Hunter Rison took off and ran a fade route on Saturday at The Opening Regional in Chicago. The defensive back, sensing that was the route, had good inside position. The ball was delivered the only place it could, to the backside shoulder, and Rison adjusted and made the catch.
It looked like they had done it 1,000 times before. It is a route NFL quarterbacks and receivers practice meticulously, but Rocky Lombardi and Rison had not worked together before. In fact, this was the first time the two Michigan State commits had thrown together. Several reps later, when Rison broke on an out route and Lombardi fired it to the spot as he cut, it seemed clear these future teammates already had something of a rapport.
“I got to throw with (Hunter),” Lombardi said. “It was good to meet him, good to see him out there and good to make that connection.”
Lombardi impressed even when he wasn’t throwing to Rison. He was named by Scout as one of the top 10 offensive performers in attendance after flashing the arm strength to throw through the Chicago wind, after measuring over 6-foot-3 and a sturdy 215 pounds.
Several days after that performance, he received the news that he was being invited to Los Angeles for the Elite 11 Finals, to take place June 3-5.
“It’s very cool to be selected, especially being from Iowa and being the first one in 16 years,” he said. “This is also something I wanted to do since I was a kid, so it’s cool to get an opportunity to play with these other quarterbacks and build a relationship with all the other great quarterbacks who are going to top programs.”
The Spartans are no strangers to having their quarterback commits compete in the Elite 11, going back to Jeff Smoker being selected for the very first, in 1999. Since then, Drew Stanton, Keith Nichol, Andrew Maxwell, Joe Boisture and most recently Messiah DeWeaver participated before donning the Green and White in college.
Lombardi’s selection was not necessarily anticipated going into the event, but his performance on that day left little doubt he deserved the honor.
“The first thing that really stood out was his physical build,” Scout’s Dave Berk said. “Once out of the testing phase, he had the wind in his face and had no problem cutting through it. While other quarterbacks struggled with it, he showed little signs he would have issues if faced with poor weather in a game situation.”
If Lombardi does well in Los Angeles, he could be invited to The Opening Finals, which take place in July at NIKE’s headquarters in Oregon. Unless he receives a late invite, Lombardi will not have Rison to throw to at that event, but they will have plenty of time to complete many passes together over the next several years at Michigan State.
Judging from the quick sample in Chicago, they’re already off to a fine start.
“He’s a phenomenal receiver,” Lombardi says, “very quick and has the ability to get open in any situation. He’s a great receiver and we’re very lucky to have him.”
Offered 2018 defensive end likes Spartans
Michigan State identified Greg Emerson early and offered before many schools had even made contact, let alone offered.
That will go a long way in the Spartans’ chances to land the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Jackson (Tenn.) North Side defensive end. Since that offer, he has received additional offers from Kentucky, Texas A&M, Memphis and Jackson State. He will camp at Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Southern Miss and Tennessee this summer, and it is likely that at least some, if not all of those programs, will also look to add a prospect of Emerson’s size and ability.
Even if that happens, Michigan State’s early offer and his experience with visiting them for the spring game, will have the Green and White as a top candidate on his list.
"Michigan State is an amazing school and it meant a lot to me when I heard Coach Dantonio offered me,” he said. “I loved everyone on the coaching staff. They made me feel like family."
Emerson also played tight end as a sophomore last season but is being recruited more on the defensive side of the ball. He reports a 4.7 time in the 40.
Spartans offer 2018 quarterback
Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman Dorian Thompson-Robinson is one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2018 class. He plays behind five-star Tate Martell, considered by some to be the top quarterback prospect in the country, but he has shown the arm talent and athleticism to be a big-time prospect himself.
Thompson-Robinson (6-2, 195 pounds) visited East Lansing in the spring and on Tuesday, Spartans quarterback coach Brad Salem stopped at Bishop Gorman and extended a scholarship offer his way.
The Spartans now join Colorado, Hawaii, UNLV, Missouri and Colorado State on his offer list, but many other programs are watching him closely and recruiting him.
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.