It was a marathon opening weekend of high school football; Shane Morris and Warren De La Salle overcame early struggles to soundly defeat Pioneer on Friday night, then Saturday featured four marquee matchups in the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State headlined by a heavyweight tilt between Division I state champs Cass Tech and Division II state champs Brother Rice.
A note before I move along to the scouting portion: Yes, there was a shooting scare on Saturday night. It's remarkably unfortunate that a fight between a couple of idiots—
in which someone threatened to pull a gun and caused a panic, though the police say no gun was present—has marred what was otherwise a stellar event. Kurt Kosmowski, Marty Dobek, and the whole Detroit Sports Commission crew put a ton of effort into pulling together 12 high school teams over two days, giving these young athletes a chance to play at a college stadium in front of nearly 10,000 people. The DSC has announced that they'll once again hold the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State next year; while I hope they beef up security a bit, I'm also confident that they'll once again put together a first-rate football showcase.
[UPDATE: I got clarification of what actually went on from Tim. There was an argument that caused the first rush of people running to avoid the confrontation, and officials stopped the game since people ran onto the field. The fight continued in another area of the concourse soon after, and this unfortunately coincided with fireworks at nearby Comerica Park, which people mistook for gunshots. There was no gun present. Apologies if there was any misunderstanding about the situation.]
With that out of the way, let's get to the recap of all the action after THE JUMP.
Warren De La Salle vs. Pioneer
QB/P Shane Morris (2013 Commit): The season got off to an inauspicious start as Shane Morris's first pass hit a Pioneer linebacker right between the numbers for an interception; Morris would open the game just 2-for-9 before bouncing back in a big way, leading De La Salle to an easy 35-7 victory. For some reason, the MGoCamera lost all footage from the weekend before the Cass Tech game, but thankfully the Daily's Stephen J. Nesbitt was on hand Friday to capture every snap Morris took:
Final numbers for Morris: 14-for-26, 177 yards, two touchdowns, and that opening interception; he spent the fourth quarter on the bench due to the blowout score. Those numbers could have better, as well, if not for a couple of drops by his receivers and some outstanding play from the Pioneer secondary. As you can see above, Morris also dropped a 52-yard punt down to the Pioneer one-yard line, though subsequent kicks didn't have the same efficacy.
The rough start for Morris stemmed from a combination of rushing his throws and trying to force the action too much. The opening pick came on a quick slant, and it's clear Morris decided to make that throw before the snap; he either misread the defense or didn't see the linebacker entirely. Other throws either led receivers right into big hits or were overly ambitious tosses into small windows. De La Salle rolled Morris out for several of his throws and he often failed to set his feet, which hurt his downfield accuracy.
Then Morris started to roll, reminding everyone why he was so highly touted in the first place. He showed improved touch on short and intermediate routes, as well as the ability to make an accurate throw across his body (see 3:10 mark above). He also toned down the happy feet; at 4:06, he steps up and makes an impressive throw while facing heavy pressure.
A big criticism of Morris last year focused on his often laser-like focus on the left side of the field; he'd stare down his top read and often force it there even if covered. While the pass fell incomplete, you can see the strides he's made in that regard at the 4:33 mark, as he looks off the coverage to the right, then moves on to his second read down the left sideline. That's a big advancement from last year and proof that Morris is picking up a lot from his myriad camp appearances.
Despite the rough start, Morris did nothing to dispel the notion that he's an elite talent. He'll have to work on having more consistent starts instead of using the opening quarter to shake off the rust—he's been a notorious slow starter on the 7-on-7 circuit, as well—but when he gets going, he makes the position look easy.
Photo Gallery: All photos by our own Eric Upchurch.
East Village Prep (aka The Ville) vs. Oak Park
TE/DE Khalid Hill (2013 commit): Hill earned player of the game honors for The Ville with three catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. Hill's first catch of the season was a slant route that he took 65 yards for a touchdown; the throw was slightly behind him, but he reached back and plucked the ball out of the air without breaking stride, then turned on the burners and outran the entire Oak Park secondary. It was a very impressive effort that showed off Hill's potential as a receiver.
Hill looked very comfortable working over the middle, whether he lined up at tight end, H-back, slot, or wide receiver; he's at his best finding open space in the heart of the defense. His hands look good as well, as he caught everything thrown his way, making sure to catch with his hands instead of his body. When running routes, Hill showed why he earned a Michigan offer.
