Future Blue Originals: 2014 Prep Kickoff Classic Comment Count

Ace September 2nd, 2014 at 4:28 PM

Mike Weber [Photo: Dave Nasternak/MGoBlog]

Yes, FBO is back after being mostly absent last year; if you're unfamiliar, this is the series in which I go to high school games involving Michigan commits/targets, get some video, and provide my best attempt at a scouting report. Helping me this year is MGoRightHandMan Dave Nasternak, who took all the photos and video for us at Friday's Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State.

The two featured games this week are Southfield vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's and Cass Tech vs. Oak Park; despite our two spare batteries, the camera started running out of juice during the late game, so I've only included highlights from Cass Tech's offense for that one. Show? On with it.

Southfield vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's

Overview: OLSM pulled out a 21-19 victory thanks to a big-time performance from soph. QB Kanye Harris (21-36, 303 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) and long touchdowns by senior MSU commit Tyson Smith (60-yard receiving TD) and sophomore WR Kahlee "KJ" Hamler (47-yard punt return TD). Despite being at a major size disadvantage up front, OLSM dominated Southfield in the trenches, leaving no room to run for four-star 2016 RB Matt Falcon (5 carries, 5 yards), who missed a decent portion of the game with an apparent ankle injury.

[Hit THE JUMP for video highlights and scouting reports on Mike Weber, Josh Ross, Lavert Hill, Matt Falcon, and several others.]

Video Highlights: Blame me for being unable to locate the camera's tripod before the game. Video quality will get better as Dave gets used to the equipment; for shooting two games on his first day with no tripod and maybe two minutes of instruction from me—not the world's greatest teacher—I thought these came out quite well.


2017 OLSM LB Josh Ross (Michigan offer): Ross had a pretty quiet afternoon, recording just a couple tackles. Physically he looks the part; he's already 6'1", 215 lbs. with the frame to add plenty more weight down the road. He comes out of that same low crouch that made his older brother (U-M LB James Ross) so easy to identify in his time at OLSM, and he looks bigger and faster than his brother did when I saw him as a junior.

The difference between the brothers right now is how they react to plays. Both are quick off the snap, but James did a better job of diagnosing plays and getting to the football than Josh at this point. The younger Ross overpursued plays on multiple occasions, and he must learn to reign in his aggressiveness; you can, however, see the potential in him—he had a very impressive TFL one of the first plays of the game when he bolted up the middle and stopped Falcon in his tracks.

Another area for Ross to improve is in recognizing and taking on blocks; on a few occasions, he allowed blockers to get under his pads and knock him off course, often when he was pursuing the ball and didn't seem to notice where the blocker was on the play. All the physical and athletic attributes are there for Ross; as a sophomore in the first game of the season, it's clear that his focus must turn to refining his technique and getting a better feel for the game.

2016 Southfield RB Matt Falcon: After missing all of his sophomore year with a knee injury, Falcon didn't get many opportunities to show off his ability, due to both the failings of his offensive line and a dinged-up ankle that held him out of a large chunk of the game. He finished with five yards on five carries—and that could've been worse considering the blocking—while doing most of his damage on swing passes, catching four for 29 yards.

Even though Falcon had no room to run, I thought he looked quite impressive, with nice speed and agility for a 6'1", 215-pound back. On those swing passes, he planted hard and got upfield in a hurry, and once he got a head of steam it wasn't easy to bring him down. He managed to get out of the backfield on one run (1:01 mark in the video), making a couple very nice cuts to make two men miss, then powering forward for some decent YAC. The next two plays on the reel are very representative of the blocking he got on Friday; on the second, he still manages to elude two free hitters in the backfield, then impressively bowl over another before the cavalry arrived. Whether on runs or receptions, Falcon finished with power; he refused to go down at first contact and made sure he fell forward.

I'd like to see Falcon a little more to get a feel for how he performs when he gets some blocking; he's definitely got the potential to earn an offer, and the flashes of cut-and-go ability he displayed made him look like a very good fit for Michigan's offense, especially with his size/speed combo.

2015 OLSM CB/WR Tyson Smith (MSU commit): I didn't focus much on Smith since he's already committed to State, but I was impressed with what I saw of him. He showed some serious speed on his long touchdown reception and had a very nice pass breakup in the end zone.

2017 OLSM WR/CB Kahlee "KJ" Hamler: Hamler had a breakout summer that earned him an MSU offer, among a couple others, even though he'd never played a varsity snap; he showed why he'd earned that attention on Friday, especially on offense and special teams. Hamler had a long touchdown catch called back due to a hold; he flat-out burned senior three-star Minnesota commit Ray Buford on the play, tracked the ball well, and caught it in stride.

