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June 9, 2011Since Michigan State's scholarship offer to Miami (Fla.) Columbus High School running back Brandon Radcliff last month, interest has steadily increased for the powerful ball carrier.
"Yes it has picked up quite a bit," said Columbus High head coach Chris Merritt.
Maryland offered this week, Merritt said.
"Last week, Georgia and Michigan offered," Merritt said. "They both came down at the end of spring football, here recently. And Notre Dame just called me about him. They just moved him up the board. They wanted to make sure he was over 210."
He is all that, and more, as a stocky, tough-running, 5-foot-10, 210-pounder.
"He has incredible balance," Merritt said. "The best way I can describe him is that he runs angry. He keeps his feet moving, he has that balance and more than anything he has a will. He wants to get that extra yard."
In addition to Michigan State, Michigan, Georgia and Maryland, he also has offers from Vanderbilt, Cincinnati and Florida Atlantic.
Radcliff is a clean slate in terms of knowledge of the reputations of the schools recruiting him.
"Brandon has no idea about anything north of the Broward-Dade line," Merritt said. "Nobody is squeezing (for a commitment). Louisville really wants him really bad. He is the only running back that they are going after."
Radcliff is in the process of mapping out plans for summer visits.
"Supposedly this week my brother and everybody are supposed to meet up to set visits to Louisville and other colleges like Michigan State," Radcliff said yesterday to CardinalSports.com (Rivals.com's Louisville site).
"School just got out for us, we are going to sit down and see what his options are about going to some camps," Merritt said. "Financially I don't know if he is going to be in a situation to go to too many places."
'A Big Ten Back'
Merritt played safety at Indiana in the late 1980s and early '90s. He was a scholarship player, a four-time letter winner and a captain. He knows Big Ten football. And he believes Radcliff would fit in nicely in that conference.
"He's a Big Ten back," Merritt said of Radcliff. "That's what he is. I have always described it to him that way.
"He is the type of kid who has to fit a certain offensive scheme and let me tell you, Michigan State is that team. He fits their offensive scheme perfectly
Merritt is well-versed in Spartan football, past and present.
"I played against a lot of the good running backs there at Michigan State," Merritt said. "I played against Blake Ezor, Courtney Hawkins for sure. I was a captain against Michigan State, my senior year. I remember shaking Mandarich's thumb."
Merritt has tremendous respect for the current brand of Spartan football.
"Michigan State is well known for being what is called an o-power team, and that is exactly what we run," Merritt said. "We have a very similar run game."
O-power or "power o" is a general term for running plays in which the back side guard pulls and lead blocks for a tailback carrying the ball inside, usually to the B or C gap.
"Coach Staten will come down and whether I have a (scholarship-caliber) kid or not, we will sit down and talk o-power for an hour," Merritt said. "He's that kind of a guy.
"One thing we are sure of is that Coach D is going to be there for a while and continue to run o-power, because that's what he does."
Staten logged a lot of miles evaluating players in Florida, among other places, in May. He was impressed with Radcliff, making MSU one of the first major conference teams to offer him.
"Coach Staten likes Brandon's physicality, his balance, his physical strength," Merritt said. "Brandon is not the type of kid that is going to bust a 70- or 80-yard touchdown run on you. He is going to be the type of kid who is going to carry three or four defenders 10 or 15 yards. Physically he is just very, very strong."
As impressive as Radcliff's film is, Merritt points out that most of Radcliff's junior clips were recorded after he sustained a knee injury.
"All those clips that you see on film, that is on an 80 percent tear of his ACL," Merritt said. "He had that repaired in January, and he is full go again. The doctor just flat out said he couldn't believe how physically well-built this kid was, and that's the reason he was able to play five or six games on that knee.
"He got hurt in the first game of the year. They did that Hines Ward platelet (plasma) injection thing and then he came back about four weeks later and finished off the last four games of the season for us on that knee, which are the games you'll see in those clips. You might even be able to see the knee brace."
Also seen on those film clips is a running back who refuses to go down, and has the moves and strength to keep it that way.
Radcliff didn't participate in contact drills during the Florida high school spring football season this year.
"We didn't let him," Merritt said. "We didn't let him put a cleat on the carpet. We are going to let it get stronger over summer and make sure he is 100 percent."
Some Work To Do
Radcliff might have been somewhat of an under-the-radar prospect from a national point of view during the winter, but that won't be the case this fall. He will be the preseason feature back for one of the top programs in Miami, and the country for that matter.
"We were anywhere from No. 26 to 50th in the country last year," Merritt said. "We were 10-1. We lost disappointingly in the first round of the playoffs to a team that we beat on national television about five weeks earlier."
Look for Miami Columbus to be strong again this year. Miami Columbus is the largest private school in Florida. Merritt has done good work in not only pumping out winning teams at Miami Columbus, but also helping prospects make grades. Radcliff is expected to benefit from that trend.
"Brandon has some work to do (in order to qualify academically)," Merritt said. "He is about a 2.3 (GPA). But one thing I'll say is I've been here for 11 years and I've never had a kid not make it."
In addition to Michigan State, Merritt says Radcliff would also fit in nicely with Wisconsin's system.
"But I don't think he is going to have the grades for Wisconsin," Merritt said. "That is going to be a big 'if.' He would fit perfectly in their system as well because of the size of their backs, but they require a cut above academically over the rest of the Big Ten, other than probably Northwestern."
Merritt was asked what Wisconsin requires, academically.
"I want to say a 2.5 and a 900," Merritt said.
Radcliff's grades aren't a hang-up for the University of Michigan?
"Not that I'm aware of," Merritt said. "First off, the Big Ten has it tougher than most conferences because of what they require academically, the four years of math and things like that. That is a lot different than the SEC.
"Places like Wisconsin and Northwestern then take it to just a little bit higher of a standard academically. I'm sure they could probably bend them, but I'm just not sure how many bends they get."
As for a potential Michigan vs. Michigan State battle being staged in Miami, Merritt already sized up the preview.
"I had Coach Staten, who is Michigan State's o-line coach, and Coach Montgomery, who is Michigan's d-line coach, in my office at the same time," Merritt said. "I was cracking up. I was enjoying it. I warned them twice that I might have to draw a line and keep them separated. But they are both good guys. They were both here for the same kid."
How was the tale of the tape on those two?
"Staten had the size but Montgomery has leverage," Merritt said.