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LIVE Signing Day Coverage: High School Athletes Commit to Colleges

Football stars from Brother Rice, Orchard Lake St. Mary's, Detroit Country Day, Groves, West Bloomfield, and Athens signed their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

National Signing Day is today and Patch is covering local events throughout the afternoon. Check back for photos and live coverage of the top Oakland County football stars signing their National Letters of Intent (NLI).

6 p.m.: Mitch Robinson admitted this afternoon his first experience with Northwood University football was, in a word, "ugly."

The Avondale High School senior quarterback said he attended his first game last fall and left at halftime when the score was 34-7.

"I said on the way home that I didn't want to go there. I didn't want to be a part of that."

But then Robinson grew to know the coaches and the school's reputation for academics. The combination of the two helped wipe away the bad memories of his first impression.

On Wednesday afternoon, in a well-attended ceremony at the high school, Robinson signed his letter of intent to play football at Northwood.

Robinson has been the varsity quarterback for the Yellow Jackets for the past three seasons. He holds the MHSAA record for touchdowns in a season (he threw for 3,606 yards and 46 touchdowns in 2010) and has broken every passing record in Avondale football history.

Robinson had four scholarship offers to consider: Ferris State University, Wayne State University, Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and Northwood.

"I always said I wanted to go someplace where I felt needed and wanted and I wanted to go somewhere that was going to take a chance on me," said Robinson. "They were the first ones to take a chance on me."

Avondale Coach Steve Deutsch called Robinson "one of the best football players that Avondale has ever seen."

"He's one of my favorites, and he's a great, great, great asset to the community," Deutsch said. "This is a man who did everything he was supposed to do. He did all the things we asked him to, and now he's being rewarded."

5:00 p.m.: The recruiting process was quite a journey for Andrew Aurand.

“We visited a lot of schools,” Andrew’s mother Patti Aurand said, after watching her son sign his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday.

Starting as a sophomore, the Athens senior visited 14 schools. His father Scott Aurand said they went to Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and all the MAC schools in Michigan.

“We wanted to find a place he’d be comfortable in going,” Scott Aurand said. “Coaches come and go, people change, the important thing is you find a place you feel like you can get an education and feel comfortable living their for five years.”

Andrew found that at Western Michigan University. With all the information he gathered, Andrew felt like Western Michigan was a good fit for him. He wants to go into engineering and the university has a solid engineering school.

He’ll also have a chance to have an impact on the football field. He hasn’t talked with the coaching staff about playing time yet and acknowledged that being redshirted is a possibility, but Andrew wasn’t too concerned about it.

“I know they are going to graduate a lot of seniors, not this year, but next year,” Aurand said. “The opportunity for me to succeed is great.”

4:45 p.m.: Andrew Aurand and his parents liked what they heard from Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit.

“Coach Bill Cubit felt like a straight shooter to us,” Andrew’s father Scott Aurand said.

With college coaches switching jobs left and right, it was important to Andrew and his parents to hear that Western was a destination for Cubit, not a stop on a longer road.

“We felt like he’s going to stay there,” Scott Aurand said. “He told us in several different conversations that that’s where he wants to be. That’s his dream job. He traveled around getting experience and always wanted to come back here.”

4:30 p.m.: Not only was Athens senior Andrew Aurand’s family on hand to watch him sign his National Letter of Intent to Western Michigan University on Wednesday, they were all wearing Western’s colors.

Aurand’s mother Patti, father Scott, sister Victoria and brother Christian all coordinated their outfits. Each family member, including Andrew, were sporting outfits with brown and gold.

 “It kind of worked out nicely,” Aurand said, smiling.

4:25 p.m.: Athens football coach Josh Heppner was on hand for his three players signing their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday. Brandon Neal and Jake Spinek both signed with Adrian while Andrew Aurand signed with Western Michigan.

Before the signing, Heppner talked a little bit about helping Aurand through the recruiting process. He highlighted the differences between helping an offensive lineman like Aurand versus a player that plays at a position like running back or wide receiver.

“Since lineman don’t have a lot of stats, you have to hype them up (to perspective schools),” Heppner said. “They want to hear about things like flexibility, explosiveness and their athleticism.”

4:15 p.m.: Athens High School held a signing day event for five of its athletes earlier in the afternoon on Wednesday. Three of the athletes are going on to the next level to play football.

The Red Hawks signing National Letters of Intent were:

  • Brandon Neal – Adrian; Football
  • Andrew Aurand – Western Michigan University; Football
  • Jake Spinek – Adrian; Football
  • Aaron Fox – Concordia; Basketball
  • Rachel Senopole – Olivet; Soccer

4:10 p.m.: West Bloomfield may have struggled this past season, but head coach Ron Bellamy said he believes they won't be among the bottom of the standings for much longer.

