- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
Four teams are at the top for Westerville (Ohio) South athlete Marcus Ball, and he is looking for one more school to complete his leaderboard as he looks ahead to official visits.
Arizona State, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Wisconsin lead for the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Ball, who could play safety, linebacker or quarterback in college.
“I’m just trying to find a No. 5 right now,” he said.
Illinois and Purdue are two programs who have the inside track for spot No. 5. There is no guarantee Ball takes all five official visits, though.
Ball’s older brother Ray swore he would take all five official visits but committed to Wisconsin on his first official visit.
For Marcus, Wisconsin is a program he’s visited so many times he cannot keep track. He already knows members of the football and basketball team well. That familiarity is the biggest advantage Wisconsin has.
“My brother being there, it’s good to have somebody you look up to, especially if it’s a family member,” Ball said. “He can show me what the coaches expect.”
The two talk just about every day, and it isn’t long before Ray breaks into his Wisconsin recruiting pitch.
“Every time I text him it starts with ‘Hey what’s up?’ and he’s like ‘When you coming here to UW?’ He’s always in my ear,” Ball said. “He never pressures me, but he’s definitely like 'It’s a great place, great staff, you should come here, you should think about it.'”
Arizona State emerged as a factor in Ball’s top group as a result of his previous visits to Wisconsin. Receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander joined the Sun Devils’ staff from Wisconsin.
“As soon as he went to Arizona State he made sure I got an offer, and that was big to see a big school like them believe in me,” said Ball, who added Arizona State was his fourth offer. “It’s a great program, hot weather -- that’s definitely a plus.”
Ball also has a former teammate, Tevin Favor, on the Sun Devils roster. Favor is a sophomore receiver.
Michigan State is recruiting Ball as an athlete, but someone who would likely fit in the “Rover” mold. Ball would play some strong safety as well as play some linebacker and even corner when needed.
“I’d play safety, come down and play a little linebacker, cover the No. 2 receiver,” Ball said.
Notre Dame wants Ball to play primarily outside linebacker in the Fighting Irish’s 3-4 defensive scheme. With commitments from ESPN 150 linebackers Jaylon Smith and Alex Anzalone, though, Ball is not sure where he stands in the Irish’s plans at linebacker.
“They have been stacking up on linebackers so I’m not sure where they’re at as far as me playing linebacker,” he said. “They’ve never really mentioned safety. It was linebacker from the beginning.”
Three sleeper programs for Ball are Miami (Fla.), NC State and Oregon. NC State, which has offered, wants Ball as a quarterback. The Hurricanes and Ducks, which both have yet to offer, like him on defense.
Oregon could bite soon and send an offer.
“I sent them film through email and after I sent it they got back to me pretty quick, so the recruitment is starting to pick up,” he said.
“That’s two schools (Oregon and Miami) that could potentially be in the top five.”
The final spot in Ball’s top group opened when he dropped Penn State from his leaderboard following the NCAA sanctions.
“I’ve talked to Coach [Charlie] Fisher, who has been recruiting me real hard there, and Coach [Ron] Vanderlinden, and they still send me letters and I still reply,” Ball said. “But as far as me committing there -- they’re not far off and they’re still a great program -- but I don’t think I’ll go there.”
546dTom Luginbill and Craig Haubert