Creeper Van Originals: Cass Tech vs. Farmington Hills Harrison Comment Count

Ace August 29th, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Yes, we're officially calling this feature, formerly part of Tim's 'Friday Night Lights' coverage, the weekly 'Creeper Van Original' installment. Embrace it, I guess. This week, there was really only one choice for the featured game, and that was the mega-showdown between Farmington Hills Harrison and Detroit Cass Tech, which featured four Michigan commits in the class of 2012 and a host of other D-1 prospects. The contest itself was a bit of a letdown, as Harrison ran away with the victory, 43-7, but there were plenty of highlights from the Wolverine commits and a couple other prospects of interest:

General Game Impressions: Obviously, FHH was dominant from start to finish, and a lot of that had to do with the coaching. The Hawks were a well-oiled machine, moving the ball on the ground and through the air at will while holding the Technicians to just 155 yards of total offense. Cass Tech, on the other hand, looked disorganized on the sideline and out-of-sorts on the field; there were even a few plays where their defensive players were still scrambling to get in position while the ball was being snapped. Another potential issue here is that Harrison had senior or junior starters at all but two positions, giving them a decided experience advantage that showed through on the field, especially as the game got out of hand.

The player who showed the most promise, in my opinion (and much to the chagrin of the partisans on this blog, I'm sure), was Harrison wide receiver and Michigan State commit Aaron Burbridge. He caught three passes for 54 yards despite the lopsided score – FHH barely threw the ball at all in the second half – and displayed great route-running, nice hands, and very good athleticism for a player his size (6'2", 180 pounds). Terry Richardson and 2013 athlete Jourdan Lewis couldn't match up with him physically, and Burbridge was able to get to any spot on the field if he so pleased. If Burbridge sticks with the Spartans, and I have no reason to believe he won't, he should be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten – the only thing he lacks is elite speed, and his size and route-running more than make up for it.

Mario Ojemudia: The good news for Michigan fans is that if there was one player who impressed as much as Burbridge, it was defensive end Mario Ojemudia. According to Mike Rothstein's count, which looks right to me, Ojemudia tallied four tackles, three for a loss, 1/2 sack, six QB hurries, and a fumble recovery on a blocked punt. This was in essentially three quarters of work, and Ojemudia played practically every snap in that span, lining up at offensive tackle as well as defensive end. Cass Tech simply couldn't stop him on the pass rush, and he brought it on every play, showing an excellent motor and a great nose for the football.

Ojemudia stood up well to double-teams, flashed a nice swim move a couple times, and made sure to finish every play, including chasing down Cass's running back from behind on one occasion. To me, Ojemudia looks like a perfect fit for rush end, and he appears to have the frame to add some pounds without losing athleticism. I was very impressed with him on Saturday.

Devin Funchess: Funchess didn't get too many opportunities on offense, thanks to the blowout score and Burbridge clearly being the focal point of the Harrison offense, but when he got the chance he showed he could turn into a very good tight end at the next level. Funchess displayed great hands and concentration, making his first reception on a tipped pass, and he finished with three receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown by my count (I'm pretty sure the Detroit News recap omits his first catch). Unfortunately for those who missed the game, I was tweeting when Funchess recorded his touchdown catch, so you'll have to believe me when I say he ran a great route up the seam, plucked the ball out of the air, and showed nice speed getting into the end zone on the 31-yard scoring play. His other catch also came when he found a hole in the middle of the defense – from limited viewing, I like what I see in his route-running, hands, and athleticism.

Funchess also recorded an interception on a play where Ojemudia pressured the quarterback into a poor throw, which was very nice to see as a Michigan fan. On a side note, for those of you who think that Michigan should try to convert Funchess into a wide receiver, I don't see that happening – he already weighs around 215 pounds, and looks like he could easily add another 20-30 before he gets to Ann Arbor. If Saturday was any indication, he could see the field immediately at tight end for Michigan, especially with the lack of depth at the position for the Wolverines.

Royce Jenkins-Stone: My initial impression from watching the game was that RJS had a relatively quiet night, but looking at the tape he had a better performance than I initially thought. Jenkins-Stone finished with four tackles, according to Rothstein again, and FHH clearly made it a point to run away from him – this seemed to frustrate him, especially since he wasn't getting much help at all from the rest of the defense. There were a few plays where RJS allowed himself to get taken out of the play too easily, getting a little passive, but for the most part he was very aggressive in pursuit and always seemed to end the play around the ballcarrier, even if he was 25 yards downfield.

