“He can play defense too – just what we would call a big, twitchy athlete who is consistent at getting off the ball and pursuing it,” Crowell said. “He’s always after that ball and he’s athletic as hell. He’s super athletic for a guy 6-4 and 297.”
Dobbs said his shoulder is 100 percent.
“At the beginning of the season it took some time to get back, and then once I got that confidence back in my shoulder I was ready to go,” Dobbs said. “I’m 100 percent now, but I’ll still keep an eye on it because it could be an issue in the future.”
Belleville senior running back Khalid Crawford said the team fed off Dobbs’ confidence. Dobbs paved the way on an 81-yard drive late in the fourth quarter to pull out a 13-10 regional final win over West Bloomfield.
On that drive, Crawford broke loose for runs of 16 and 33 yards to set up Jalen Hunt’s 3-yard TD run for the difference with 3:49 left in wet and cold conditions.
“I was letting Devontae Dobbs get in front of me and then just ran behind him,” Crawford said. “I wanted to leave this (home) field with some good, hard runs, so I made sure to get behind him and then go.”
Michigan State running backs are likely to have similar experiences in the years ahead.