If Makari Paige had his way, he would already be committed to a college to play football. With plenty of offers — over 20 and counting — many top-tier schools are vying to land the four-star safety’s commitment.
The only problem is he still needs to figure out where he wants to go.
“It’s been stressful because it’s hard,” Paige said of his recruiting process. “At first it was smooth, I wasn’t stressed by nothing. But like, in the past couple months, it got like — June hit (and) it got hard.”
After announcing a top seven that included Michigan, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and Penn State back on June 3, Paige narrowed his top schools to Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Kentucky when talking with media at a 7-on-7 back on June 27.
Even with the narrowed list, Paige said he isn’t ranking his final schools. Still, he is hoping to have his mind made up soon.
“I don’t know where I want to go to, really,” Paige said. “Before the season though, for sure … probably late July.”
Already a star at West Bloomfield, a top football program in southeast Michigan, Paige is listed as the No. 19 safety in the nation for the 2020 class and is the No. 5 overall recruit in Michigan, according to 247Sports. At 6-foot-3, 193 pounds, the 247Sports crystal ball has Paige listed with an 80-percent chance of committing to the Wolverines.
Helping the Wolverines’ chances is the fact that West Bloomfield three-star linebacker Cornell Wheeler is already committed to Michigan’s 2020 class. On top of that, four-star Belleville cornerback — the first member of Michigan’s 2020 commitments — has joined four-star wide receiver A.J. Henning of Illinois and four-star safety Jordan Morant of New Jersey in Paige’s recruitment to Ann Arbor.
“I like the school a lot,” Paige said of Michigan. “Cornell, Jordan Morant — who just committed — A.J., they’ve all been coming at me hard. And Andre. I like the school and the players and stuff like that too.”
Paige has had Michigan high up on his list throughout his recruiting process, “a real cool guy” last fall. He’s been primarily recruited by Michigan linebackers coach Chris Partridge while also remaining in contact with Harbaugh and linebackers coach Sherrone Moore.
Plus, Wheeler is not going to let up in his recruitment of Paige.
“Every day,” Wheeler said of his pursuit of Paige. “And I mean every day. We talk about it and he’s enjoying it so, I’m definitely working on him. I’m going to play ball with my boys.”
When Seldon was asked about Paige’s recruitment, he expressed his intent to reel in Wheeler as well.
“He’s my top target right now,” Seldon said. “We get him, we’re good.”
Last fall, Paige backed up his hype with a strong showing on the field. Finishing with 105 total tackles, including 34 solo and three for a loss, he also added 4 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble as part of a stacked defensive unit for the Lakers.
“My God, that dude is like a freak of nature,” Wheeler said last season. “He’s fast, tall and he can move in space. It’s like everything that’s up top is going to be his. I love playing with Makari. Hopefully I can play with him in the future. He’s like my best friend.”
In addition to playing in the secondary for West Bloomfield this coming fall, Paige will be seen grabbing his fair share of passes as a receiver on offense. In fact, Paige has mostly been an offensive threat throughout his upbringing in the sport.
“Honestly, I played running back my whole life,” Paige said. “My first year playing DB was last year. I didn’t know what I was going to play coming out of little league, honestly.”
Still, that has not stopped schools from recruiting Paige as a safety, linebacker and cornerback. Of course, Paige said he will play anywhere he is asked to.
“I think corner would be fun, but safety, probably,” Paige said. “Or like move me around to wherever.”
Although Michigan is in his top four, it is the only school Paige has not made an official visit to. He visited Kentucky, Penn State and Ohio State in consecutive weeks in June. While at Penn State, he spent “basically the whole time” with former West Bloomfield teammate Lance Dixon.
“It went well,” Paige said. “They treated me like family, me and my family. (Safeties) coach (Tim) Banks, his wife — everybody treated us like family. It was real good.”
Paige also enjoyed the work ethic at Ohio State, mentioning “if you’re not working hard, you’re not going to stand out.” At Kentucky, Paige said defensive backs coach Steven Clinkscale has been recruiting him hard.
Looking ahead, Paige is hoping to drop is 40-yard-dash time from 4.6 to 4.4 while looking to fine tune his skills.
“Just my IQ of the game, my speed and hopefully get my weight up,” Paige said. “I think I’m a smart player. I’m versatile because I can cover man-to-man, free, corner, outside linebacker, it don’t matter.”
He is also hoping to lead West Bloomfield to its first state championship after losing in the Division 1 title game two years ago and then in the region finals last year.
“(We’re) going to be tough,” Paige said. “It’s going to be me, Cornell, (defensive end) Sterling (Miles), all those key players. Our corners are lock-down, it’s going to be good.”