will be michigan's highest pick in a while
Future Blue Originals: Detroit Loyola vs. Our Lady Of The Lakes
When current New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles played pee-wee football, he was so unfairly fast that his league instituted the "Darren Sproles Rule", which barred him from running sweeps—otherwise, he would score on every play.
Given Malik McDowell's dominance at the Class C (enrollment limits: 217-448 students) level of MHSAA football, I'd have to assume that a hypothetical "Malik McDowell Rule" would prevent him from playing entirely.
McDowell is listed at 6'7", 290 pounds, and that does not appear to be an exaggeration despite the fact that he's not playing with any bad weight. On Friday, I watched him lead Detroit Loyola against Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, a team featuring players with names like Zach Beans, Vinny Puma(!), Clay Senerius, and McLane Burtrum.
It went as you'd expect.
By my count, in four very short possessions' worth of work, McDowell amassed 11 tackles, five TFLs, a sack, and a forced fumble, while also adding a few thunderous hits on a justifiably terrified Our Lady quarterback. This week's video highlights are short and sweet; these include less than half of McDowell's tackles thanks to rain and a brief period when the camera refused to focus:
Soundtrack: "Saw Myself Today" — Oddisee
It's tough to break down McDowell from a technical standpoint when he's so physically dominant over his competition; on most plays, he simply bowled over an interior lineman and moved on to wrecking whomever possessed the football. However, you can see him display a very effective swim move in the first two clips of the above video; despite it probably being unnecessary, McDowell regularly switches up his attack between that swim move and a simple bull rush.
Our Lady of the Lakes lacked a downfield passing game—or even the ability to go into the shotgun—which made it impossible for them to call plays that avoided McDowell. He swallowed up interior runs, at least contacted the quarterback on all but a couple dropbacks, and chased down both attempted toss sweeps for big losses. McDowell proved very adept at reading plays, staying home when runs came at him and reacting quickly when the play went outside.
McDowell's athleticism speaks for itself; he covers the field sideline-to-sideline from defensive tackle, gets a great burst off the snap, and has the strength to match his size. He's all the more impressive when it's noted that he's currently dealing with nagging injuries to both his shoulder—which caused him to exit the game on two occasions—and hip. Despite having to gingerly peel himself off the turf after tackles, he brought full effort on every play.
Caveats apply due to the low level of competition, of course. That said, McDowell is the most physically impressive and dominant prospect I've seen in these last two years; he deserves every bit of the hype coming his way. While I'd like to see what he can do against viable competition, the praise accompanying his camp appearances suggests that he is by no means a mirage produced by lower-division football.
If I had to rank the best players from the 2014 in-state class, it's McDowell first, then Damon Webb, then a large gap before getting to the Cass Tech linebacker trio and Detroit MLK's Carl Fuller (though I haven't seen Drake Harris in action, and rankings suggest that he's right around Webb in terms of potential, nor have I seen Chance Stewart).
A brief note: Our Lady of the Lakes junior kicker Spencer Howell showed off a strong leg on kickoffs, booming one completely through the end zone, and drilled a ~35-yard field goal. I can't find much information on him online but he's a guy to keep an eye on for a potential walk-on spot down the road.
This Week: Speaking of Cass Tech and Fuller, the Technicians take on King on Friday at 7pm. I'll either head there or check out Wyatt Shallman and Catholic Central take on Orchard Lake St. Mary's, also kicking off at 7 on Friday.