Safety T.J. Harrell, Tampa, Florida (Tampa Catholic) - 6-foot-1, 210 pounds
Ratings: 247Sports (3 stars), ESPN (3 stars), Rivals (4 stars), Scout (3 stars)
Notable offers: Louisville, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Florida State
T.J. Harrell, an athlete from Tampa, Florida, had 31 offers from FBS schools, signed with the Spartans today. Harrell plays tailback, linebacker and safety, but was recruited as a safety. This is Michigan State's first defensive signee from the state of Florida in 2014, although they had three last year (Noah Jones, Devyn Salmon and Justin Williams).
Harrell took his official visit to Michigan State on November 2nd, 2013, and witnessed his future team take down the Michigan Wolverines, 29-6. The only other schools he visited (officially) were Louisville (January 17th) and Georgia (January 24th).
Although it seems as if Harrell will play at Michigan State as a safety, he was originally recruited by both MSU's secondary coach (Harlon Barnett) and running backs coach (Brad Salem). As we've seen before in players like Jeremy Langford, just because one is recruited to play one position does not mean they will end up there by the time their career is over.
One of the reasons Harrell may have not chosen Louisville (which consensus seems to say it was his second choice) was because the only coach he was being recruited by from them was Garrick McGee, the offensive coordinator. That probably means Louisville only saw him as a running back, which Harrell probably doesn't want. That's not saying that Harrell doesn't want to be a running back at all, that probably just means he wants more flexibility within the program.
The most interesting part of this recruitment process was probably the fact that even though Harrell garnered interest from schools across the country, he was only interested in schools down south (Georgia, Louisville, Texas, Arizona)... and Michigan State. In addition, he only took visits to colleges around the southeast (Georgia, Louisville, Kentucky, Florida State, South Florida)... and to Michigan State. It was evident from the beginning that Harrell showed interest in MSU, venturing all the way up to the midwest to take an official visit.
As far as positioning goes, Harrell will most likely play strong safety at Michigan State. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, he could probably play linebacker in the same role as Jairus Jones did for Michigan State last season before his injury, but strong safety will do him well. He is a tough, hard tackler who thrives in defenses that like to blitz with their strong safety (take notes, Pat Narduzzi). His 40-yard dash time is 4.5 seconds, which is not too bad, considering speed is not even his strength.
Here's a highlight compilation of Harrell during his junior year in high school.
T.J. Harrell 2014 RB/DB (Tampa, FL) JR HIGHLIGHTS (via 247SportsStudio)