Trieu: Habakkuk Baldonado’s ‘raw athleticism’ entices MSU

Allen Trieu
Special to The Detroit News
Mark Staten and Habakkuk Baldonado

Clearwater Academy International head coach Jesse Chinchar has had a busy January. Colleges have been coming to see him and calling frequently for defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado, a rare athlete with speed and coordination in a 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame.

The lineup of coaches in the halls would have been tough to predict 10 years ago when International fielded its  first football team. Chinchar was one of 13 kids on that first team, which competed in six-man football. They moved to eight-man football five years later and won 52 straight games and four state titles.

Still, despite having players with the ability to move on and play college football, little recruiting attention came their way, so the decision was made to go to full 11-man football.

Baldonado had played three years of American football in his native Italy, but decided to come stateside when playing college football became a goal of his. In this season, his first playing in the states, he recorded 30.5 sacks.

More: Trieu: New Michigan coaches already show their recruiting grit

Schools began pursuing him and offering scholarships. Michigan State’s Mark Staten was one of the coaches who found his way to the school. This weekend, Baldonado will be in East Lansing for his official visit, with an extra special guest.

“Michigan State is flying out his mom to be there with him on visit this weekend,” Chinchar said.

“It really means a lot to me,” Baldonado adds. “That’s why Michigan State is one of my top schools right now.”

Baldonado’s production this season, along with his athleticism – he can do backflips and hand-stands, and also was a dangerous weapon as a wide receiver this year – had him going from unknown prospect to Power Five recruit as Nebraska and Oregon will also have him on official visits following his return from East Lansing.

He was recently rated an 87 by 247Sports, making him one of the top 25 weak-side defensive ends in the country. With the upside Baldonado possesses and the trajectory he is on, outplaying that rating in college is a distinct possibility.

“I think the sky’s the limit,” Chinchar said. “Coaches who have seen him are blown away with his raw athleticism. His ceiling is so high and he’s one that doesn’t have that many bad habits. He is a tremendous athlete. He is a monster athletically.”

In the classroom, Baldonado carries a 3.7 grade-point average.

New offers extended at basketball game

Michigan State has continued to use basketball games as a way to get underclassmen on campus without having a massive cattle call-type of junior day.

Last weekend’s game against Michigan had several visitors who came in with Spartan offers already, but a handful left with new offers from the Spartans.

Paw Paw (Mich.) offensive lineman Karsen Barnhart, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley linebacker Marcel Lewis, and Avon (Ind.) running back Sampson James, all juniors, received offers from Michigan State during their visit.

The Spartans now sit in good position for Barnhart and Lewis, while they battle Ohio State, Michigan, and others for James.

More information

Habakkuk Baldonado profile

Karsen Barnhart profile

Marcel Lewis 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