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Big-time Big Ten rivalry

Bunting picks Michigan, sparks immediate rivalry with MSU-bound teammate

HINSDALE – Ian Bunting and Brian Allen are teammates now, but before long they will be on different sides of the one the most heated college football rivalries in the country.

Bunting, a heavily recruited 6-foot-6, 200-pound tight end, committed to Michigan on April 23, just days after lineman Allen chose Michigan State. They haven’t wasted much time ramping up the rivalry.

“It already started a little bit,” Bunting said. “We’ve been giving each other a hard time, but it’s all good natured.”

The day Bunting committed, Allen walked to his house with a present – a Michigan T-shirt that Allen no longer needed as a Michigan State recruit. That’s where some of that good-natured ribbing started.

“We actually both wear the same size T-shirt,” Bunting said of Allen, a 6-2, 275-pound lineman. “We’re both XXL, but we just fill it out a little differently.”

Bunting received scholarship offers from nearly every Big Ten school as well as national powerhouses like Notre Dame, Florida, USC, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas A&M. Having his choice of schools was flattering, but Michigan emerged as the clear-cut favorite.

“It was definitely a blessing to be recruited like that. It was exciting and a really cool opportunity, and I am very lucky to have gone through the process,” Bunting said. “Michigan just felt like home. The coaches and the players had a good sense of family, and that’s one of my favorite parts of football – the brotherhood you form with your teammates.

“And Michigan is obviously a program and a great school. It’s a place I would want to go to school even if I wasn’t playing football.”

With athletic quarterback Denard Robinson running the offense the last few years, the Wolverines ran more of a spread-option attack. Robinson has moved on and Bunting said the offense will have more of a pro-style look that heavily involves the tight end. That transformation already started as tight end Devin Funchess led Michigan with five touchdown receptions last season.

“I feel like the offense is going to be really strong,” Bunting said. “I like the way they used Funchess last year. The way they use the tight end really opens up opportunities for me.”

Choosing a great team and a great school was one aim for Bunting during his recruiting process – so was wrapping it up before the Red Devils’ season begins in the fall.

“It was important to me to make my decision,” he said. “I’d rather not have to worry about anything other than having fun with my teammates next season. The less distractions you have, the better. I just want to be able to hang out in the summer and work out with my friends and teammates rather than having to go on visits.”

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