Future Blue Originals: Detroit Loyola vs. Our Lady Of The Lakes

Submitted by Ace on October 9th, 2012 at 1:29 PM

When current New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles played pee-wee football, he was so unfairly fast that his league instituted the "Darren Sproles Rule", which barred him from running sweeps—otherwise, he would score on every play.

Given Malik McDowell's dominance at the Class C (enrollment limits: 217-448 students) level of MHSAA football, I'd have to assume that a hypothetical "Malik McDowell Rule" would prevent him from playing entirely.

McDowell is listed at 6'7", 290 pounds, and that does not appear to be an exaggeration despite the fact that he's not playing with any bad weight. On Friday, I watched him lead Detroit Loyola against Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, a team featuring players with names like Zach Beans, Vinny Puma(!), Clay Senerius, and McLane Burtrum.

It went as you'd expect.

By my count, in four very short possessions' worth of work, McDowell amassed 11 tackles, five TFLs, a sack, and a forced fumble, while also adding a few thunderous hits on a justifiably terrified Our Lady quarterback. This week's video highlights are short and sweet; these include less than half of McDowell's tackles thanks to rain and a brief period when the camera refused to focus:

Soundtrack: "Saw Myself Today" — Oddisee

It's tough to break down McDowell from a technical standpoint when he's so physically dominant over his competition; on most plays, he simply bowled over an interior lineman and moved on to wrecking whomever possessed the football. However, you can see him display a very effective swim move in the first two clips of the above video; despite it probably being unnecessary, McDowell regularly switches up his attack between that swim move and a simple bull rush.

Our Lady of the Lakes lacked a downfield passing game—or even the ability to go into the shotgun—which made it impossible for them to call plays that avoided McDowell. He swallowed up interior runs, at least contacted the quarterback on all but a couple dropbacks, and chased down both attempted toss sweeps for big losses. McDowell proved very adept at reading plays, staying home when runs came at him and reacting quickly when the play went outside.

McDowell's athleticism speaks for itself; he covers the field sideline-to-sideline from defensive tackle, gets a great burst off the snap, and has the strength to match his size. He's all the more impressive when it's noted that he's currently dealing with nagging injuries to both his shoulder—which caused him to exit the game on two occasions—and hip. Despite having to gingerly peel himself off the turf after tackles, he brought full effort on every play.

Caveats apply due to the low level of competition, of course. That said, McDowell is the most physically impressive and dominant prospect I've seen in these last two years; he deserves every bit of the hype coming his way. While I'd like to see what he can do against viable competition, the praise accompanying his camp appearances suggests that he is by no means a mirage produced by lower-division football.

If I had to rank the best players from the 2014 in-state class, it's McDowell first, then Damon Webb, then a large gap before getting to the Cass Tech linebacker trio and Detroit MLK's Carl Fuller (though I haven't seen Drake Harris in action, and rankings suggest that he's right around Webb in terms of potential, nor have I seen Chance Stewart).

A brief note: Our Lady of the Lakes junior kicker Spencer Howell showed off a strong leg on kickoffs, booming one completely through the end zone, and drilled a ~35-yard field goal. I can't find much information on him online but he's a guy to keep an eye on for a potential walk-on spot down the road.

This Week: Speaking of Cass Tech and Fuller, the Technicians take on King on Friday at 7pm. I'll either head there or check out Wyatt Shallman and Catholic Central take on Orchard Lake St. Mary's, also kicking off at 7 on Friday.



October 9th, 2012 at 2:10 PM ^

I think Michigan has the best chance, though McDowell's coach is a big Notre Dame backer. He's taking his time, though, and Alabama, LSU, USC, etc. will have their chance to make a pitch as well.


October 9th, 2012 at 1:39 PM ^

Ace, when you posted the video on Twitter, I noticed how he appeared to get up rather slowly after making the tackle. Thank you for clearing up he has been messing with a hip injury, and shoulder injury. It's apparent he is being bothered by the hip injury a bit.

He is pretty fun to watch though as he blows right through the line. While the talent level may be / is lower in regards to who he is playing, he is definitely as exciting prospect at that size and speed combo. Is he being looked at SDE or DT?


October 9th, 2012 at 2:07 PM ^

The CHSL division Loyola plays in is abysmal, and I don't know if he'll face any quality opponent throughout the D7 playoffs. It's too bad because its got to get a little boring for him to manhandle these kids, week in and week out.

Sure hope he chooses us.


October 9th, 2012 at 2:25 PM ^

Ace, why did he play only 4 possessions? I'm assuming blowout, but the score online says Loyola 28, Waterford 18. Pretty close compared to Loyola's other games.

Loyola should make a nice run in playoffs. D7 seems a bit down this year with only 3 undefeated teams left at this point.


October 9th, 2012 at 2:28 PM ^

The game wasn't as close as the score would indicate, and he reaggravated that shoulder injury during the last possession he was on the field. Came off really favoring his left shoulder and looked to be in some pain—wasn't worth keeping him out there.


October 9th, 2012 at 2:38 PM ^

This kid looks good, but I know that division (I went to school at one of the schools), and the competition just isn't fair.  If Loyola doesn't run right through the division given the talent they have, something will be off.

His quickness, though, is pretty impressive.  This isn't just a kid out-athleting everyone on the field, but also a kid with decent technique and play recognition.


October 9th, 2012 at 2:44 PM ^

As a proud alumni of Lakes I was excited to see my former school featured in the FBO, even if on the opposing end.  I'm not terribly surprised by Malik's numbers.  Lakes is a perennial D-8 title contender, but simply doesn't have the kind of bodies to stop someone of Malik's size/ability.  I doubt many teams do. 


October 9th, 2012 at 3:05 PM ^

Ace - pardon if this is a dumb question (perhaps McDowell has a stated preference to play defense) - but is there any discussion of him as an offensive prospect?

Given his height, his athleticism (as you describe), and what his weight is likely to be in a few years, he seems almost better suited for offense than defense.  Am I missing something?


October 9th, 2012 at 3:25 PM ^

He's a phenomenal defensive player and not much of an offensive lineman—he mostly just fell over on top of defensive linemen, which worked at this level of competition but obviously wouldn't beyond that. While his instincts are great on defense, he's not a natural offensive talent.

No need to overthink it with McDowell. He's a star on the defensive line. No need to turn him into an offensive tackle just because his measurements might suggest as much. He's a defensive player through and through.


October 9th, 2012 at 5:00 PM ^

You didn't have to drive all the way out to Waterford to see the Lakers get their heads kicked in by Loyola.  On another note, I'm stunned that OLL actually has produced a kicker with any noticeable talent.  In the past we were usually a 2 point conversion kind of a squad.

Blue boy johnson

October 9th, 2012 at 8:06 PM ^

McDowell got that Jim Brown ''this might be my last play of the game thing goin on''.

McDowell walks like he's hurt, get up like he's hurt, has body language like he's hurt, then annihilates some poor fool on the next play.