Jenkins-Stone's best defensive play of the game actually came on offense when, lined up at fullback, he forced a fumble by a Harrison defender after Cass Tech's QB threw an interception on a screen pass, though FHH managed to recover the loose ball. I thought RJS showed good instincts, especially against the run, but unfortunately his team was up against a juggernaut and the front four couldn't get any pressure or stop holes from opening up. It certainly wasn't a great performance from RJS, but I still really like his combination of size, athleticism, and instincts – he should be good once he has a solid (and Mattison-coached) defense around him. He was also the clear leader of the defense, receiving all the play-calls from the sidelines and rallying his teammates, whether that meant being the first to congratulate one for a good play or giving one an earful if they'd blown an assignment – I liked what I saw there.

Terry Richardson: T-Rich had a relatively quiet night defensively, though he did have one great pass breakup on a slightly-underthrown jump ball to Burbridge in the end zone – he timed his jump perfectly and knocked the ball away from a much larger player, which is encouraging since Richardson will be giving up some size to pretty much anyone he's going to line up against in college. Burbridge got the better of him on at least one catch when he lined up in the slot and Richardson completely whiffed trying to play bump-and-run (on the film, that's the first play in Richardson's section).

Those were the only two plays where I got a clear view of Richardson playing corner – I had to focus on three different players when Harrison had the ball, and T-Rich was the toughest to keep track of – so I won't pass much judgment in terms of his abilities based on a pair of plays in one game. He also played offense and returned kicks, recording one first-down reception and returning three kickoffs for 70 yards, and he definitely showed promise as a returner – he's got very good speed and accelerates quickly once he gets the ball, and he proved quite elusive even with a full head of steam. Richardson is going to need to bulk up at the next level, but his athleticism is elite.

Jourdan Lewis (2013 athlete): Lewis, Cass Tech's other corner/wideout/returner, was their best player on the field on Saturday, in my opinion. The junior is listed by Rivals at 5'11", 170, and his size allows him to be much more physical – he had a couple big hits on both receivers and ballcarriers and was generally solid in his tackling, and he certainly wasn't afraid to step up and hit somebody. Lewis is not quite as fast or quick as Richardson, but he still has very good speed and agility and was able to show that off in all three phases of the game. Lewis had the best play of the night for Cass Tech's defense, coming up with a diving interception on their own goal line. He already has an offer from Toledo, and I expect he'll get offers from much more prominent programs – including Michigan – in the near future. He has the look of a BCS-level athlete and I like his potential as a bigger cornerback who can make plays against the pass or the run.

Jayru Campbell (2015 quarterback): Yes, that's 2015, as in this kid is a freshman. Cass Tech's senior starting quarterback was injured in the second half, forcing Campbell into duty, and he displayed a cannon arm, decent accuracy, and very good scrambling ability. He's already about 6'3", 170 pounds as a freshman, and on one scramble he shook off two tackles (including a huge hit from Funchess) and left three FHH defenders – including Ojemudia – down on the field, though luckily none were major injuries and Ojemudia later said on Twitter that all three guys cramped up (I believe him, since it was a warm night and several players had similar issues, though it was quite interesting timing). This caused the entire Cass Tech side of the field to go bananas, and was by far their biggest highlight of the game even though the play only went for a few yards.

Campbell showed great pocket presence for a freshman and led Cass Tech to their only touchdown of the night, slinging a 26-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. His mechanics need work, but again, we're talking about a high school freshman here. He's one to watch (far) down the road, but it appears he'll see a lot of action this year as the word is Cass Tech's starter will be out for the season with a knee injury – it certainly didn't look good at first glance.

Photo Gallery: A huge thanks to Eric (aka Chewer D on the MGoBoard) for making the drive up from Toledo and taking a whole bunch of pictures, as well as providing the video camera I used from the press box. Highlights include a montage of the Funchess touchdown and some great close-up shots of the commits, including RJS, who was sporting a Michigan skull cap under his helmet. Awesome.

Other MGoScouting: If you haven't yet, definitely check out NStank's report from the Glen Oak/Firestone game in Canton, which featured OSU commit Bri'onte Dunn. Dunn finished with 130 yards on 27 carries – more on that game in tomorrow's roundup, which is now called 'Weekday Warriors'. Kellen Winslow Jr. approves.

If you have any suggestions to help improve future Creeper Van Originals, please leave them in the comments or email me.

Next week: The van travels to Toledo Rogers to catch safety and U-M commit Allen Gant of Sylvania Southview HS. Change of plans, heading to see Gant in two weeks; next week I'll be at Toledo Whitmer to see Chris Wormley and the Panthers face off against A.B. Lucas Secondary School.



