Belleville’s Devontae Dobbs trying to pare down college contenders

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Belleville — Devontae Dobbs knows he needs to narrow the field after getting 42 scholarship offers as he closes out the final months of his junior year at Belleville High School.

Dobbs, a five-star recruit and the top-ranked offensive tackle in the nation, said he plans to have his top 10 schools by the end of May, then have his five official visits lined up for the start of his senior year.

No doubt, Dobbs’ life is a little crazy with coaches across the country from every Power Five Conference trying to persuade him to join their program.

“I get texts daily, on Twitter or direct message,” Dobbs told The Detroit News on Thursday about his communication with coaches. “Some days I’m ready for recruiting to be over. I have kind of a feel for narrowing it down, so at some point I’m going to have a top 10 or 15, I’m hoping by the end of next month.

“I plan on making my decision after I take my five official visits. I’d like to make my decision during a sweet spot during the middle of the season where I can go ahead and focus in on the school and my school work and bettering myself, but I don’t see it happening before the season. I’ve never had a school that just stood out, one school that I know I love and know I want to go to.”

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Dobbs and some of his teammates took a trip on spring break with Belleville head coach Jermain Crowell to more than a handful of colleges, including Cincinnati, Louisville, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn and Florida State.

Dobbs had been to some of the schools before, but said he had not gone to Mississippi State before and said, “One of the schools that shocked me was Mississippi State, didn’t know it looked that nice,” he said.

And, of Auburn?

“I love Auburn,” Dobbs said.

So, what was his opinion of Clemson?

“I talked to Coach (Robbie) Caldwell, the OL coach for a while, and he joked that I was scared to come down south and leave home and I told him I wasn’t,” Dobbs said. “I talked to Coach Saban when we were at Alabama and had a good conversation with him. I’m always keeping my eye on Alabama.”

Dobbs has strong relationships with Michigan State coaches and has a lot of respect for head coach Mark Dantonio, who has reeled in Dobbs’ teammates Davion Williams and junior receiver Julian Barnett. Williams, a cornerback, will be at MSU this summer.

“They really don’t pressure me, just tell me, ‘You know you’re coming to (Michigan) State,’ and I just say, ‘Yeah, yeah, all right,’” said Dobbs, joking about his teammates also recruiting him to join the Spartans. “I’ve been going up there at Michigan State since I was in the seventh or eighth grade, really the first school I was introduced to.

“I really like the stability at Michigan State. They get players and really develop them, even if they’re not four- or five-star guys. They just win games. Coach Dantonio does some unbelievable stuff with what he’s got, just a real good coach.”

And, of Michigan?

“It’s a little bit shaky, but I’ve got a good relationship with Coach Pep (Hamilton), but the last time he came (to school) was back in February,” Dobbs said.

Dobbs is recovering from shoulder surgery he had on Feb. 1, and says he’ll be 100 percent for his senior year.

“I had shoulder surgery and it’s a whole lot better after physical therapy,” Dobbs said. “It was a torn labrum, happened before the season, but you just go and do what you’ve got to do. The most pain I ever felt was like in practice so I knew what I could or couldn’t do in a game.”

Dobbs’ teammate, freshman guard/tackle Damon Payne, also went on the spring trip. Payne, who turned 15 this past weekend, had a brief talk with Saban, who offered him a scholarship.

And, to think Payne was in eighth grade at McBride Middle School a year ago with an offer from Georgia.

Yes, Payne is just 15, but physically is a man at 6-foot-3 and 278 pounds. He was a two-way starter his freshman year this past fall, playing defensive end and both right guard and right tackle.

“I was on a spring break trip that Coach takes us every year and we went to Alabama,” Payne said. “I was with my coaches and they were having a conversation and Coach Saban started talking to me and in the middle of our conversation he offered me and I was just shocked."

Payne also has offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Florida State, Iowa, Iowa State and Syracuse, in addition to Georgia and Alabama.

And, Belleville’s defense just got stronger with transfer defensive lineman Jalen Bell, who earned a spot on The Detroit News All-Detroit first-team. He had 20 tackles for lost yardage, including 10 sacks, while playing for Detroit King last fall.