Canton — Darius Robinson couldn’t stop smiling Wednesday afternoon at the National Signing Day ceremony held in his honor, knowing he would be playing at Missouri, competing in the SEC and feeling wanted by the coaching staff.
Robinson, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound defensive tackle, earned a spot on The News’ Dream Team this season. He is No. 18 on The News Blue Chip list.
“I didn’t know until this morning, it was then that I knew where home was and I knew the three answers to my questions which was family support, playing in the SEC, which is the best conference in football, and academics,” Robinson said. “They are losing three D tackles so it’s a need so I’m just ready to get in and go to work.”
Robinson quickly made a name for himself in two short years. He played organized football for the first time since sixth grade when he played for Canton his junior year after transferring from Canton Prep.
Robinson became a dominant force on both sides of the ball after bulking up and becoming bigger, faster and stronger his senior year, getting in on 68 tackles (12 for loss).
“I pride myself as being a competitor and playing at the highest level so what better way to do that then play in the SEC, the best conference in football, and I’m just excited to get after it and see what I’m really about,” he said.
“I’ll play defensive tackle and they are losing three seniors and Coach (defensive line coach Brick Haley) compares me to Terry Beckner, their No. 5 right now who is a senior.
“He says we have comparable game and I know what Coach Haley can do and I’m ready to trust him and get ready to work. I just want to compete, be physical and have fun.”
Robinson picked an 8-4 Missouri team — which is ranked No. 23 and will play Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl New Year’s Eve — over Michigan, Minnesota and Colorado.
So, why not Michigan?
“It was a great opportunity to be offered as an athlete,” said Robinson, who was offered by Michigan as an athlete since he also played tight end his senior year. “I felt it was best for me and my family to go to Missouri.
“I considered Michigan for a moment, but when I knew what I really wanted they couldn’t answer my question which was unfortunate. They couldn’t answer as far as like the recruiting class since there was already 24 people, just 25 spots so I wasn’t a priority on their list. You know when something doesn’t feel right. I wanted to feel wanted and I am at Missouri.”
Robinson will be joined at Missouri by Detroit Cass Tech linebacker Devin Nicholson, ranked No. 39 on The News Blue Chip list.
Nicholson got in on 82 tackles (22 for loss) while intercepting four passes, returning two for TDs to help Cass Tech win the PSL championship.
“It’s been a tough process, but I felt like I can benefit both as a man and as a player at the University of Missouri,” said Nicholson, who picked the Tigers over Colorado State, Iowa State and Toledo. “I took my official visit to Missouri two weeks ago. They’re in the SEC and I love to compete so I can’t wait to get there.”
Nicholson is 6-2 and 218 pounds — 20 pounds more than a year ago — and benches 275, up from 175 last year.
Nicholson was among nine Cass Tech players who signed Wednesday, joining quarterback/safety Jalen Graham (Purdue, No. 20), running back Lew Nichols (Central Michigan, No. 24), cornerback Kyron McKinnie-Harper (Central, 47), safety Ormondell Dingle (Central), safety Tyler Milliner (Howard), offensive tackle Allen Jones (Morgan State) and linebacker Marcellus Gaines (Towson).
Cass Tech running back Jaren Mangham (No. 8), who signed with Colorado, wasn’t at the ceremony. He is preparing to play in a all-star game in Mexico.
Graham talked of his decision to sign with Purdue: “I just made it knowing that it will be the best fit for me the next four years and the fact that they treat my family the same way they treat me.
“I really like the coaching staff. Coach (Jeff) Brohm and the coaching staff, I know that all the recruits in my class believe in what he’s building and hopefully we’ll end up winning a Big Ten championship.”
Belleville had four players sign, including two of the top three players in the state in five-star offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs (No. 1) and four-star receiver/cornerback Julian Barnett (No. 3), both headed for Michigan State.
Like Dobbs and Barnett, Iowa-bound defensive lineman Jalen Hunt (No. 19) has known for a long time where he was headed, but the same can’t be said for three-star linebacker Marvin Ham who decommitted from Boston College Monday after taking an official visit to Colorado last weekend.
Ham signed with Colorado Wednesday evening.
“I came up with my final decision about 11 o’clock today,” said Ham who has a 3.8 grade-point-average. “It was hard for me to decide. It was between Iowa State, Boston College and Colorado and (the deciding factor) was my major. Boston College didn’t have my major (physics engineering) and before I committed they said they had my major which was false.”
Hunt talked about his decision: “I’ve been waiting for this day my whole life, growing, dreaming about this and now it’s here. There’s just something about Iowa and I feel like I won’t fit anywhere else. It’s just home for me.”
In addition to playing as a defensive lineman, Hunt (6-3, 250) played some running back. “I don’t think you’ll see a running back my size at all running the ball any more so it was fun. I played more interior (on defensive line) this year. We haven’t really talked about it much (at Iowa), but I might play interior there, too.”
While Dobbs, Barnett, Hunt and Ham were in the auditorium with their family and friends during the ceremony, Belleville defensive end Tyrece Woods (No. 28) was nowhere in sight.
Woods, who decommitted from Michigan last month, had an offer from multiple schools, including Western Michigan, but has decided to wait.
“I’m going to wait until February,” Woods said. “This morning when I woke up I kind of had a change of heart to what I had decided upon the past couple of days. I was leaning toward Western Michigan, but when I woke up I had some questions and just decided it would be best for me to wait.”
Division 3 champion Detroit King had eight players sign, including four-star safety Marvin Grant (Purdue, No. 7), three-star quarterback Dequan Finn (Toledo, No. 22), three-star linebacker Rich Miller (Buffalo, No. 38), three-star receiver Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati, No. 41), three-star receiver Jalen McGaughy (No. 43) who flipped from Northern Illinois to Ball State, three-star receiver Darrell Wyatt (Central Michigan, No. 59), cornerback Ray Williams (Howard) and offensive lineman Deshawn Ingram (Howard).
Division 1 state champion Chippewa Valley had three players sign with three-star cornerback David Ellis (No. 11) inking a deal with Indiana, three-star linebacker Marcel Lewis (No. 13) signing with Michigan State and cornerback Ja’Von Kimpson (No. 54) signing with Miami of Ohio.