Michigan football stars talk leaders, followers in their recruiting battles

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Peny Boone

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and high school football players from across the state are announcing their college decisions and taking visits.

Oak Park four-star offensive lineman Justin Rogers, ranked as the nation’s No. 1 guard for the 2020 class by 247Sports, announced Monday he will play at Kentucky.

Four-star defensive end Braiden McGregor of Port Huron Northern made his choice of Michigan on Friday night. , with Michigan and Notre Dame atop his list.

Rashawn Williams, a four-star receiver for Detroit King, announced a few weeks ago he will play for Indiana. And East Kentwood three-star offensive lineman Dallas Fincher committed to Michigan State this past winter, deciding to play for the same college his father, Mark played at as a tackle in the mid-1980s for George Perles.

But what about the other premier 2020 players in the state – top recruits such as Oak Park athlete Enzo Jennings, West Bloomfield safety Makari Paige, Oak Park receiver Maliq Carr, Muskegon athlete Cameron Martinez, Detroit King running back Peny Boone and Southfield A&T quarterback Anthony Romphf?

In addition, Clarkston linemen Garrett Dellinger and Rocco Spindler, and Belleville lineman Damon Payne, are among the nation’s best, but all will be entering their junior seasons.

Here’s an update on the recruitments of some of Michigan’s best.

Maliq Carr (5)

Busy spring for Carr

Maliq Carr is arguably the top multi-sport athlete for the 2020 class, playing in multiple national AAU basketball tournaments for The Family while taking official visits.

Carr, 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, has played in tournaments in Atlanta and Indiana while taking an official visit to Texas A&M earlier this month. He left knowing he wasn’t going to play at A&M since the coaching staff wanted him as a tight end.

“I’m not playing tight end in college,” Carr said. “I’m a wide receiver, pattern my game after Calvin Johnson. I’m a difference maker, could make the difference for Michigan against Ohio State.”

Carr isn’t short on confidence, a reason multiple national powers are making hard runs at him, including Georgia, Auburn and LSU. He’s planning to take an official visit to Georgia June 14-16. Michigan and Purdue are also in Carr’s final five. He will take an official visit to Purdue Sept. 14. He plans to announce his decision on Oct. 11, his birthday.

Carr has built a relationship with new Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis.

“Michigan is definitely in my top five,” Carr said. “It’s a great school – only have had one problem in the last few years and that’s Ohio State and it’s a big deal. But then again it isn’t, because I’m pretty sure if I went there nobody would be able to check me.

“He’s (Gattis) a great coach, built great receivers. I mean, you’ve seen Jerry Jeudy.”

Gattis was co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach at Alabama last season when Jeudy had 68 receptions for 1,315 yards and 14 TDs.

Carr said Michigan and Purdue have shown interest in him to play football and basketball.

Cameron Martinez

OSU ‘stands out’ for Martinez

Like Carr, Cameron Martinez also likes Michigan after building a relationship with Gattis.

Martinez had an outstanding junior season at Muskegon to earn a spot on The News Dream Team as an athlete.

Martinez took over at quarterback after La’Darius Jefferson moved to on Michigan State. Martinez rushed for 2,527 yards and 38 TDs, including a modern-day school-record 352 yards (23 carries) and six TDs in a 55-35 win over rival Muskegon Mona Shores. He also rushed for 211 yards in a Division 3 state title game loss to Detroit King, which ended Muskegon’s 27-game winning streak.

Martinez took an official visit to Northwestern last week, saying coach Pat Fitzgerald was recruiting him as a slot receiver. Northwestern’s new facilities are complete, and the practice facility overlooks Lake Michigan.

Martinez also has an official visit set for Ohio State on June 21-23. The Buckeyes are recruiting him as a slot/safety.