Hamler got a touchdown that counted when he took a low punt and burst up the middle as if he was shot out of a cannon, covering 47 yards in a flash pretty much untouched. He had a couple hiccups on defense and dropped a catchable pass after running a nice hitch route; otherwise, he had an outstanding day. Hamler stands at 5'8", 160 lbs. (maybe—his listed weight might be fudged a bit), but if he adds a little size over the next couple years, he could be a very interesting option as a slot receiver and kick returner.

2015 Southfield S/WR Dior Johnson (Wake Forest commit): A few people have asked why Michigan hasn't shown interest in Johnson, who had a good summer on the camp circuit and could potentially fill the open defensive back spot. After seeing him on Friday, I see why the coaches have stayed away from him on defense. While he held his own in coverage, he didn't look very eager to come up in run support, and allowed some yards to leak though a couple times when his hits didn't land with much power. I don't think he's fluid enough to play corner, and at safety his lack of physicality is a little concerning.

On offense, however, Johnson looked great, hauling in eight passes for 195 yards and a score. He caught everything that came his way except one ball that was thrown behind him. He went over the middle without fear and caught a couple passes as he was about to take a lick. When his quarterback came under pressure, Johnson did a great job of improvising a fly route, then making one of a couple really impressive catches on the sideline. He's got good ball skills, and while he's not an explosive threat after the catch, he manages to get decent yardage just by getting upfield and running through contact. He also managed a long TD catch when he simply took the top off the defense. If Michigan decides they want another receiver and have room late in the cycle, I could see him getting an offer.

Cass Tech vs. Oak Park

Overview: After a slow start by both teams, Cass Tech pulled out a 27-26 thriller with a late touchdown plunge by Michigan commit Mike Weber, who had a great battle with Oak Park RB John Kelly for most impressive player of the night; both came away with game MVP honors. 

Video Highlights: Since the camera battery was dying, these feature only Cass Tech offensive highlights; the clips of CT CB Lavert Hill didn't fairly represent how he played over the whole game, so I didn't include them.

Kelly had an incredible touchdown run captured by Matt Pargoff of Maize & Blue News:

Gotta wrap that dude up.


2015 Cass Tech RB Mike Weber (Michigan commit): Weber couldn't get much going early as Cass Tech had a hard time getting any push on Oak Park's front seven. On the first rush in which he got a crease, however, he made the most of it, showing off speed I didn't realize he had on a 70-yard burst up the gut; both Oak Park safeties had the angle on him, but he split them without getting touched.

Weber looked impressive physically, showed off excellent acceleration, and for the most part did a good job of deciding when to bounce runs outside—only on one occasion did I think he was a little too eager to get to the sideline instead of going upfield. He finished with 150 yards and three TDs on 26 carries; his other two scores came on short goal-line runs.

His top-end speed looked improved from the last two years, and it really showed on the long touchdown run, on which he made a great initial cut and then wasted no time or motion in getting upfield. While I wouldn't call Weber a power back, he kept his legs moving after contact, often requiring a couple defenders to get to the play before he'd go down.

Weber did have one very lackadaisical blitz pickup on a play-action screen pass, standing still while allowing a rusher to slip inside of him; I realize it was a screen play, but the effort really lacked there. Otherwise, this was a very strong showing for Weber.

2015 Oak Park RB John Kelly: I won't spend too much time here since Kelly is expected to decide John Kellysoon between MSU and Minnesota, but he had the best performance of the day, rushing for 141 yards and getting another 76 through the air with three total touchdowns. Kelly isn't the biggest back but he makes up for it with great balance; he also looked pretty solid defensively, but I'm not sure you want to take the ball out of his hands.

2016 Cass Tech CB Lavert Hill (Michigan offer): Hill had an up-and-down day, giving up a long touchdown when he got beat on a post route and compounded his error by diving for a pick, then bouncing back to make a couple very nice plays on the ball—he got hit with three pass interference calls on the night, but I thought two of them were highly questionable.

Oddly, Hill played a lot of soft coverage early in the game, and I don't think he was very comfortable doing so; he got caught a couple times peeking into the backfield instead of sticking with his man, though Oak Park's QB missed at least one opportunity to take advantage for a big play. When he started playing press man later in the game, he performed much better, running receivers' routes for them and making what I thought were good plays on the ball (the officials disagreed).

