By Joe Scalzo
Monday was a big day for the Big Ten as Nebraska and Michigan State picked up verbal commitments from two of the Mahoning Valley’s best junior football players.
Mooney junior safety Marcus McWilson verbally committed to Nebraska while Warren Harding safety Jalyn Powell committed to Michigan State. They are the second and third Valley juniors to commit early, joining Fitch defensive lineman Billy Price (Ohio State).
McWilson was a special mention All-Ohioan at linebacker last fall for the Cardinals, who won the Division III state title.
Powell was an honorable mention all-district selection last season for the Raiders.
“It’s a good chance to be on my own, get a good education, play good football and have a really good chance to win championships,” McWilson said.
Nebraska has developed a Mooney pipeline since Bo Pelini was hired as head coach. Running back Braylon Heard, wide receiver Tim Marlowe and offensive lineman Mark Pelini — all Mooney graduates — are on the roster and former Cardinal Tim Beck is the team’s offensive coordinator. (Bo’s brother, Carl, left the Cornhuskers after the season to become head coach at Florida Atlantic.)
“There are a lot of Mooney connections, which is a good thing,” McWilson said.
McWilson chose Mooney over offers from Michigan State, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue, Louisville, Bowling Green and Youngstown State. When asked about commiting so early, he said, “I feel it gives me a chance to breath. I looked at the other offers I have right now and it’s not that I wouldn’t feel right in those places, it’s just that I felt I could maximize my talent more at Nebraska.”
Mooney linebacker Courtney Love also has a Nebraska offer (as well as offers from Ohio State, USC and a half-dozen others) but McWilson said they’re not a package deal.
“Me and Courtney are two different people and I’m not sure where his heart is,” said McWilson, who is considering pre-law/criminal justice. “We’ll definitely talk about it but I know he won’t be influenced by my choice, just like I wouldn’t be influenced by his.”
Powell (6-2, 190) is the cousin of former Harding standout Chris Rucker, who also played at Michigan State and now plays cornerback for the Indianapolis Colts. The Spartans’ head coach, Mark Dantonio, was an assistant under Jim Tressel at YSU. MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is an Ursuline High graduate.