Berrien Springs has produced several college prospects the last few years and Michigan State has benefited from that, signing offensive tackle Nick Padla in the 2014 class.
The Spartans have their sights set on another Shamrock now as junior Phillip Paea, a two-way lineman, was recently offered by MSU on a visit to campus.
“I saw all the amazing facilities and it really has a welcoming atmosphere,” Paea said. “They tell you how it is and what you see is what you get. I love the straight-forwardness that the coaches tell you.”
Prior to Michigan State’s offer, Paea had one other offer from BYU. In the days since then, he has been one of the fastest rising prospects in the Midwest, adding offers from Notre Dame, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon and Minnesota.
Shamrocks head coach Tony Scaccia has had a chance to see the progression Paea has made, first as an assistant coach and now as the head man, a progression that has included several positions.
“He came to us in ninth grade and he was 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, so physically, he was ready to play with us,” Scaccia says. “He obviously had a long way to go as a player, but he ended up coming up and playing with us as a ninth grader and played linebacker. We had two freshmen linebackers that year and he played fullback in some I-formation packages we had.”
As a sophomore, Paea began the year at 250 pounds. As a junior, he grew to 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds. That is when his college future, as a lineman, really began to take shape.
“A lot of his success on the field is finding a home,” Scaccia said. “He played linebacker because he was big, physical and could run a little bit, but his skill set wasn’t one of a big-time linebacker prospect. I think he has that as a defensive lineman and that’s where you see the attention he’s getting.”
Off the field, Paea is known as a great kid. That has not changed this week even in the face of being offered by some of the nation’s top football programs.
“Phillip is a good kid, a humble kid and he feels truly blessed every time a school calls him or calls me,” Scaccia said. “He’s grateful and I’m really proud of how he’s carried himself through this week. There are people pulling him in different directions – he has buddies who are Notre Dame fans or Michigan fans or Michigan State fans, so they’re jabbing at him here and there, but he’s handled it really well and a lot of that comes from his family. His mom, dad and brother and sister are all great people.”
With options growing by the week, Paea and is no rush to make any decisions.
“It’s much too early and he’s not even close,” Scaccia said. “I’ve had numerous conversations with him about exploring everything he can before Signing Day. He wants to visit as many schools as he can, officially or unofficially, and go every place he can. He wants to be informed before he decides where to go. Academics will be a big part of that, and his major. He wants to go into graphic design.”
The recent culture of developing college-level players at Berrien has also left Paea with a nice network of alums who have been through the process.
“I have talked to Padla," Paea says. "He wants me to go where I feel comfortable and what will be best for me. He said wherever I go, he will support as long as I'll be 100-percent sure."
Nelson visits Spartans again
Another in-state prospect who has quickly added offers this month is University of Detroit Jesuit safety Scotty Nelson. Michigan State offered the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Nelson last week.
“My uncle went to Michigan State, so I was a State fan, but I am being completely unbiased for my personal recruiting experience,” he said. “I do not have a top list yet and I have to visit everywhere and see how the spring goes.”
Nelson has taken two visits to Michigan State in the span of two weeks.
He has additional offers from Michigan, Iowa, Penn State, Northwestern and more.
As a junior, he totaled 1,955 all-purpose yards and 21 touchdowns as a quarterback while making 55 tackles and intercepting five passes on defense to earn All-Metro Detroit honors.
Highly-recruited Indianapolis trio visiting
Indianapolis Cathedral is home to three of the Midwest’s top prospects -- junior linebacker Pete Werner, sophomore offensive tackle Emil Ekiyor and sophomore running back Markese Stepp. All three players are scheduled to visit the Spartans on Feb. 28.
None of the three have offers from Michigan State, but each is expecting one to materialize in the near future, potentially on the visit.
Werner (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) recently added offers from Notre Dame, Iowa, Tennessee, Penn State and Ole Miss to a list that already included Wisconsin, Northwestern and others. He called Michigan State a “great program” and one from which he would love to have an offer.
Ekiyor, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound prospect who has started since his freshman season, holds offers from Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky and others. He paved the way for Stepp (6-0, 191 pounds) to rush for over 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. Stepp holds offers from Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and more.
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.