However, Hill ran into problems when asked to run block. He had a difficult time staying engaged with defenders and knocking them off the ball; on several occasions, he never found someone to block at all. There were also several plays, especially when a run was going away from him, where he didn't appear to give full effort, jogging after the play instead of looking for someone to hit; he likely cost his team extra yards by not playing through the whistle when The Ville's running back unexpectedly broke through tackles. He's got quick enough feet that he shouldn't have any trouble getting into position, but he currently lacks the strength to drive a defensive lineman back and needs to work on his technique when it comes to hand placement.
Michigan is recruiting Hill as a tight end/H-back, but he also starts at defensive end for The Ville. His athleticism is an asset at the high school level, as he was able to chase down multiple run plays from the backside. I didn't keep track of defensive stats but he was involved in a handful of tackles. I don't think we have to worry about him flipping sides of the ball in college, however; Hill's much more of a college prospect at tight end.
FS/WR Rico Lewis (2014 prospect): Lewis is a player who's apparently getting looks from Michigan and others, so I kept an eye on him when I could. He looks to be around 6'0", 175 pounds, giving him a nice frame to play either defensive back or wide receiver at the next level. I liked him more at safety from what I saw of him; his size translates better there and he looked more comfortable in coverage than running routes and going up for the ball.
Lewis did a decent job in coverage, displaying the athleticism needed to stay in the pocket of receivers when in man, though he did get beat for a couple short gains and was late getting over from his deep middle zone on an Oak Park touchdown. He showed a willingness to come up and lay a hit; he needs work taking proper angles and wrapping up, but when he connects he can make a solid impact. He's definitely a guy to keep an eye on for the 2014 class, and I should be seeing him again later this year when I go for a second round of scouting on Hill.
RB/DB John Kelly (2015 prospect): I know, I know, it's way too soon for 2015 guys. That said, when we reach the point where we should care about such things, Kelly is one to watch. Scout lists him at 5'11", 175, and he's got very solid speed for a sophomore his size. Kelly can run between the tackles or bounce it outside and it was tough to bring him down with just an arm-tackle. He also looked pretty decent at safety against the run, coming up to lay a few big hits. File this name away for a later date.
Detroit Martin Luther King vs. Southfield
DETROIT MARTIN LUTHER KING
LB Carl Fuller (2014 prospect): Fuller already has a scholarship offer from Syracuse on top of interest from several Big Ten schools, including Michigan, and he showed why on Saturday. He looked every bit of 6'3" with the frame to add a good deal of muscle; he's a little skinny right now, though that didn't keep him from throwing his weight around plenty.
I was most impressed by Fuller's athleticism and ability to pursue sideline-to-sideline. He covers a lot of ground with ease and showed the ability to pick his way through traffic and get to the ballcarrier. He needs to add some bulk so he can do a better job of taking on blocks and disengaging—on a few occasions he tried to reach for arm-tackles while getting blocked instead of using his hands to work free and then go to hit the ballcarrier—but that should come considering his frame.
I'd expect Fuller will get serious consideration for an offer down the road, though with Michael Ferns already in the fold and spots limited Michigan may be wary of bringing in another prospect who looks like he fits best on the strong side. Fuller is rangy enough to play in the middle, however, so we'll see what happens there.
RB/WR/CB Avonte Maddox (2014 prospect): MLK appears to have enjoyed the Dennis Norfleet era greatly, as they deployed several mighty mites as offensive skill players to great effect. Of those, the most impressive was Maddox, who elicited an audible gasp from the crowd—and the press box—when he blazed down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown run. Allen Trieu tweeted that Maddox ran a 4.38 at Ohio State's camp, and after seeing that run I believe it.
While Maddox provided a home-run threat on offense, I'm not sure his future is on that side of the ball, as he's listed at a generous 5'9", 160 lbs. on the MLK roster. At cornerback, however, he could be a BCS-level talent; Maddox stayed stride-for-stride with Southfield receiver Brandon Bean on several occasions, and despite a severe size disadvantage he did a great job of going up and playing the ball when it came his way. Maddox recorded an end-zone interception in overtime, positioning himself well to cut off the throw to the outside. He also wasn't afraid to come up and hit against the run, though he failed to wrap up a couple times and won't ever be a guy who's really laying the wood.