Hill's straight-line speed is solid for a corner, and I thought he showed good, fluid overall athleticism when playing man coverage. He needs to bring it a little harder on a snap-to-snap basis; it's still easy to see why he got an early offer from Michigan.

2017 WR Donovan Peoples-Jones: Peoples-Jones already has offers from Ohio State, Miami (YTM), and Penn State, among others, and he showed why on Friday, tallying four receptions for 68 yards and a score. At 6'2", 190, he's not an imposing receiver—though he's still quite young, obviously—but he has stellar athleticism and soft hands. You can see him make a variety of catches in the highlights above, plucking a low throw before it hit the dirt on a tunnel screen and smoothly snagging a deep bomb for a touchdown.

Peoples-Jones looked really explosive off the line; on the long touchdown, he set up his route beautifully with a quick move off the snap, then accelerated in a hurry. He showed toughness after the catch, too, getting some hard-earned YAC on the screen to bull his way for a first down. He's billed as one of the top 2017 prospects in the country, and while his size may eventually keep him from five-star status, the rest of the package is there for him to be a major impact player.

2016 OL/DL Michael Onwenu (Michigan offer): Onwenu (right) also had a tough time getting going early; he lined up at left guard for Cass Tech on offense, and they attempted to establish the run behind him in the first half without much success.

Despite playing on both sides of the ball, however, he improved his blocking as the game went on, paving the way for a couple big runs by Weber (he's #52 in the highlights). Listed at 6'2", 340, he looks like an eventual nose guard; on defense, he generated solid push, and made a big stop in the late going to help seal the victory.

For a player carrying so much weight, I thought he displayed a good motor, though he'll certainly need to shed some fat when he gets to the next level. He's a powerful two-way lineman who could play guard or defensive tackle, though as I said, I think his future lies on defense unless he grows another inch or two.

2017 CB Donovan Johnson: While Johnson has yet to get any recruiting hype, I thought he—not Hill—was Cass Tech's best corner on Friday. He played tight man coverage even when Hill was playing well off receivers, and stayed stride-for-stride with his mark for most of the night. On one play, he forced the wideout's go route into the sideline, and a decent throw by Oak Park's QB went out of bounds as a result. He played the ball really well in the air, didn't blow any coverages that I noticed, and also laid a couple big hits in the secondary after completions against other defensive backs. He's definitely a prospect to watch moving forward.

One other name to quickly note is 2016 Cass Tech WR Demetric Vance, a 6'1" junior with an early offer from NC State. He covered 90 yards on just three catches, including a big catch-and-run to set up the winning score, and he looked like a Big Ten-quality athlete.

Next Week

After a huge performance last weekend, Brian Cole and Saginaw Heritage face off against Flint Powers Catholic on Friday at 7 pm. We'll be there to cover the game.

There's also a chance to watch a 2015 Michigan target on TV, as offered CB Marcus Lewis' Gonzaga squad takes on Centreville on Friday at 8pm on ESPNU; I'll record that game and will break down the film at some point.



September 2nd, 2014 at 7:03 PM ^

I think we have a good chance with other prospects in the 2016 class like Kentrail Moran and Kareem Walker. I think he can be a good backup option but, he seems to injury proned.


September 2nd, 2014 at 8:12 PM ^

Reading this, with the talent disparity between one part of the team to another (i.e. a RB needs an OL) and one team to another, it really highlights how except for a few kids that it is so difficult to really rank and compare kids.  How do you compare a RB playing in the 1st division in texas to Mike Weber in PSL to some dude out in Virginia to some guy who might be dominating in Arizona.  And with OL - those 270 lbs guys playing across from a 230 dude whose futures lies in accounting. 


September 2nd, 2014 at 9:17 PM ^

That's why you have regional analysts. Josh Helmholdt can tell (or should be able to tell) when a kid is beating up on a bunch of hillbillies from the sticks of northern Michigan, or when a kid from the suburbs of Detroit is tearing through a bunch of D-I quality players at Southfield or Cass Tech. Then you put those guys in a room (or a conference call) and sort things out.


September 3rd, 2014 at 8:19 AM ^


I posted my thoughts on Brian Cole fairly late in the Brian Cole thread last week.  Not sure if you got to read, but it will give you a good idea what to watch for when you see him.  It was my first time seeing him live, and the kid was absolutely amazing.  Just a great, great athlete.  Peppers level athlete for sure.  His agility was what blew me out - knew he was very fast and fairly strong - did not realize he was so agile.