Top recruit Cornell talks Gophers, but is favoring Spartans

by Jack Satzinger

Earlier this month, top football recruit Jashon Cornell told the Detroit News he's leaning towards taking his five-star talents to Michigan State. 

Speaking with Cretin-Derham Hall's star defensive end Saturday, his tone has hardly changed. 

"The defensive factor is huge. [Michigan State] has had the best defense of the past three years," Cornell said. 

Cornell is very close with Spartans assistant Curtis Blackwell and said he was encouraged seeing former Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard get selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. 

But the Gophers also had a defensive player go high in the draft in Ra'Shede Hageman, who was selected No. 37 by the Atlanta Falcons. After growing up in Minnesota, Hageman became one of the nation's best defensive linemen while playing for the Gophers. 

If Cornell cools on Michigan State, he could do the same. 

"I've thought about that — staying home, being just like Ra'Shede and being drafted," Cornell said. "Ra'Shede's an animal. There's nothing like him. Minnesota turned him into the player that he is."

Cornell admitted it's sometimes difficult to give the Gophers serious consideration while the nation's top programs court him, but the opportunity to play at home is tantalizing. 

Cornell said Gophers linebackers coach Mike Sherels came to his school last week and he stays in contact with Minnesota's coaching staff. 

Cornell is planning on cutting his list of possible schools in June and said the Gophers will likely be in his final three. Highly-touted Minnesotan basketball targets Tyus Jones and Reid Travis kept the Gophers in consideration until the end, but eventually opted for different programs. 

Minnesota's top football prospect from the class of 2014, Jeff Jones, chose to stay home despite offers from top schools — including Michigan State — and Cornell could do the same, but the Spartans remain in the drivers seat. 

"My whole family is here," Cornell said. "My whole family could come, drive right up the street and watch me play every night."