- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In the last few months, 2015 outside linebacker Ricky DeBerry (Richmond, Va./St. Christopher’s) has gone from being a little-known prospect to a player with 20-plus offers.
On Saturday, DeBerry and his parents took in whirlwind visits to Michigan and Michigan State. The Wolverines, while they didn’t offer, impressed DeBerry greatly. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, on the other hand, did offer the linebacker right before the Spartans’ spring game.
The multiple-schools-in-one-day visit might become a regularity in DeBerry’s life as he tries to visit every school that has offered him at some point in the next six months.
“You really can’t make a decision until you actually go up to the university, check out the campus, meet the coaching staffs, learn about the academics,” DeBerry said. “You really can’t make an informed decision [without that].”
DeBerry had the chance to sit down the Michigan coaching staff while in Ann Arbor. Before his trip he had really only talked with linebacker coach Roy Manning, so he enjoyed getting the opportunity to get to know Brady Hoke, whom he described as “down to earth.”
One aspect that really impressed DeBerry’s father, Ricky DeBerry Sr., was how focused on academics the Michigan coaching staff was.
“They talked a lot about education and career development,” DeBerry Sr. said. “They talked about what happens when your football career comes to an end. ... We always tell him, ‘You’re going to be a man long after you’re a football player.’ ”
The linebacker said that Hoke emphasized his coaching philosophy and how much he wants to help the young men in his football program in all aspects of life.
DeBerry wasn’t surprised by that side of Hoke. DeBerry plays in the same conference as 2014 Michigan quarterback commit Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate School), and DeBerry was excited to get to know the coach who garnered a commitment from Speight.
Speight pointed out DeBerry as a young defensive player who has stood out to him over the last two years in Virginia football.
“He anticipates where the ball will be extremely well and leads his defense,” Speight said. “He lives to hit people.”
DeBerry was pleased that a competitor would say such nice words about him, but he said Speight got it right.
“My dad and I watch college football games, NFL games and we break down a play before it happens,” DeBerry said. “He’ll ask me where the ball is going -- sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong. But I’m a student of the game and football is a contact sport and I love contact. That’s why I stopped playing basketball.”
But the real question is: Has DeBerry ever taken down the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Speight?
“He has tried,” Speight said.
But DeBerry sang a different tune in regard to his friend.
“I’ve got him a couple times,” DeBerry said. “But he’s a big guy … you can’t put a soft hit on him, you’ve got to catch him off guard.”