Trieu: MSU cashing in on relationships with Miami players

Allen Trieu
Special to The Detroit News
Randy Russell

Michigan State has recruited the southeast and the state of Florida with success under Mark Dantonio. The Spartans have built a relationship at one of the top programs in talent-rich Miami Carol City High School in recent years.

Last year, the Spartans recruited Naytron Culpepper and Deandre Wilder, both from Carol City. On Friday a group of prospects from the school, along with players from nearby Dr. Krop in Miami, visited Michigan State.

One of the top recruits in that group was safety Randy Russell, a Miami Hurricanes commit who left East Lansing with an offer from the Spartans. While it may seem unlikely for a Big Ten school to flip a Miami kid committed to Miami, both Russell and his coaches say the Spartans made an impression.

"They have a lot of tradition," the Miami Hurricanes commit said. "They're one of the most prestigious schools in the Big Ten and it's good to receive an offer from them."

Despite his commitment, Russell has continued to field interest from other programs like Michigan State looking to get him to reconsider. At the moment, he remains open to overtures from other schools while remaining verbally committed to the Hurricanes.

"I'm pretty much planning everything out still, but I like the attention I'm getting from (Michigan State)."

Marcus Thomas, who coached Russell at Carol City, went on the visit with the entire crew. Having grown up in Miami, played high school football in Miami and left to go to the Big Ten for college at Illinois, he knows the value of allowing the kids to see schools in different parts of the country.

“The thing with Randy is, he’s committed right now, of course,” Thomas said. “Like I said, they appreciate the love, the genuine respect Michigan State showed knowing he’s committed. He felt like they respect him and his decision, but they would pursue him if he is interested.

“These guys are so open to exploring and traveling. It doesn’t matter if they need to go away for school at all; they don’t have a problem with going out of state at all.”

On his visit, Russell was able to meet the MSU coaches and speak with them. In particular, he spent a good amount of time with his position coach, Harlon Barnett.

"They like the way I play because I play physical,” Russell said. “(Barnett) really loves how I play. They're recruiting me as a safety."

Trieu: MSU target Isaia has family ties to Spartans

For those on the trip who do not have the big-time offers yet, the visit was even more eye-opening. Prospects like wide receiver Phenol Williams, linebacker Francky Jean-Louis, defensive backs Edwin Reed, Timothy Williams and Chris Fuzume, and 6-foot-6 sophomore offensive tackle Christopher Manzini are all kids Thomas believes are on the verge of seeing their recruitments pick up.

“Basically for a lot of those guys, it was their first time seeing a campus with that prestige,” Thomas said. “A lot of the guys said it was one of the best trips they had. Chris Manzini and Edwin Reed, they said they loved the locker rooms. They liked how friendly the staff was after practice too because they didn’t big-time any kids. Some of these guys are more under-the-radar and they talked to them all the same and it motivated them.”

On Tuesday, these players stayed after practice with Thomas with the thought that the Spartans would be coming their way soon.

“After school, they were back to work,” Thomas said. “Coach (Mark) Snyder from Michigan State said he is definitely coming down during spring recruiting and that is a big motivating factor for the kids.”

Top recruits continue to visit MSU

Michigan State will host four-star wide receiver Kamryn Babb on Friday. The St. Louis Christian Brothers College star visited the Spartans last summer after being offered a scholarship. Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan are among his other offers.

He is part of a week where MSU has had many top visitors on campus for practice. Detroit Cass Tech safety / linebacker DeAndre Square, Traverse City West offensive tackle Ryan Hayes and Hapeville (Ga.) Charter cornerback Christopher Smith are all four-star recruits who visited this week.

Offensive tackle in 2019 class to visit and camp

Crystal Lake (Ill.) South offensive tackle Trevor Keegan already holds Big Ten scholarship offers from Northwestern and Minnesota and says he will camp at Michigan State this summer in hopes of adding one more.

Prior to that camp trip, he also plans to visit the Spartans on Saturday for a spring practice visit.

Keegan (6-5, 255 pounds) has been a varsity starter since his freshman season.

More information

Randy Russell profile

Christopher Smith profile

Kamryn Babb profile

Allen Trieu began covering the state of Michigan for 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