“It’s a big-time program that has a great tradition of winning and obviously they put guys in the league every year,” said Martinez of Ohio State. “Coach (Jeff) Hafley (co-defensive coordinator/secondary) got up there in February, came from the 49ers and I’m close to him. Our relationship is good and that’s one of the reasons Ohio State stands out to me.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Gattis took a trip to watch Martinez play basketball for Muskegon this winter. Martinez traveled to Ann Arbor to visit with Gattis since that time.

“Gattis is my guy, that’s one of the reasons why Michigan is so high on my list,” Martinez said. “I had a chance to visit up there in March and just connected with Coach Gattis and we watched film and just talked a lot about ball. Everything he says sounds convincing. He has had a lot of success everywhere he’s been and that’s just the type of coach you’d want to play for.”

Gattis wants Martinez to play in the slot.

Martinez also plans to take trips this summer to Penn State, Kentucky and Notre Dame. Michigan State is also in the mix. Martinez and Muskegon will be at MSU for a 7-on-7 competition June 13. He hopes to make a decision by the end of July or early August before the season starts.

Anthony Romphf

Blue and Green

Three-star quarterback Anthony Romphf of Southfield A&T also likes Michigan, as well as Michigan State.

“I like Michigan, was really excited when Coach Harbaugh offered me himself,” Romphf said. “Michigan State offered me three weeks ago and Michigan State is kind of a hometown team for me because I’m from Lansing. I grew up being a Spartan and Coach Dantonio talked to me on the phone and told me he couldn’t wait for me to take my official visit, and that he’d take my commitment any time, so to get the offers from both of those schools was very exciting.”

Romphf will visit Florida on June 9 and MSU on June 23.

Makari Paige (23)

Kentucky connection

Kentucky assistant coach Steve Clinkscale has been able to come into the state and build strong relationships with coaches and players, a big reason Oak Park four-star lineman Marquan McCall (2018 class) went to Kentucky and why Justin Rogers committed to the Wildcats.

Former Detroit Cass Tech linebacker Deandre Square made the All-SEC freshmen team this past fall for Kentucky.

And Kentucky is in the running for multiple other top players, including Oak Park four-star athlete Enzo Jennings, West Bloomfield four-star safety Makari Paige, Martinez and physical Detroit King running back Peny Boone.

Jennings holds 30 offers, saying, “Penn State, Kentucky and Notre Dame, they are probably my hard three right now.”

Paige has 21 offers.

“I haven’t narrowed down my list yet, but I like Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, Ohio State and Kentucky,” said the 6-3, 190-pound Paige, who has put on 12 pounds since last season. “I like the coaching staff at Michigan; they said how I’m a top priority and how bad they want me, which is cool.

“Ohio State and Notre Dame are very good programs and they both do a great job of developing their players. I have a good relationship with the Ohio State coaches and Notre Dame is really prestigious with high academics.”

Kentucky is still in the mix for Paige.

“I was on the phone yesterday with Justin (Rogers) and talked about things,” Paige said. “Coach Clink has done a great job of recruiting. He offered me my sophomore year. He puts a lot of effort into it.”

Boone is now 6-2 and 230 pounds with 4.5 speed.

“I’m open to all schools right now," Boone said. "I’ve always watched Michigan and Michigan State. Tennessee and Kentucky are some big schools too. Missouri recently offered me and Pittsburgh is about to give me an offer.”

Looking ahead

Garrett Dellinger and Rocco Spindler have started on Clarkston’s offensive line since their freshman seasons. They helped the Wolves to the Division 1 state championship as freshmen in 2017, then to a state title game appearance – loss to Chippewa Valley – last fall.

Dellinger is the nation’s No. 1 offensive tackle for 2021, according to 247Sports. Spindler, the son of former Lions defensive lineman Marc Spindler, is the nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle for 2021.

Dellinger and Spindler have both had shoulder surgery since last season and both are expected to be 100 percent for their junior seasons. Dellinger actually missed the majority of Clarkston’s postseason run due to the injuries.

