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.
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.