The reason, actually, is because of four seniors — Kyle Croskey, Patrick Russell, C.J. Brathwaite, and Chauncey Briggs — who signed their letters of intent to play at university level in the media center Wednesday.

"These guys set the foundation, wins and losses aside. These were some of the guys who worked the hardest, and you can see that in where they're headed. Guys we still have want to emulate these guys, who are going to great schools," Bellamy said.

Brathwaite in particular was reported to be the apple in the eyes of Pacific-12 Conference schools in Arizona State and Washington State, and even had a verbal commitment to move to Pullman, WA.

However, when then-head coach Paul Wulff was fired in November, the new head coach hired pulled Brathwaite's scholarship.

It was a learning experience for the Lakers' star running back and MVP, who is thrilled to play for Kent State and said he has a chance to play as a freshman.

"I pretty much learned that you have to look at the big picture. It's not about signing with a big name so you can brag about it, it's about figuring out where you're going to live for at least the next four years," Brathwaite said. "I'll be playing primarily as a running back, but I'll have a chance to return kicks and punts and play as a slot. It worked out pretty well."

Russell signed with Alma, where he figures to wrestle as well as play on the defensive line. Croskey signed with Northern Michigan after being heavily recruited by Marian. Briggs will move to Dallas and play for former NFL head coach June Jones at Southern Methodist, where he's excited to block for Oxford running back Prescott Line.

"I feel great on the campus," said Briggs, who may redshirt as a freshman. "I'm excited for their academics and the chance to get a Master's degree by the time I graduate in four years. It's a great day."

4:05: Detroit Country Day senior John Hill signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday to play football and run track and field at Princeton. He said he's excited to play sports at the next level, but he’s more excited to take advantage of the academic opportunities the university presents.

“I wanted to go somewhere with great academics first and I would use football to get there,” Hill said.

Teammates Marlon Hairston and Leno Corradi echoed similar sentiments about their choice of Northwood University. The duo both want to major in business and are excited about the school’s business school.

“They have an awesome business program,” Hairston said. “I plan on taking advantage of it.”

4:00: Detroit Country Day held one of the larger signing events in the area on Wednesday afternoon. Three players from the football team signed National Letters of Intent in the foyer of the upper school’s gym along with eight other student athletes.

Detroit Country Day athletes signing today were:

  • Tariq Abu-Akeel – Brown University; Soccer
  • Rachel Bergman – Northwestern University; Soccer
  • John “Jack” Brown – University of Michigan; Soccer
  • Leno Corradi – Northwood University; Football
  • Kasey Crockett – Dartmouth; Basketball
  • Marlon Hairston – Northwood University; Football
  • John Hill - Princeton University; Football and Track & Field
  • Brittany Mann – University of Oregon; Track & Field
  • Jodan Price – DePaul University; Basketball
  • Michael Snower – Brown University; Squash
  • Alleina Szydlowski – University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Soccer

3:25: Grand Valley State University coach Matt Mitchell did a webcast to discuss his 2012 recruiting class. Mitchell had a lot of signees from the Oakland Country-area, including Lake Orion quarterback Sean Charette and Lahser cornerback Nate Cole.

He was particularly impressed with the resume Charette put together as a four-year starter for the Dragons.

“An impressive resume, a four year starter at Lake Orion High School, which is just unbelievable, took his team to two state championship games,” Mitchell said. “Just a very competitive kid.”

On Cole, Mitchell thinks the Knights senior will be able to learn GVSU’s system quickly.

“We see a versatile kid,” Mitchell said. “A very smart football player, so I think, within our system, he’ll have a lot of success. A very good student.”

3:15: Kent State head football coach Darrell Hazell commented on his recruiting class Wednesday afternoon which includes West Bloomfield running back C.J. Brathwaite.

“C.J. has unbelievable lateral quickness and unbelievable strength,” Hazell said.  “He breaks a lot of tackles, leaves a lot of guys grasping for air because of his great quickness and superb vision.”

As a senior, Brathwaite rushed for 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior and was named team MVP in 2011.

3:09: Central Michigan coach Dan Enos held his signing day press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Enos has focused his recruiting efforts within the state and signed two more recruits from Metro Detroit this year — Dylan Anderson from Brother Rice and Tony Annese from Adams.

He commented on both recruits during his press conference that was streamed on the CMU website.

