HOLD THIS STORY AND DO NOT RUN IT UNTIL AND UNLESS O'CONNOR COMMITS TO MSU
In getting a commitment today from Lima Central Catholic's Tyler O'Connor, the Spartans not only added a national Elite 11 quarterback to their talent pool, but also a big-time leader and gamer, said O'Connor's high school coach, Jerry Cooper.
"He is a real natural leader," Cooper said. "He has a real presence about him, not only in our huddle, but in our school and with the coaches and his maturity. He has good physical toughness, and those things rub off on the rest of the team."
O'Connor committed to Michigan State over Northwestern today, giving the Spartans their fifth verbal for the class of 2012. The 6-foot-3, 202-pound O'Connor was invited last week to be a part of the national Elite 11 Quarterback Camp. He will be the sixth Michigan State player to participate in the event, which concentrates the nation's top 11 QB prospects in California for a week of competition and clinics. Past MSU Elite 11 quarterbacks include Jeff Smoker, Drew Stanton, Keith Nichol, Andrew Maxwell and Joe Boisture.
Boisture's retirement from football this past winter due to injury necessitated Michigan State's pursuit of a high-end quarterback for 2012. With O'Connor's commitment, the Spartans head into the summer with a check mark next to one of the biggest areas of need for the current recruiting cycle.
O'Connor completed 65 percent of his passes (110 of 170) last year for 2,023 yards in helping lead Lima Central Catholic to the Division V state semifinals. On the year, he averaged 18.4 yards per completion, with 26 TDs and 6 INTs.
"He has that live, strong arm," Cooper said. "He is one of those rare players that wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line for a chance to make plays. He just wants to be in the spotlight for that chance to make plays and that certainly helps make him a great high school quarterback."
O'Connor has more running ability than the other quarterbacks Dantonio has signed during his tenure as head coach at Michigan State. But coaches believe he has the pocket presence and touch to operate MSU's pro style system, while also providing the ability to open the playbook up to include more sprint-out capability.
"The Michigan State coaches like his throwing motion," Cooper said. "They think he has a real nice, tight throwing motion. And they realize that he is kind of a young junior, because his birthday is in March and he just turned 17 and they think he is just starting to physically mature, so they think he has enough size and strength and they are hoping he is going to continue to grow and get another inch and another 10 or 15 pounds and that will make him plenty big enough to play at a BCS conference for a program like Michigan State."
O'Connor has a 3.8 grade point average and is described by his high school coach as a natural leader.
"He is obviously blessed with a lot of talent but he is also a great kid and is real accountable and first-class in everything he has done," Cooper said. "The combination of those things, not only his physical abilities but also how he handles himself and the integrity he has put forward, that has made a lot of big-time football programs to be really interested in this young man. He has had a chance to experience college football recruiting at the highest level."
In addition to offers from Michigan State and Northwestern, O'Connor was also offered scholarships by Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Vanderbilt, Virginia and West Virginia, among others.
He narrowed his favorites to Big Ten schools late in the spring. If he had remained uncommitted throughout the fall and into the winter and opened up his recruitment to national schools, his list of offers likely would have stretched into the 50s.
A Multi-Dimensional Threat
As a high school junior, O'Connor displayed a variety of talents. He can throw on the run - which Northwestern found attractive for its offense - or deliver the ball with zip from the pocket. He is also a quick, nifty ball carrier on keepers. He also served as the team's punter and place kicker.
"We are multi-dimensional with him," Cooper said. "We will do some things where we will let him stand back there in the gun and let him throw the ball straight down the field, but we also do some things where we fake a sweep one way and have him bootleg off of that, so we get him on the run. And we run the play where we fake the ball to a player going outside and let Ty run that ball inside off-tackle. So we ask him to do a lot of things.
"And then we have him get up under center and take a snap and do the quick 1- and 3-step drop for the quick throw outside. We really expect him to do a lot of things and his ability to do all of those things is something that I think makes him real marketable for the next level."
He led Lima Central Catholic to a 12-2 record, a regional championship and a berth in the Division V semifinals.
"I think he played his best game in our state semifinal game against a real good Youngstown Ursuline team," Cooper said. "A lot of people think Youngstown Ursuline was the best football team in all of the bottom three or four divisions in Ohio and Ty kept us in that game forever. We ended up losing 51-36 but he kept us in that game, just making play after play, drive after drive to keep us in it."
O'Connor threw for 257 yards in that game against the eventual state champion, going 14 of 28 with 2 TD passes, plus a 1-yard TD run. His second TD pass of the game cut the lead to 44-36 with 5:55 remaining, but Lima Central Catholic could get no closer.
Heading into his senior season, O'Connor has already started 36 games for Lima Central Catholic, and thrown for more than 5,000 yards and 58 TD passes.
"He overcame a lot of things," Cooper said. "He broke his thumb at the beginning of the season and then he had a hip pointer at the end of the season and through all of that he just kept plugging away and doing real for us. That was nice to see how mentally and physically tough he was."
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