Birmingham (Mich.) Brother Rice quarterback Mariano Valenti grew up rooting for Michigan, but all that goes out the window once recruiting starts. Now Michigan State has his attention.
“I really like Brad Salem, the quarterbacks coach,” Valenti said. “I’d love to play for him. … [It’s] just the way he treats his players and the way he treats me right now. I can tell he respects me right now, and it’s just a good relationship.”
When Valenti kicked off his junior season on Friday, he already had the experience of starting as a sophomore. And he looked like a veteran against University of Detroit Jesuit, throwing for a touchdown and running for another and accounting for 247 yards of total offense, according to The Detroit News.
Brother Rice won 26-7, which might have surprised some. The Warriors let Coach Dave Sofran go after the 2016 season and replaced him with Adam Korzeniewski, but they were ready in their new leader’s debut.
“A lot of people were doubting us this offseason,” Valenti said, “and it felt good to prove to them that we’re still here.”
Though listed as a pro-style quarterback, Valenti made plenty of plays with his feet. The final touchdown of the game was a designed quarterback draw from 9 yards out.
Michigan State has been searching for a quarterback in the 2019 class who can keep plays alive through the run. Valenti, who has offers from Central Michigan and Toledo as well as interest from Indiana and Wisconsin, seems to fit that description.
“I can make plays on my feet,” Valenti said, “but I can also sit in the pocket and just throw it around.”
Michigan State already has its 2018 QB in Dearborn (Mich.) Divine Child’s Theo Day, who also starred on Friday. But in 2019, Valenti is part of a strong group of in-state quarterbacks on which Michigan State has kept a close eye. Let’s take a look at how the others did.
Dwan Mathis, Oak Park
After a strong summer of camps, Dwan Mathis became the lone 2019 in-state quarterback so far to earn a Michigan State offer. His junior campaign got off to a tough start, though, as Oak Park fell 24-7 to Utica Eisenhower.
— NFHS Network (@NFHSNetwork) August 26, 2017
Mathis passed for 96 yards and rushed for 21 on Friday, according to The Oakland Press. He threw for the Knights’ lone touchdown.
Austin Brown, Madison Heights Madison
In his first game at a new school after transferring from Novi Detroit Catholic Central, Austin Brown also made his return from a broken leg that ended his sophomore season. It would’ve been understandable for some jitters to appear Thursday night. But fans of Madison Heights Madison saw quite the opposite.
Brown completed 18 of 20 passes for 352 yards and 8 touchdowns in his debut for his new school, per the Detroit Free Press. Madison beat Warren Lincoln, 54-7.
Sam Johnson III, Walled Lake Western
Sam Johnson III also made a move during the offseason, transferring from Southfield A&T to Walled Lake Western and teaming up with Michigan State offensive tackle commit Spencer Brown. They got their junior seasons off to a good start on Thursday with a 19-14 win over West Bloomfield.
— STATE CHAMPS! (@statechampsnet) August 25, 2017
Johnson connected on 17 of 27 passes for 236 yards and a pair of touchdown runs, per the Detroit Free Press. His second score put Western ahead, and the Warriors hung on from there.