“The last two weeks have been a parade,” said Clarkston coach Kurt Richardson of Dellinger’s and Spindler’s recruiting. “They basically have had everybody in here – Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, LSU, Alabama, Purdue, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Penn State. Some of them have been through before, but LSU and Alabama haven’t been in before. It’s been interesting.

“They haven’t been going to camps because they’ve both had shoulder surgery over the winter and both have been recuperating. They’ll be fine for the fall. They are handling things really well. I couldn’t be prouder of them. I see them both playing on offense in college.”

Damon Payne (gray shirt)

‘I like everybody’

Another 2021 prospect, Belleville four-star two-way lineman Damon Payne, has more than 20 offers; his first was from Georgia when he was in eighth grade. Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State and Kentucky are also on his list.

“I haven’t narrowed my list,” said Payne, who is ranked the No. 5 defensive tackle for 2021 by 247Sports. “I like everybody and everybody likes me. I like playing on the defensive line the most – less restrictions where I can just let loose and go.”

Belleville coach Jermain Crowell plans on using the 6-3, 290-pound Payne at left tackle, on the defensive line, and also long snapper and tight end. Payne has gotten much stronger, now benching 350 pounds and squatting 460.

“He’s never coming off the field, will even play tight end since he has such a great skill set,” said Crowell of Payne, whose teammate, Belleville cornerback Andre Seldon, committed to Michigan during his junior year.

Detroit News top players

Here is an early look at The Detroit News’ top 25 high school football players in the state for the 2020 season. Commitments, or number of offers, are in parentheses.

1. Justin Rogers, 6-3, 290, Sr., OT/DT, Oak Park (Kentucky)

2. Braiden McGregor, 6-5, 250, Sr., DE, Port Huron Northern (36 offers)

3. Enzo Jennings, 6-1, 190, Sr., ATH, Oak Park (30 offers)

4. Garrett Dellinger, 6-6, 265, Jr., OT/DT, Clarkston (10 offers)

5. Makari Paige, 6-3, 190, Sr., S, West Bloomfield (21 offers)

6. Rocco Spindler, 6-5, 255, Jr., OT/DT, Clarkston (13 offers)

7. Damon Payne, 6-3, 290, Jr., OT/DT, Belleville (22 offers)

8. Cameron Martinez, 5-11, 180, Sr., ATH, Muskegon (28 offers)

9. Rayshawn Williams, 6-1, 185, Sr., WR, Detroit King (Indiana)

10. Maliq Carr, 6-4, 230, Sr., WR, Oak Park (29 offers)

11. Andre Seldon, 5-9, 160, Sr., CB, Belleville (Michigan)

12. Peny Boone, 6-2, 225, Sr., RB, Detroit King (30 offers)

13. Grant Toutant, 6-6, 315, Sr., OT, Warren De La Salle (Penn State)

14. Bryce Mostella, 6-6, 235, Sr., DE, East Kentwood (21 offers)

15. Cornell Wheeler, 6-1, 220, Sr., LB, West Bloomfield (Michigan)

16. Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen, 6-1, 180, Sr., WR, Walled Lake Western (Northwestern)

17. Deondre Buford, 6-5, 265, Sr., OT, Detroit King (30 offers)

18. Earnest Sanders, 6-2, 195, Sr., WR, Flint Beecher (17 offers)

19. Ian Stewart, 6-3, 200, Sr., WR, Gibraltar Carlson (Michigan State)

20. Jordan Turner, 6-3, 220, Sr., LB, Farmington (22 offers)

21. Anthony Romphf, 6-0, 180, Sr., QB, Southfield A&T (27 offers)

22. Dallas Fincher, 6-4, 280, Sr., G/T, East Kentwood (Michigan State)

23. Devell Washington, 6-4, 215, Sr., WR, Bay City Central (West Virginia)

24. Josh Priebe, 6-5, 280, Sr., G/T, Edwardsburg (Northwestern)

25. Donovan Edwards, 5-11, 190, Jr., RB, West Bloomfield (30 offers)