Recruiting Anderson was easy for Enos. Since taking over at Central Michigan, he’s signed three players from Brother Rice and called the Warriors football program “unbelievable.”

He said the 6-foot-4, 275-pound lineman will play at around 300-pounds and expects Anderson will fit in pretty quickly.

“We know we are getting a well coached football player,” Enos said.

Annese will play on the defensive side of the ball for the Chippewas. Annese was Adams' quarterback and played in the secondary the last two years, but Enos wants to shore up his defense so he expects the senior to play at safety.

Enos liked Annese’s speed and his aggressiveness, “he will hit you.”

2:10 p.m.: Head coach Brady Hoke of Michigan commented on a class which he said "hit some areas of need" as part of a webcast on the school's website.

"All of them have an opportunity, they have to take advantage of it," said Hoke of players who want to play right away. Hoke added that players like Orchard Lake St. Mary's senior James Ross are all signed to four-year scholarships as opposed to one-year scholarships.

Hoke said of Ross, "has very good football sense and instinct" which is important for a linebacker.

11:55: Groves senior running back Keon Collier had a grin from ear-to-ear on Wednesday after signing his National Letter of Intent to attend Northern Michigan.

Collier signed his letter in the school’s cafeteria in front of family, his coaching staff and large group of teammates and friends.

After signing his NLI, Collier was already itching to get on the field.

“I’m ready to get back in the game as fast as I possibly can, I’m ready to dominate with Northern,” Collier said, smiling. “It’s the team I want to be with and it’s a team that I think is going to be successful.”

Northern’s new coach Chris Ostrowsky made signing Collier a priority after watching film of the Falcons’ runner.

“He said he saw my tape, and as soon as he put it in, he knew I was his guy,” Collier said. “He said he wasn’t going to let me leave his campus unless I committed.”

Collier had offers from Saginaw Valley State and Ferris State, but was so impressed with Ostrowsky that his decision turned out to be an easy one.

“In my heart I knew I made the right decision,” Collier said.

Collier leaves Groves as the school’s leading rusher, having earned all-conference and academic all-state honors. He hopes to have a similar impact on the program at Northern.

“I believe that all four years I’m eligible, I’ll be on that field contributing to Northern’s success,” Collier said.

11:51 a.m.: Miami (OH) linebackers coach Jay Peterson commented on Orchard Lake St. Mary's recruit Spencer McInnis during a webcast on the RedHawks website: "I’m not on that side of the football, but I’m looking forward to competing against him when he gets here," said Peterson, a former defensive coordinator at Eastern Michigan University.

"(McInnis) has credentials. It's quite a family affair for him, to share the backfield with his cousin (Grant Niemiec) and his brother (Parker McInnis). They're all tough, hard-nosed kids. Great family, great work ethic. I'm looking forward to having Spencer join our family."

11:40: Groves coach Brendan Flaherty lamented the fact that his senior running back Keon Collier didn’t get any scholarship offers from Division 1 schools.

“I think he’s a Division 1 player, I think these guys (Northern Michigan) are getting a steal,” he said.

At 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Collier would be on the smaller side for a Division 1 running back and while some Division 1 schools gave the senior a look; none made offers.

Flaherty expects Collier to show those schools why they made a mistake passing on the running back early and often as part of his new team at Northern.

“Two inches taller, it’s not even close, he’s going to Division 1,” Flaherty said.

11:30: Sheryl Collier, mother of Keon Collier, couldn’t be happier that her son is headed to Northern Michigan. She was in attendance at Groves High School for her son's signing event on Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m very proud that my son is going to college, in this day in age to get your kid out of high school and into college is a major accomplishment,” she said. “I’m very thankful he’s attending Northern Michigan, first of all to go to school and then to play football.”

She expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the school’s football program and its new head coach. Northern Michigan hired a new coaching staff in November, including head coach Chris Ostrowsky, who heavily recruited Keon the past month.

“He said he’s going to run the Division 2 like it’s a Division 1 program,” she said. “He’s a great guy and leadership is everything.”

She said the coach was a “recruiting machine” the past few weeks and that her son would constantly check on the computer for updates about commitments Ostrokwsky received.

10 a.m.: Hillsdale College football coach Keith Otterbein spoke about Orchard Lake St. Mary's cornerback Charlie Ciuni this morning.

The Chargers finished 8-3 and won the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last season.

"We’re excited to have Charlie," Otterbein said. "He brings a good combination of speed and athleticism and strength that are going to help him be a contributor for us, just like he’s been a contributor for St. Mary’s."