August 29th, 2011 at 11:47 AM ^

I didn't see the game, so your opinion is worth more than mine - but AB 3 catches for 54 yards, 0 TD's, DF 3 catches for 69 yards and a TD: how does that equal "Burbridge clearly being the focal point of the Harrison offense"? 

I don't doubt that AB looked great, and I wish him well (Sparty QB's will be eaten alive by Womley/Ojemudia/Strobel/Brown/Pipkins/RJS before they can throw against us), but it seems like Funchess had a better game in terms of receiving.  Did you catch any of his blocking? 


August 29th, 2011 at 11:57 AM ^

Burbridge was the target of several more passes, especially early on before the game was a complete blowout. FHH's QB didn't have the best arm in the world, or Burbridge would've finished with much better numbers -- one pass that should've been a 15-20 yard gain pulled Burbridge out of bounds, and the jump ball in the end zone, like I said, was definitely underthrown; put that pass a little deeper and I think Burbridge comes down with it.

Funchess wasn't targeted much until the game was out of hand, and I don't think a ball was thrown his way that he didn't catch. Burbridge had several targets where the pass just wasn't within range. Funchess had a very good game, but Burbridge was better, period.

It was tough to pick out Funchess blocking from the press box, but FHH did a very good job as a team both run- and pass-blocking -- I don't remember their quarterback coming under serious pressure more than once or twice. While he split out into the slot on several plays, Funchess also played at the more traditional tight end spot on the end of the line, and I didn't notice him blow any blocking assignments.


August 29th, 2011 at 12:28 PM ^

if so, Richardson is there step-for-step.  I think it's difficult to say AB would have come down with it were it thrown deeper. 

Wish AB were coming to Michigan - if we held off, I think that was probably a mistake (but what do I know), but I wish him well 364 days of the year.  Not trying to block out bad news (which means I probably am), but much has been made of that deep ball - looks like a great defensive play to me. 


August 29th, 2011 at 1:00 PM ^

Yeah, that's the play - Richardson is certianly there, but I was more thinking that with Burbridge's height advantage that leading him/putting it up higher would've given him a better chance to come down with it. It was a great play by T-Rich, no doubt, just not well-executed by the quarterback.


August 29th, 2011 at 12:08 PM ^

There are 11 guys on the football field. You need more than 3-4 playing well to field a decent defense, as Michigan fans have probably gathered over the last few years. The front four for Cass, especially, just couldn't get anything done, and that made it far too easy for Burbridge and Funchess to find space in the secondary and also for FHH to run with ease -- RJS didn't have many opportunities to looks for a TFL b/c most of the time any handoff saw the running back five yards upfield before the linebackers could react.


August 29th, 2011 at 12:11 PM ^

But with the score in such a blowout I just can't imagine how anyone on the Cass Tech team could come out looking good.  Maybe they didn't look bad but they got spanked by good competition and it is only one game but man..  I was hoping for a bit more of a game.  


August 29th, 2011 at 12:36 PM ^

Look at other scouting reports from the game - my assessments are not out of line here. I even was harsher on RJS and Richardson in my initial impressions after the game (…), in large part because of Cass Tech's poor overall defensive performance, but after looking at the tape they played better than I first gave them credit for.

Re: Richardson - it is possible for a cornerback to play well and simply be going up against a very good wide receiver. There are some cases - especially when your defense can't get any pressure - where it's going to be very tough to contain a player of that caliber. Also, notice the first play in Richardson's segment on the highlight is him getting burned by Burbridge; it's not like I wrote that he had the best game of his life or anything.

Mi Sooner

August 29th, 2011 at 12:47 PM ^

I was just going to make the same statement. Sylvania HS hasn't existed since 1976 when it was split into two new HS -- northview and southview. Northview resides in the old Sylvania HS bldg right along the banks of ten mile creek. Southview is a new bldg on the site of an old farm.


August 29th, 2011 at 1:04 PM ^

Thanks, sorry for messing that up. I'm actually changing plans and heading to Toledo Whitmer to watch Chris Wormley next week, but in two weeks I'll be heading down to watch Gant (and Southview) play at Toledo Start. I'll make sure to have it right in next week's post.


August 29th, 2011 at 1:10 PM ^

I really appreciate this post.  I wasn't on-board with MGoBlog last season so I'm new to the hs commit/game breakdown and so far I'm hooked.  I would love to be able to see these guys in person but this is definitely the next best thing.  Wish I had something else to contribute other than thanks.


August 29th, 2011 at 1:53 PM ^

Don't necessarily like the whole "Creeper Van" thing.  Though I get that you're being tongue-in-cheek, I'm not sure recruits who read this site will.  They might just find it, well, creepy.

But if you're going to stick with that theme, at least update the song at the beginning.  Radiohead released that when I was in middle school and I'm 33.   

