Michigan State QB recruit Messiah deWeaver on front line of Ohio State rivalry

Michigan State QB recruit Messiah deWeaver on front line of Ohio State rivalry

Super 25

Michigan State QB recruit Messiah deWeaver on front line of Ohio State rivalry

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Messiah DeWeaver will lead Wayne (Huber Heights, Ohio) in the Ohio state playoffs. (Photo: Wayne High Football).

Messiah DeWeaver will lead Wayne (Huber Heights, Ohio) in the Ohio state playoffs. (Photo: Wayne High Football).

EAST LANSING, Mich. – When Messiah deWeaver walks out of the tunnel at Welcome Stadium on Saturday in Dayton, Ohio, he knows he’ll hear it from someone.

The Michigan State-Ohio State game will be ending about the time deWeaver, MSU’s quarterback commitment for 2016, leads 12-0 Huber Heights Wayne against 11-1 Hilliard Davidson in a 7 p.m. Ohio Division I regional semifinal. Most of the folks who will pull for him Saturday night will be on the other end of the emotional rooting Saturday afternoon.

Wayne is ranked No. 14 in this week’s Super 25.

“If we win,” deWeaver said of a Spartans’ upset at Ohio Stadium, “someone will be screaming at me, mad about it. I’ve got a couple Michigan State fans in my school, so hopefully one of them will give me good news. I know someone will say something when I walk out.”

DeWeaver already has plans to watch as much of the beginning of the 3:30 p.m. MSU game as possible from the team meeting room at Wayne High, before the 15-mile bus ride to the University of Dayton. In his mind, as an Ohio kid who wants to compete for national championships with the Spartans, they don’t get bigger than this.

“It’s huge, there’s so much on the line,” said deWeaver, who has passed for more than 2,600 yards this season for the school that produced OSU star Braxton Miller and is 18th in Ohio high school history with 87 career touchdown passes. “Not only for the (current MSU) team but recruiting-wise, too. Everyone sees Michigan State is getting to be on a national level now. Three (ESPN) ‘GameDays’ in one year, I’ve never seen that before. We’re becoming an elite program and the spotlight is on, and this is an opportunity to make a statement.”

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A loss to No. 2 OSU (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) would end Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff hopes for the No. 9 Spartans (9-1, 5-1), but it wouldn’t undo the long-term ascent under coach Mark Dantonio that has made more prospects like deWeaver notice. MSU still could finish with 11 wins for the fifth time in six years and a prominent postseason win to add to the program’s four straight and consecutive top-five finishes.

MSU’s 2016 recruiting class is hovering around the top 10 and likely will be the highest ranked of Dantonio’s tenure.

But “Reach Higher” is Dantonio’s mantra for this season, and Saturday is the opportunity to do so. For all of MSU’s success, it is up against the defending national champion, a program under Urban Meyer that has won 23 straight games and 30 straight Big Ten regular-season games — a national record for a conference winning streak.

Meyer has lost to one Big Ten team in his four-season stint at Ohio State, and that was MSU’s 34-24 upset in the 2013 Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. These teams have split the past four meetings, MSU’s 2011 win at Ohio State coming the season before Meyer arrived.

“It’s just fun to be able to have a back-and-forth with such a great program as Ohio State,” MSU senior linebacker Darien Harris said.

The 2013 win killed Ohio State’s national title hopes. And it sent MSU to a Rose Bowl win over Stanford and final No. 3 ranking.

DeWeaver was watching it on TV with good friend Vayante Copeland. Copeland was set to join the Spartans the following fall as a cornerback out of Dayton Thurgood Marshall, while deWeaver was a few months away from committing to Michigan — a commitment he dropped when coach Brady Hoke was fired.

Though deWeaver was a U-M lean at the time, he watched MSU that night and told Copeland: “They’ve got something special going on there.”

And that’s how games like this can matter, especially in a state that has been so important for MSU as a recruiting ground. Seven of MSU’s 24 expected Saturday starters are Ohioans, and there are several other contributing reserves from Ohio.

As usual, Dantonio downplayed the impact of one game on a process that involves countless factors and years of building relationships. But this one game will determine the trajectory of this MSU season, and feed or defy the perception that it’s Ohio State and everyone else in the Big Ten.

“There’s a lot more guys out there that are picking MSU over Ohio State or over other big schools,” said deWeaver, who has signed his financial aid papers and will enroll at MSU on Jan. 11. “And it’s gonna be like that more and more as we keep winning.”

That level of prospect brings increased competition, and three former MSU 2016 verbal commitments (running back Abdul Adams, defensive tackle Naquan Jones, athlete Jonah Morris) and one from 2017 (receiver Hunter Rison) recently reopened their recruitments.

Morris, of Akron, Ohio, picked MSU over Notre Dame and others but might be holding out for an Ohio State offer. MSU is in hot pursuit of former Ohio State commitment George Hill, a close friend and high school teammate of Scott. And MSU, OSU and Notre Dame are finalists for coveted Ann Arbor Skyline linebacker Daelin Hayes.

DeWeaver, the unofficial ringleader of the 2016 class, said the lost commitments had different reasons for moving on. He has been in touch with everyone else.

“I know everybody else is solid, and five of us are coming early,” he said. “And we’re in on a couple guys like George Hill and Daelin Hayes. We’re gonna be fine.”

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