Recruiting notes: Clarkston's Rocco Spindler bags a buck, pins future to Fighting Irish luck

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Clarkston two-way lineman Rocco Spindler got up Wednesday morning in western Texas and signed his National Letter of Intent as soon as he could with Notre Dame before going out and celebrate his day by shooting a deer with his father and his friends.

“I signed at 7 o’clock this morning, as soon as I could, then went out deer hunting with my dad and some of his buddies and shot a deer,” said the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Spindler — ranked No. 1 on The Detroit News Blue Chip list — while taking a break from his hunting trip near San Angelo, Texas.

Rocco Spindler, with his father Marc, holds the deer he shot Wednesday in Texas.

“It’s been an exciting day. It was awesome to sign with Notre Dame. I didn’t have that huge ceremony like a lot of the guys, but to be out here in Texas right now with my dad, and then to sign and shoot a deer, I know my grandfather is looking down on me today so it’s awesome to experience that.

“I was just blessed and humbled to be in that position, a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears and dedication went into this whole thing, and now to be a Fighting Irish football player is a blessing.”

More:'Best fit': West Bloomfield's Donovan Edwards, No. 2 running back in nation, picks Michigan

Rocco’s father is Marc Spindler, who was a defensive lineman the last time the Lions won a playoff game, their lone playoff win in the last 63 years, finishing 12-4 in 1991, then defeating the Dallas Cowboys 38-6 in a division playoff game before losing to Washington in the NFC championship game.

Spindler’s grandfather wanted his son, Marc, to play for Notre Dame but Marc played at Pittsburgh, so Rocco told his grandfather in the summer 2019 that he would play at Notre Dame just days prior to his death.

Spindler’s weeklong trip concludes with a trip home Saturday, hoping he returns in time to watch the Irish play Clemson in the ACC championship game later that afternoon.

“Just to see why Notre Dame is such a special organization as well as the football program and now they are competing in one of the biggest games in college football," Spindler said. "It’s the first time in the ACC championship in their first year in the conference, so that’s awesome to see.

“Clemson is a tough team and a great program, but I believe Notre Dame is going to take it to them.”

More:Four-star wide receiver Xavier Worthy sticks with Michigan football

Brian Kelly has guided No. 2 Notre Dame to a 43-6 record the past four years, the Irish’s best four-year run since Lou Holtz led them to a 43-7 record which started with the 12-0 national title run in 1988.

Spindler, who is listed as a four-star guard by 247Sports, helped Clarkston win the Division 1 state championship his freshman year in 2017, then earn a repeat trip to the state title game at Ford Field his sophomore year, a loss to Chippewa Valley. He got in on 33 tackles, intercepting a pass and blocking a punt while playing at a high level on the O-line to help Clarkston finish 7-1 and earn the OAA Red title this past fall.

Spindler plans to graduate early and attend Notre Dame next month.

Cass Tech has 7 sign

Thomas Wilcher said seven of his Detroit Cass Tech players signed national letters, including several with Power Five schools.

Defensive back Kalen King — No. 9 on The News Blue Chip list - and his twin brother, Kobe — a running back/linebacker who is No. 12 — signed with Penn State. Center Raheem Anderson (No. 8) signed with Michigan and tackle Terrence Enos (No. 20) with Pittsburgh.

More:Michigan loses a pair of four-star defensive recruits on Early Signing Day

Defensive tackle Doran Ray (45) and defensive end Clarence Wilson (52) each signed with Toledo. Lineman L’Cier Luter signed with North Colorado.

“It was exciting, a bit of a relief too, you know just to make it official,” said Anderson, who committed to Michigan back on April 12. “I decided on Michigan because I just felt like it was home and had the best tools to set me up for football and life after football.”

Anderson has been Wilcher’s first four-year starter on the O-line. He has been a captain since his sophomore year. He credits Cass Tech’s offensive line coaches William Sassie, Nick Moran and Paul Cochran for his development and said former Cass Tech and ex-Michigan lineman Michael Onwenu is his mentor. Onwenu is a starter for the Patriots as a rookie.

“I came here two years after Big Mike, but he came to the school a couple of times (since graduating),” said Anderson. “Our offensive line coach, Coach Sassie emphasizes the punch a lot. He always likes to use Big Mike as a prime example of using the punch on the O-line in pass protection and run blocking because Big Mike’s punch is very powerful and very deadly, and our coach said the punch is deadly and violent. I’ve asked Big Mike about advice on early enrollment, so he’s been a mentor, giving me pointers.”

More:Cornerstone recruits J.J. McCarthy, Donovan Edwards make it a banner day for Michigan

Wilcher expects another half dozen of his players to sign in February, including 6-5, 330-pound three-star tackle Charlie Sims who has offers from Bowling Green and has interest from Cincinnati and Missouri, along with two-star athlete Jacob Taylor who has offers from Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Bowling Green.

Jaylen Reed

King’s Reed heading to Penn State

Detroit King had three players sign, including four-star safety Jaylen Reed (No. 10) at Penn State.

Esean Carter, a three-star defensive tackle, signed with Toledo and three-star cornerback Rishad Hence signed with Akron.

Penn State coach James Franklin signed four players from the state of Pennsylvania and four from Michigan with Reed joining Belleville four-star linebacker Jamari Buddin (No. 7), Cass Tech four-star cornerback Kalen King (No. 9) and King’s twin brother, three-star linebacker Kobe King (12) with the Nittany Lions.

“It was very exciting, I loved it, I’m ready to move on,” Reed said. “The main reason I decided on Penn State is because of the family atmosphere, the love, the coaching staff, everything about Penn State just fits me, they’re my people, we’re the same.

“The people that I’m bringing with me, we’re going to do great things. I really didn’t bring them, but we’re coming together, guys like Kalen who is a lockdown corner, I’m very excited to play with him; Kobe is a great open-field tackler, downhill linebacker and Jamari can do it all, play linebacker and D-end.

“I love playing safety, you’re a difference-maker, when you play safety you can do multiple things. I like being close to the line, I really like doing it all.”

Penn State co-defensive coordinator and recruiter Tim Banks is a graduate of Detroit King.

“Coach Banks is my guy, a great coach and I’m ready to be coached up by him,” said Reed, who will not enroll early, planning to graduate with his classmates in June before moving on to Happy Valley.

Dellinger, Payne SEC-bound

Clarkston four-star tackle Garrett Dellinger — Spindler’s teammate — signed with defending national champion LSU while Belleville five-star defensive tackle Damon Payne (No. 2) signed with No. 1 Alabama.

Dellinger (No. 4) got up a 7 a.m. and quickly signed.

“They said we couldn’t sign until past 7 so I woke up right at 7 to make sure I was one of the first ones to sign, just extremely excited,” said Dellinger who plans to travel to Baton Rouge Jan. 7 with orientation set for the 11th.

“I can’t wait to get started, I’m headed for my workout right now, want to make sure I’m ready to go full speed when I get there.”

Payne was a dominant force on both sides of the ball for Belleville — ranked No. 1 in The News Super 20 poll — which was set to play No. 2 Cass Tech in a Division 1 regional final before the season was put on hold more than a month ago due to the pandemic.

In addition to Payne and Buddin, Belleville three-star receiver Deion Burks (No. 16) signed with Purdue.