The Lonely island, perhaps?

(embed not allowed, I don't think)


August 29th, 2011 at 2:08 PM ^

I'm not sure of the video editing prowess at your disposal - but I think the value of the highlights, especially in games featuring multiple D1 recruits, would be greatly enhanced by highlights of the typical "HS Recruit Youtube Video" variety - at least pointing out who the major D1 contributors to a play are before the play begins. Might make the whole flow easier to follow.

This is excellent work you've done though, and I loved the recap. Also: the haters are going to hate - we got your back, you don't have to sully into arguments with the trolls.

Thanks again!



August 29th, 2011 at 3:43 PM ^

I am very limited right now with my software, right now I just have iMovie, which is pretty crappy. It won't let me add markers or circle the players in the video, which would be incredibly useful - I did my best to say what number each player wore and just kinda hoped people would be able to pick that up, though it's definitely tough for players not on the defensive line. Working on getting something else for video editing, and hopefully I'll have greater capabilities before too long.


August 29th, 2011 at 6:29 PM ^

Thanks sir - 


Certainly don't mean to be a nit-picking ass when you are going to the game and delivering edited shots of the best plays from each recruit. It's really well done. It is incredibly appreciated, and you've proven yourself awesome as we all knew you would. By giving us the numbers, you did enable us to take care of ourselves on this one, and I am a lazy pile of walrus pizzle for asking for anything more. I understand completely if time or budget or need to focus on more important things won't allow it - but I hope that my comments may be helpful.

I am only a trend-sucking dilletante when it comes to video editing - but have you checked out LightWorks? It's free, but has been used for major studio movies, so it's rather powerful. I will provide a link in order to be helpful, please don't misread it as obligation:

Assuming he's still talking to us, maybe a letter to Tom VH would help, as I believe he put together highlight videos for URecruit kids - he might have some pointers as to what he used.

Again - don't get me wrong - I am giddily happy and bouncing up and down at the majestic beauty of a work which you have produced. You walk alone amongst men, and are bathed in light as you do so. I bow at the temple of Ace thrice weekly. I am endlessly grateful for the immense amount of work you have done so far, and am looking greatly forward to what treasures you'll bring forth in the future.

I love you, Ace. A lot. I'm trying to be a blessing. Thank you for all you do and all that you are.


August 29th, 2011 at 2:27 PM ^

The music at the beginning of the highlights was the best music on the clip....i couldn't even watch the rest of the highlights because the music was so terrible. Was that like female rap/techno....?

Using the indie-style music for these clips is the best thing that ever happened last year, and you should do the same...



August 29th, 2011 at 2:52 PM ^

and I'm an indie-music aficionado. 

The music last year was from Explosions in the Sky, the same band who did the soundtrack for the movie Friday Night Lights (thus, it's use in the Friday Night Lights segments)

But I always thought that music--which has a great dichotomy between slow, lulling moments and big, triumphant moments--never quite lined up with the clips we were seeing on film.  There would be soaring, trimphant guitars during a broken play for one yard.  Or slow, lulling moments during a 60 yard touchdown. The editing never quite matched the music. 

I'm fine with inane hip-hop-ish instrumentals as long as I can still hear the crowd atmosphere above.  I thought the music kept the energy up throughout the video.  (The Go-Team has some songs you might want to consider). 

P.S. But I still think the Radiohead and creeper van pic at the beginning is just kind of weird.



August 29th, 2011 at 5:50 PM ^

Man, MGoBlog is so freakin' indie. Those were all instrumentals by the late, great J Dilla (aka Jay Dee) - one of the best hip-hop producers of all time, and he also happens to have hailed from Detroit, which I thought was appropriate for this video.

Educate yourselves - the guy is a legend.

I do have a very extensive taste in music, but was trying to switch it up from last year's videos. If you want indie rock, I can give you indie rock. Same with jazz, soul, funk, classic rock, a little electronica, whatever...


August 29th, 2011 at 2:49 PM ^

A tripod with some panning abilities would help out on the distracting camera shake.  Obviously an HD camera would be nice too, but I understand there are budget concerns there.  The tripod is a worthwhile expense.


August 29th, 2011 at 3:46 PM ^

I actually had a tripod with me, but in the press box there was no room for me to film with one - the coaches from each team had first priority (which makes sense, obviously), and my only choice was to try to anchor the camera using my elbows while attempting to avoid the stantion in the window that was directly in front of me. In future games that don't draw a ridiculous amount of media attention (read: all of them) this won't be an issue. Also should have an HD camera for the next game. Things have been a little crazy this past week trying to get everything in order, and stuff is starting to come together.