I like Maddox's potential at cornerback and he could also be a big factor in the return game at the next level. He could also prove to be an intriguing prospect in the Norfleet mold, though he lacks Norfleet's otherworldly shiftiness in space.
WR Brandon Bean (2013 prospect): I'll echo what I've seen on several other sites and say that I have no idea why Bean hasn't earned any D-I offer yet. He's got a great frame, runs precise routes, and is the focal point of a Southfield passing game that puts the ball in the air often. Bean did have one critical drop but otherwise displayed good hands; his size plays really well in the red zone, and he caught the eventual game-winner on a fade route. If Bean—whose father, Vince Bean, played for Michigan in the '80s—doesn't garner any offers, the Wolverines would be wise to offer him a preferred walk-on spot.
Cass Tech vs. Brother Rice
First, a quick recap: Cass Tech pulled out a 25-18 victory thanks to a late go-ahead Joe Journey fumble return TD—forced on a huge hit by Damon Webb—and a game-sealing 74-yard TD run by Gary Hosey. There, that was quick, right?
Video courtesy of Matt Pargoff
CB/WR Damon Webb (2014 offer): Webb had the best performance of the entire weekend, catching two touchdown passes covering 44 and 46 yards, recovering a fumble, forcing the fumble that led to the go-ahead touchdown, and topping it off with an interception on Brother Rice's last-gasp drive. He was a no-brainer selection for game MVP honors for Cass Tech.
Webb actually started out playing more on offense than defense, though he'd join the first-team D by the second half. At receiver, he showed why Al Borges will make a hard push for him to play offense, first shedding tackles and pulling away from the defense on a tunnel screen, then going up a high-pointing an end-around pass from Jourdan Lewis(!) for his second TD. He's got the strength to run through arm-tackles and elite speed, though not as much wiggle as Lewis (as you'll see in the next section, that's nothing to be ashamed of). Webb could be a four-star prospect at receiver, but...
...he's just too good at cornerback for me to see that happening. Brother Rice chose to test Webb and largely avoid Lewis, but it was Webb who had the best night in coverage. I only saw him get beat once, a quick slant that wasn't thrown because his line came up with the sack. The rest of the night he stayed glued to his man, coming up and playing aggressive bump-and-run. He gets a good jam, has the speed to stay with anyone, and uses his ball skills to make a play on anything he can.
Webb was just as impressive in run support, laying a few big hits, including the one that jarred the ball free late. He already looks much thicker than Lewis and it shows in their respective ability to play the run. Webb deserves all of the early hype and attention from national powers like LSU; it's going to be a battle to land him.
CB/WR Jourdan Lewis (2013 commit): For the most part, Brother Rice avoided throwing towards Lewis like the plague, but he gave up a couple of catches in man coverage and did not look as sharp in that regard and he had this summer. As has been said many times about Lewis, he relies too much on recovery speed, and that came back to bite him on Saturday. Still, Lewis is one of the better high school cover corners I've seen, and for the most part he did well against the pass.
Of much greater concern was his play against the run; Lewis had a hard time holding the edge, at one point nearly getting knocked off his feet by a blocking wide receiver, and in multiple instances didn't appear to give 100% in run support. This is where his size becomes an issue: at his current weight, it's hard to see Lewis holding up against Big Ten wideouts against the run. He certainly needs to go full-speed to overcome any size deficiencies, and he didn't do that on Saturday.
Lewis made his biggest impact with the ball in his hands, breaking a big punt return into Brother Rice territory the one time they punted at him*, throwing the touchdown pass to Webb, and getting decent chunks of yardage when Cass Tech threw him short passes. He had the chance to do even more when Jayru Campbell hit him right in the hands on a deep post in the end zone, but he dropped it. Still, Lewis showed just how much he can impact the game with the ball in his hands; he's a viable receiver prospect and should absolutely get a look as a return man.
Overall, it wasn't one of Lewis's better games, though that largely had to do with Brother Rice staying away from him in the passing game. I would like to see Lewis give a better effort against the run, and that's something I'll watch closely in future viewings of Cass Tech.
*If you're wondering who laid the monster block on that return in the video above, that was Iowa commit Delano Hill, who had a decent game but didn't stand out too much otherwise.
OL David Dawson (2013 commit): Dawson was a big reason why Cass Tech was able to have success on the ground, as he repeatedly paved the way for big run and physically dominated the man across from him. Dawson has outstanding technique, getting his hands right into the defender and knocking him off the ball. He's also one of the quickest linemen I've seen off the snap; at times, it looked like he was false-starting, but it was just a really good jump. On nearly every play he was the first lineman on either side to get off the snap and set.
