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Two months ago, things looked bleak for Gino Appleberry Jr.
The junior running back had finished a successful season for Creekside (Fairburn, Ga.) High, but then head coach Will Rogers and the Seminoles parted ways. And after the season ended, five of his teammates and potential starters for 2017 transferred.
“Everything just fell apart over there,” Appleberry said. “I had to get out of there for my health and my future.”
So he opted to transfer to Westlake (Atlanta) High in March. The school, which produced Michigan State signee Tre Person, finished 11-4 in 2016.
“It’s a good school,” Appleberry said. “I can tell it’s going to help me prepare for college better than some of the other schools in the county.”
Appleberry, a 3-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite, has big dreams in the classroom. He said he’s considering a career in dentistry. Academics will play a large part in his school decision.
Athletics, though, will earn him his scholarship. And since his transfer, the offers have begun to roll in. Rutgers had been his only Power Five offer beforehand, and he since has added Michigan State and Oregon State to the list.
I'm incredibly blessed and thankful to receive my 15th offer from Michigan State University ?? pic.twitter.com/PoQORQxWwe
— Gino Appleberry Jr〽️ (@GinoType_) April 27, 2017
Michigan State was the first of the latter two, which both came last Thursday. Spartans receivers coach Terrence Samuel showed up at Westlake and sat down with Lions coach Kareem Reid to talk about Reid’s new running back.
“I asked Coach, ‘How big is [former Michigan State running back] Javon Ringer?’” Reid said. “That’s who he reminds me of if I were to compare him to somebody they had there in the past. He’s a really solid kid. He just looks the part.
“He’s 185 pounds with big, thick legs. He’s muscled up. You watch his tape and he plays that way. He’s strong. He runs people over. He runs away from people. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. Really versatile back, really good player.”
Ringer, now a recruiting intern for the Spartans, stands 5-foot-9. So does Appleberry. But the Westlake junior says height doesn’t matter to him. He models his game after two bigger backs, describing his game as “Ezekiel Elliott mixed with a little bit of Le’Veon Bell.” Bell is also a former Spartans player.
Appleberry has lived in Georgia his whole life, but his family comes from Ohio and sees the Michigan teams as rivals. But when the Spartans offer came through, he ran throughout the school cafeteria. He learned the news from a friend, who saw during lunch period that Reid had posted the offer on Twitter.
— Westlake Football (@WestlakeFB1) April 27, 2017
“It was a humbling experience,” Appleberry said. “I’ve been praying on things like this, and God has really just been answering my prayers. I have to remember that there’s some people that don’t have anything, and I’ve got a lot. They’re trying to get where I am, and I’m just so fortunate and blessed to be where I am.”
Appleberry said he plans to set up a visit whenever his father’s schedule allows. Ideally, he would like to attend a Spartans game in the fall; he said he wants to see the game-day atmosphere at each campus. He doesn’t plan to decide until after his senior season, he said.
So far he has visited Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Tech and Western Kentucky. Of those schools, Georgia State and Western Kentucky have offered. Appleberry said he’s starting to develop favorites but added, “I’m not ready to release that.”
Appleberry said he likes Michigan State because of its history and the running backs it has produced in recent years. He also was impressed with Samuel, whom he described as “straightforward” and unwilling to simply tell Appleberry what he wants to hear. But Appleberry said he needs to visit East Lansing to truly know if it’s the place for him.
“I just want a school that feels like home,” he said, “where I can really see myself being there and being under the lights, being in the classrooms and [at] a school that has my major.”
Tuesday saw a flurry of offers from Michigan State, but several significant ones also came through since our last notebook.
Deerfield Beach (Fla.) sophomore linebacker Ge’mon Eaford picked up an offer, joining several teammates. The Spartans will have to battle Alabama and Michigan, among others, for a potential commitment.
— FANTASTIC_G5️⃣ (@Gemon_J_Wilson) May 3, 2017
Yet another St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) standout picked up a Michigan State offer. Sophomore outside linebacker Jahmar Brown also has offers from Oklahoma and Oregon, among others.
— Jahmar Brown (@Jrock8__) May 3, 2017
Junior defensive end Azeez Ojulari of Marietta (Ga.) announced an offer on Wednesday. The Spartans’ chances look slim, as schools such as Alabama and Clemson stand tall among his current offers.
Blessed to receive an offer from Michigan state! ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/xnjelbxHM7
— Azeez (@_Azeez_8) May 3, 2017
The fourth was a big one. Walled Lake (Mich.) Western lineman Spencer Brown has called Michigan State his “dream school” and visited multiple times this spring. He finally got the offer for which he had been waiting.
— Spencer Brown5️⃣5️⃣ (@s_brown55) May 3, 2017
Add Dax Hollifield to the list as well. The Shelby (N.C.) linebacker, rated a 4-star prospect in the Class of 2018, has just about every offer he could ask for, and now that list includes the Spartans.
Just received an offer from Michigan State! pic.twitter.com/B779uKVHEA
— Dax Hollifield (@ChiefDax_25) May 3, 2017