State's premier incoming senior football players weigh recruiting offers, await fall's whistle

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Rocco Spindler had a plan all set in place, announce his top five schools, then set up his official visits and make an announcement next month on where he was going to play his college football.

Spindler, a four-star offensive lineman, helped Clarkston win the Division 1 state championship his freshman year, then make a return trip to the state title game as a sophomore in a heartbreaking 31-30 loss to Chippewa Valley.

Rocco Spindler

Spindler wanted his decision out of the way, so he could concentrate on his senior year, especially since Clarkston missed the state playoffs for the first time since 2002 last year.

“I was about to release my top five and then that got canceled due to this (COVID-19 pandemic) and I had to cancel all of my official visits, so I decided to postpone releasing my top five and then try to reschedule the five officials when the smoke clears,” Spindler said in a phone interview Friday morning.

So, when was Spindler’s official visits scheduled for?

“They were all going to be in April and May and my commitment day was set for May 15,” Spindler said. “It’s just frustrating because I was really looking forward to it and everything. There was a lot of time and energy that went into it on both sides, coaches and I and especially my mother, but it happens. It’s adversity and football has taught me a lot both on and off the field, when you have adversity it’s just another challenge, another brick wall and you can’t go around it you have to go through it, just another thing you have to overcome.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a roadblock on Spindler’s plans, but he is still upbeat and working out to be ready for things when times change for the good.

“It’s pretty crazy right now, I have a full-size weight room in my basement and I really have just been trying to be a champion every day,” said Rocco, son of former NFL defensive tackle Marc Spindler, who helped the Lions to their only playoff victory (1991 over the Cowboys) in the last 62 years.

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No doubt, it’s also been crazy with the amount of contact Spindler has had from college coaches, a reason he was looking forward to narrowing his field to five.

Spindler narrowed his list from more than two dozen schools to 10 a month ago, including Michigan, Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Notre Dame and Penn State.

“It’s crazy right now, I receive between 80 to 100 texts and calls a day,” Spindler said. “I was hoping to cut it down when I narrowed it … I was talking it over with my parents and we’re not sure how the NCAA is going to play this out because they just extended their dead period to May 31st so that doesn’t help us either, but we can’t go anywhere with this (coronavirus).

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"When the smoke clears hopefully the NCAA allows us to take (official visits) and get on campus the whole summer, but if they don’t I’ll probably take all my officials during the season.”

One thing is for certain, he won’t be following his father’s footsteps to Pittsburgh where the elder Spinder went after being named USA Today High School Defensive Player of the Year in 1986.

The younger Spindler loves Michigan, and he is also happy to have his name mentioned with premier programs such as Ohio State, LSU and Alabama.

“Michigan has been on me since I was a freshman and I’ve really built strong relationships with the coaches,” Spindler said. “Coach Harbaugh is an amazing coach and I definitely see some potential there. I see them winning the Big Ten shortly. They just have to fix a few things and I think it will happen. They have the facilities. They have the players. They have the coaching and now they just have to execute the plan and I know eventually they will.

“Matt Dudek is one of the best recruiters out there. He’s one heck of a guy, almost like a friend and he really truly loves me. They (Michigan staff) said I’m the top guy in the state, one of the top offensive linemen in the country and they’ve told me, ‘We know you’re versatile and can play any position,’ so they really want to get me on their team.

“I love Coach Day at Ohio State and I’m a big fan of us his and I see them winning the national championship shortly. It’s a brotherhood there and everyone is on the same plan and that’s why they are in my top 10. It’s really humbling, a lot of hard work and dedication went into it and it’s a dream position to be, something special to have the opportunity to play anywhere you want.”

Oak Park offensive lineman Rayshaun Benny

Oak Park's Rayshaun Benny is in a similar position. 

The four-star defensive lineman has more than three dozen offers, including from Michigan, LSU, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oregon and Auburn.

“Really, it’s just slowing things down and pushing things back, making it just a waiting game to see what I can do,” the 6-foot-5, 275-pound lineman said. “You just have to wait it out and see when things get back to normal. I haven’t taken my SAT yet, was supposed to take mine on the 13th (of April). They have to update us on when we can take it, hopefully, I’ll get a chance in June.

“Right now, it’s all about working out, doing school work, playing games, sleep and repeat. I’d rather be in school, interacting with people so I can talk because I need instruction, I might need help on stuff and there’s nobody to ask so I don’t like it.”

Benny has narrowed his field to 14 and wants to  narrow it to eight by next month.

“I like Ohio State, Penn State, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, LSU, a couple of other schools,” Bennby said.

Benny’s teammates Justin Rogers and Marquan McCall will be playing at Kentucky this fall, but  said the Wildcats are on his list due to assistant coach Steve Clinkscale.

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“Coach Clink and I are tight, he’s the DB coach there, been there for a long time,” Benny said.

Michigan and Michigan State are on Benny's list, too.

“I like the coaches at Michigan, also the academics and everything, it’s my hometown team so who wouldn’t want to play for your hometown,” Benny said.

Benny spoke with new Spartans coach Mel Tucker and was immediately impressed.

“I was just about to write them off when Coach Dantonio was there, didn’t like the vibe and everything," he said. "I went up there once when Coach Tucker was there, when they played Ohio State in a basketball game, and I liked the energy. Everybody seemed like they wanted to be there, and it just felt like more of a family versus it’s a job.”

Livonia Franklin three-star tackle Kyle Fugedi is thrilled he got his recruiting process over, committing to Mid-American Conference Champion Miami on March 12, the same day the state athletic association its winter sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I made my decision because it was a place I wanted to go to and it checked all the boxes," Fugedi said. "The coaches are amazing, the campus and education and football in general, it’s a great school.

“I’m just glad that I had the chance to make the decision now, rather than later, and to have that opportunity to really go to the school I wanted to, it’s a big relief. Coach (Chuck) Martin is awesome, a great guy and really good coach, can’t wait to play for him.”

Fugedi also played high school hockey at Franklin as a 6-foot-6, 280-pound defenseman.

“Hockey helped me for football, especially with the footwork, just with balance and the movement of my feet,” he said.

Caleb Tiernan

Four-star tackle Caleb Tiernan of Detroit Country Day also made his college choice, picking Northwestern on March 7 over such schools as Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue and MSU.

Meanwhile, Warren Mott three-star defensive end Tyson Watson is in the same situation as Spindler and Benny.

“It’s crazy since I was supposed to take so many visits this month,” said Watson who is weighing 17 offers with Minnesota, Tennessee and Syracuse among them. “I really wanted to get my recruiting done and commit before the season, so it was disappointing and frustrating, but hopefully once this is done I can get going with it.”

Watson took a visit to Tennessee on March 8.

“We went to a basketball game, got a chance to talk to coaches, took a visit of the campus and did a photoshoot, just had a great time,” Watson said.