Dawson held up well in pass protection, not allowing much pressure from his side when Campbell dropped back. There was one play where I noticed him get beat off the edge thanks to some sloppy footwork, which was out of character for Dawson; that was the only time I saw him lose a rep, so to speak. Given that Dawson is slated for guard at the next level, there shouldn't be much concern about his pass protection on the outside. Dawson was one of the most impressive players I saw this summer and he looks like a clear four-star prospect at guard.
RB/LB Gary Hosey (2014 prospect): Michigan is recruiting Hosey as a big back, and the 6'0", 230-pounder came through with the best run of the game, a 74-yard TD in the waning minutes in which he bounced off two tackles before outrunning the Brother Rice secondary. Hosey, quite simply, is a load to bring down, and he doesn't waste any effort trying to dance; he goes north-south with authority. He resembles an Owen Schmitt-type running the ball; anything but a solid form-tackle isn't enough to bring him down.
Hosey stood out on defense as well, getting over from his outside linebacker spot to force a fumble on a swing pass that Webb recovered. All of Cass Tech's junior linebackers were hitting very hard on Saturday, and Hosey had some of the harder ones.
LB William White (2014 prospect): Among Cass Tech's three standout junior linebackers—Hosey, White, and Deon Drake—White was the one I'd heard the least about before Saturday. He made his presence felt early, however, coming up for a few thumping blows early en route to a double-digit tackle performance. White stands out physically for a junior linebacker and brings better-than-average athleticism to the table, allowing him to cover a lot of ground and get into the backfield in a hurry, especially off the edge. He has to work on wrapping up instead of throwing his shoulder into the ballcarrier; if he does that, he'll be a prospect to watch.
LB/RB Deon Drake (2014 prospect): Drake spent much of the game splitting carries with Hosey, and while he didn't have any huge runs he consistently ground out yardage; he's in the same mold, a back who goes downhill and lowers the boom over trying to juke. As a result, he didn't play as much on defense as I expected, but when he was out there he was active and hitting hard.
QB Jayru Campbell (2015 prospect): Campbell showed up looking bigger and stronger than he did as a freshman last fall, displaying improved zip on his passes and a tighter spiral. He still needs to work on his arm strength, as underthrows cost him a couple completions and nearly resulted in an early interception. Campbell forced a couple throws into coverage, though his interception came on fourth down when he was under pressure and had little choice but to throw it up for grabs. It wasn't Campbell's best game; he's still well ahead of the curve for a sophomore quarterback.
DE Joshua Alabi (2015 prospect): There were so many prospects on Cass Tech's defense that I didn't get much of a chance to focus on Alabi, but I liked what I saw; he recorded a sack and made a nice play to bat down a pass at the line. Alabi already has solid size for a high school defensive end, with the frame to get up to ideal size for a strongside end before he's done with high school. The Cass Tech pipeline shows no signs of slowing down.
LB Jon Reschke (2013 MSU commit): Reschke was his usual solid self, always around the ball and finishing with double-digit tackles. When he gets his hands on a player it's over, and he's got the speed to get his hands on most; he covers the entire width of the field and always seems to be in the right position. State's got themselves another good one at linebacker.
RB Brian Walker (2014 prospect): Walker is a very stout back, listed at 5'8", 205 pounds on Scout. Despite being shaped like a cinder block, he's got enough speed to get to the secondary, and once he's there it's tough to take him down. Walker finished with over 100 yards on 25 carries, showing the physicality required of a workhorse back; he also got the corner on a six-yard touchdown run. He's got the combination of size and speed to play running back at the next level, and Michigan has shown a soft spot for big backs; he's in the Thomas Rawls mold, perhaps a bit more athletic (I'll spare you the full Fred Jackson).
Photo Gallery: All photos by Heiko Yang, who displayed strong duck-and-cover technique during the second half.
Next week: I'll be in Dallas for the game this weekend, so no Future Blue Originals next week. I'll be back at it on September 7th, checking out The Ville vs. Douglass and Cass Tech vs. Renaissance. If you'd like to check out a game and submit your own scouting report, check out the FBO master schedule and mark which game you'll attend. Thanks to everyone who's shown interest so far.