We couldn't have picked a better first game to scout for this year's Future Blue Originals. Avon, led by Michigan QB commit Brandon Peters, went toe-to-toe with defending state champs Ben Davis, which featured Michigan ATH commit Chris Evans. Ben Davis came away with a 49-42 win after an eye-opening Evans touchdown and a long pick-six when Peters got drilled during the release.
Peters essentially was the Avon offense, completing 26 of 44 attempts for 381 yards (8.7 YPA) and four passing touchdowns while adding another score and a handful of decent scrambles on the ground; as you'll see, neither of his interceptions were his fault. Evans had a tough time finding room in the running game, gaining 36 yards on 17 carries, but he showed all you'd want to see from a future slot receiver on his late 50-yard touchdown.
[Hit THE JUMP for extensive video and scouting on Peters, Evans, and an Avon linebacker who caught my eye.]
2016 Avon QB Brandon Peters (M Commit)
As the numbers indicate, Peters was money on Friday night, and his performance was made all the more impressive by the lack of Avon's run game and their inability to protect the passer. Not helping matters: Avon's coaches, as many high school coaches do, had Peters come over to the sideline to get every playcall. That meant they rarely had much time on the clock when they snapped it—they took multiple delay of game penalties—and Ben Davis could time their blitzes easily.
When Peters wasn't running for his life, he was pinpoint with almost everything in the short and intermediate range, save a rather strange difficulty getting screen passes on target. His throws had plenty of heat, they hit receivers in stride, and they went to the right guys. A couple of his deep throws went well long when he didn't have a guy open; he also dropped in an inch-perfect 65-yard bomb down the sidelines at the 0:41 mark, when hitting his receiver in stride was the only way he could get into the end zone.
Peters made several great throws under pressure, including the long touchdown. He stayed calm in the pocket when defenders were closing in, either stepping up to avoid pressure or bailing out at the last moment to buy time. I found myself impressed by a couple of his throwaways, and he had a couple Houdini-like escapes to turn sure sacks into chunk plays.* He showed a good feel for when pressure was coming and didn't try to make plays that weren't there; he only forced a couple passes, both under duress, and one came on Avon's last-gasp drive after Ben Davis had taken the lead.
His accuracy and understanding of where to put the ball was impressive. When he missed, he missed in a way that made it difficult for a defender to make a play on the ball. On consecutive plays that unfortunately didn't make the video (files got corrupted), Peters missed high on a ten-yard throw to the end zone trying to throw his receiver away from man coverage, then came back on the next play with a near-identical throw that went for a touchdown because he'd corrected, throwing it a touch lower while still keeping it well outside the defensive back. Later in the game, he had back-to-back passes to finish a drive on which he drew a DPI against man coverage by throwing his receiver open to the inside, then hit the same guy with a back-shoulder TD when the defender played too far over the top.
Peters also displayed decent athleticism. He's not a game-breaking running threat by any means but he'll pick up first downs when he breaks contain and he avoids more than his fair share of sacks.
I found very little to critique. Peters still has some minor mechanical issues that should be easily fixed at the next level. His footwork can get sloppy, especially when he steps up in the pocket, and his release could be a little more compact. He shot all the way up to #46 overall on 247 today; after seeing his performance Friday night, I don't find that ranking out of line. He put together the most complete, impressive performance from a quarterback I've seen in person while doing this job; Shane Morris wasn't nearly as accurate and Alex Malzone had a lot more help from the team around him.
*I literally wrote "PETERS IS A WIZARD" in my notes after the play at the 5:35 mark, which came on a two-minute drill after Evans had tied the score.
2016 Ben Davis ATH Chris Evans (M Commit)
Evans didn't have as many opportunities to show off his ability. Ben Davis threw him a couple early screens on the outside that were both obvious and poorly blocked; they went for minimal gains. He got most of his touches at running back, but Avon did a solid job stuffing inside runs and the outside pitches to Evans were usually telegraphed—when it was at all possible to get the corner, he got it.
Evans did get open a few times from the slot only to have his quarterback miss throws or go to another receiver; he only had one chance to haul in a contested ball downfield and it was underthrown. He looked to be running decent routes and he definitely could take the top off the defense. Unfortunately, he spent a lot of his time as a decoy, facing up for screens or showing jet sweep action while Ben Davis handed the ball off inside.
We got an early glimpse at how fast Evans is when his teammate returned a kickoff to the house (0:30 mark) and Evans, who lined up as the other return man, went from nearly a dead stop ten yards behind the play to a dead sprint, getting out in front to wall off the final defender who could've made a tackle.
The fireworks came late. At the 2:08 mark, he took a slip screen, set up his blocks, and then stared this down:
With one filthy hesitation juke, he split the defense up the middle, tore down the sideline, then paused briefly before beating the final defender.
Evans probably isn't the type of running back Jim Harbaugh wants—he's not a pile-mover between the tackles—but give him the ball in space and he'll make things happen. I'd like to see more of him catching the ball downfield, but from what I saw he looked good in that regard, and his ability to turn nothing into something should serve him well in the slot.
2017 Avon OLB Bryant Fitzgerald
I didn't plan to focus on anyone aside from the two Michigan commits at this game, but junior Avon OLB Bryant Fitzgerald kept making plays to the point that Dave and I kept saying "number 31, again" when he inevitably found his way to the ball. Fitzgerald did a little of everything; he looked good against the run, managed to hang with Evans a couple times while covering the slot despite being 6'0", 200 pounds, had a some physical runs as a RB, and made a couple nice plays on special teams.
His only rough moment that I caught occurred when he was tasked with guarding a seam route against a speedy receiver who got over the top of him for a long touchdown; the safety help appeared to be severely lacking given the matchup. Fitzgerald holds an early offer from Indiana and I wouldn't be surprised if he starts attracting more attention soon.