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Receiver Corley making mark early for Spartans

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
It’s been obvious from the outset, Michigan State coaches say, Donnie Corley is not your ordinary freshman.

East Lansing — Michigan State wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel did not hesitate.

When he was asked after practice Tuesday where freshman Donnie Corley fits in to the offense, he cut the question short.

“Donnie’s playing,” Samuel said. “People will have to get used to seeing a lot of him.”

That might surprise some, considering the former Detroit King standout is three weeks into his first practices as a college player. But after last Friday’s scrimmage, the Spartans coaches came away happy Corley committed to Michigan State just before enrolling in January.

“Donnie Corley had been really exceptional,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “He makes plays with his feet. He comes to compete. He leads a lot of drills. He’s an exceptional athlete and can really run, got size and great eye-hand coordination and he’s a quick learner.”

It’s been obvious from the outset, the coaches say, Corley is not your ordinary freshman.

He was one of the top recruits in the nation when he chose Michigan State over the likes of Michigan and Ohio State, and wasted little time making the transition to college by enrolling early.

Now, he’s making a name for himself at a position that has lost its share of playmakers the past two seasons.

“I’ve got to give a lot of kudos to the coaches at King,” Samuel said. “He’s ready. He understands defenses, understands schemes. He played defensive back in high school, so he understands what a DB is trying to do. It’s really fun to see all that come together.”

Corley is going through spring practice with fellow true freshman Cam Chambers, while Justin Layne and Trishton Jackson will arrive in the fall. Each will have a shot to play right away, but it’s clear Corley is the closest to a sure thing at this point.

It’s been a whirlwind few months for Corley, who said he’s adjusting to college life.

“The biggest transition for me is the time management part,” Corley said. “Having to be somewhere every second of your day. You’ve got to plan out your day the night before and make your move.

“The main thing is getting the classes in and getting a jump on the grades and stuff. But learning the playbook and getting the playbook down will help me out a lot.”

Gaining knowledge of Michigan State’s offense can be tough for a young player, but Samuel said there have been no issues for Corley.

“He has an understanding the average wide receiver coming in doesn’t in regards to how the defenses are set up and techniques of corners,” Samuel said. “His maturity ... it’s like he’s a junior. The more he gets experience in this offense, every rep that he takes he just soaks up information. He’s soaking up information and the ability to apply it and the skill set to take advantage of things, he’s doing it in leaps and bounds. That’s where I think people are saying ‘exceptional.’ “

As well as Corley is playing, there’s a chance he could see some time on defense, as well. He said Tuesday was the first time he did anything at cornerback during practice, and Samuel is glad that, for now, the focus for Corley is on offense.

His production will be necessary with senior R.J. Shelton as the only returning receiver with significant experience.

“We’ve got plenty of guys,” Samuel said. “R.J, of course, and Monty Madaris is playing really well. Felton Davis is starting to play fast, too, coming off a hand injury. … and Darrell Stewart is gonna make plays.”

And don’t count out any of the other freshmen.

But none are at the point Corley is right now.

“Both those guys I think will play for us next year,” Dantonio said of Corley and Chambers. “But I would say now that it’s Donnie Corley that will step up first, probably.”