9:10 a.m.: Orchard Lake St. Mary's Charlie Ciuni was the last to fax his National Letter of Intent after signing with Hillsdale College. After being courted by schools including Albion and Denison State, Ciuni goes to the Chargers with a lot of confidence after winning the state championship. He said he figures to fit in the secondary as a cornerback and safety and hopes to redshirt.

OLSM coach George Porritt said that the 2012 class, including four or five more players from the football team who have yet to sign with a college, leaves behind a legacy that will be difficult to size up. "It's just their consistency," he said. "Their approach to the game and the way they practice. This team wanted to get there early, wanted to do it on their own, and that showed on the field. They will be great ambassadors for the school."

Star linebacker and Michigan recruit James Ross is said to be signing his letter soon, but was not at the St. Mary's event Wednesday due to a prior obligation.

8:45 a.m.: A new era begins at Orchard Lake St. Mary's, as a trio that helped bring the Eaglets their first state championship since 2000 signed their National Letters of Intent.

As Spencer McInnis and James Talley faxed their letters to their coaches at Miami (OH) University and Grand Valley State, respectively, they took a moment to comment on their futures.

Count McInnis among those who are ready for the next challenge.

The running back voted Most Valuable Player from the 2011 title team begins anew as a Red Hawk, without his brother, Parker McInnis, and his cousin, Grant Niemiec, juniors who starred with McInnis in the backfield this season. However, McInnis won't feel entirely away from home — in fact, that's why he chose Miami in the first place.

"It's a similar atmosphere, just a little bigger," said McInnis, who has his heart set on majoring in architecture. "I understand the running back position is wide open and that makes me happy. I'm sad to leave this team, but I'm happy with the choices I've made."

Talley added that he, too, feels comfortable with his college choice due to the similar environment that Grand Valley State offers in comparison with St. Mary's. The star linebacker plans to redshirt in his first year for the Lakers, who went 8-3 last season.

8 a.m.: Five student athletes at celebrated National Signing Day with a short signing event before school Wednesday morning.

The following athletes

  • Alex Borglin - Central Michigan University; Baseball
  • Alexandra Herman - Ohio Northern University; Soccer
  • Merlin Beckwith - Appalacian State University; Soccer
  • Sarah Johnson - Hillsdale College; Track and Cross Country
  • Kylie Nylen Western Michigan University; Soccer
  • Dylan Knott - Saginaw Valley State University; Soccer

7:45 a.m.: Brother Rice's Devin Church and his parents talked with new University of Illinois coach Tim Beckman over the weekend and is excited about plans the coaching staff has for him.

Beckman told Church that in addition to using him as a running back, they would put him in as a slot receiver and use him as a returner.

"I want to be everywhere, I'm an athlete," Church said, smiling.

Church broke records for Brother Rice as a running back in his senior season, but he was also an electrifying kick returner, which Illinois will try to take advantage of.

"They really have some good plans for him," Devin's father Donald Church said.

7:35 a.m.: Brother Rice offensive lineman Dylan Anderson said his decision was a relatively easy one. He visited Central Michigan University once, received his offer and that was that.

"I just knew right off the bat that right after they offered me that was the place for me," Anderson said.

Anderson said the coaches told him that they see him as a center or guard.

7:30 a.m.: Brother Rice senior James Hendrix decommitted from Northern Michigan late last week. His decision to switch to Wayne State University was based on how comfortable he felt at the school after a recent visit.

"I visited over there (Wayne State) this past weekend," he said. "It just gave me a good feel. It felt like I was at home."

Wayne State has him slotted to play as a nickel cornerback and safety.

7:25 a.m.: Brother Rice running back Devin Church's mother Monica Church said it was a stressful week watching her son go through the final stage of the recruiting process.

Church committed to Northern Illinois back in August and

"It was hard, you want him to make the right decision and the best decision for himself, I think that's what he did," she said. "He's the one that has to be at school for the next four years, he had to make the decision and we just had to stand back."

Monica Church knew her son wanted to play in the Big Ten and said he's ready for the next level.

"He knew he could play in the Big Ten," Church said. "He wanted the challenge, he accepted the challenge now and he's ready for it."

7:15 a.m.: Brother Rice had one of the earliest signings today. Six seniors from the football team signed letters of intent.

The players signed their real NLIs before faxing them to their respective colleges. The group then posed for photos in front of students and family in the front foyer of the school.

Brother Rice players signing today were:

  • Dylan Anderson - Central Michigan University
  • Joey Warner - Grand Valley State University
  • James Hendrix - Wayne State University
  • Cody Ellwanger - Northwood University
  • Eddie Kidd - Northwood University

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