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Five things to watch this weekend

10/13/2011

ESPNU 150 RB Shell announcing; Hopewell looks to right ship

Aliquippa (Pa.) Hopewell running back Rushel Shell, No. 24 in the ESPNU 150, was set to make his announcement during Friday’s game against Monaca (Pa.) Central Valley (Monaca, Pa.) at 6 p.m. on ESPNU, but now he will do it during a ceremony at the school that morning. It’s probably for the best that Shell announces before, as Hopewell has lost its last two games after a 4-0 start and doesn’t need an extra distraction.

With Shell returning from a concussion this week, Central Valley will have its hands full with Hopewell’s backfield with Shell and dual-threat quarterback Nolan Harmotto.

Central Valley has a potent running game of its own, though. Valley rushed for more than 300 yards last week against a very strong Montour team. Valley is in first place in the WPIAL’s Parkway Conference, which Hopewell also resides in, and is arguably the strongest AAA team in Western Pennsylvania.

Big week for Michigan State

Michigan State has beaten rival Michigan three straight times, but that the storyline has been a little buried this week with undefeated Michigan surging toward the top 10 in the polls.

When it comes to recruiting, though, none of those three wins might be bigger than one this coming Saturday if the Spartans could pull out another victory against the Wolverines.

After last year’s co-Big Ten championship, the Spartans had to believe they would see a bigger boost in recruiting, especially in-state. But new Wolverines coach Brady Hoke has locked down most of the state’s top talent and has the No. 5 recruiting class in the country at the moment.

Hoke and Michigan, with 23 commitments, have all the momentum on the recruiting trail.

That could change this weekend, though, as Michigan State hosts a pair of top four-star prospects. Cincinnati Taft ESPNU 150 defensive end Adolphus Washington and four-star Jeannette (Pa.) High School safety Demetrious Cox will be attending. Both are considered leans to other schools, so Michigan State really needs to make an impact with these guys and challenge Michigan for recruiting supremacy.

Will Illini win over OSU resonate with in-state recruits?

Very quietly, Ron Zook has Illinois at 6-0 with a home date against an emotionally battered Ohio State squad on Saturday.

Zook is known as an intense and dynamite recruiter, but his last few classes at Illinois have lacked the blue-chip playmakers his first few classes surprisingly held to some extent.

The Illini’s undefeated start hasn’t done much for the Illini on the recruiting yet. Three-star defensive tackle Vontrell Williams is the only player to commit to the Illini since the season began, and he is only the second in-state player committed to Illinois.

Two top in-state players remain at the top of the Illini’s wish list: four-stars Jordan Diamond and Faith Ekakitie. Both have visited Illinois, and Ekakitie wrote in his latest blog that his visit was a “great experience.” As long as the Illini keep winning, Diamond and Ekakitie will have to continue taking a hard look at the Illini.

2013 QB, safety square off

The actual game between Ohio's Warren G. Harding (1-6) and Washington (6-1) on Thursday might not be very exciting, but the game within the game between Harding safety Jalyn Powell and Washington quarterback Kyle Kempt is sure to be.

Powell is a big-time hitter at strong safety but holds his own back there as the coordinator of Harding’s secondary. Kempt is considered one of the top junior quarterbacks in the state. It will be interesting to see the cat-and-mouse game these two will play, and if Powell can coax Kempt into making an ill-advised pass across the middle that he can pick off or try to separate the receiver from the ball.

Any more commitments on the horizon?

For the Midwest, recruiting has really slowed down since the start of the season. Notre Dame is the only BCS program in the region that has been able to snag a few recruits during the season.

Since the start of October, though, the commitments have picked up in the Midwest. Shell could announce for Pitt on Friday, and Purdue, Northwestern and Toledo all received commitments since the start of the month. Indianapolis prospect Pierre Aka committed to Iowa State, and Illinois recruit Johnny Caspers decided on Stanford.