The following rankings are based on college potential. The designation “ATH” refers to a prospect who projects to at least three possible positions at the next level.
1. Drake Harris 6-4 180 Jr WR Grand Rapids Christian Michigan State
The Drake is the state’s top receiver prospect since Charles Rogers was getting forked at Saginaw, and the showpiece on what at least for the near future is the state’s most recruit-able program, you can keep that Cass Tech talk. Highly ranked receivers don’t always put up the numbers commiserate to their talents, given the circumstances of high school ball, but that’s not the case with Harris. He has caught at least one TD in every game this season, and gone for over 100 yards in all but the opening win against South Christian. He caught 10 balls for 211 yards and four TDs against East Grand Rapids. Even without the game numbers Harris would be recruited by everyone, because he has the body of the top 100 basketball recruit he is, with legit 4.4. speed. And since he can actually catch the ball, MSU probably wishes they had him right now.
2. Kenneth Finley 6-4 265 Jr DL Muskegon
Top prospect from a line that has laid the hammer down on the running games of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Rockford and Lowell. We’ve been talking up Finley all season, including yes a Clay Matthews comparison, and apparently aren’t the only ones who have noticed his dominant play. He’s being recruited by Michigan, Michigan State, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois,Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Washington, Arizona, Miami, Arizona State, Ohio State, Cincinnati, TCU, Pitt and Rutgers.
3. Spencer Viening 6-0 215 Jr ATH Zeeland East
Already a third-year starter for undefeated Zeeland East. The power option in East’s running game, with patience and vision to find the holes and the strong legs and trunk to traverse the garbage and break tackles. During the Chix’ 5-0 start, Viening ran for 669 yards and nine TDs on 109 carries. If not as a running back, Viening could project as a linebacker or safety in college as he’s good in pursuit and can plug holes.
4. Jordan VanDort 6-6 290 Jr ATH Zeeland West
U-M, MSU and Wisconsin have shown the most interest in VanDort, who intrigues as a piece of clay that at the next level can be molded in so many ways. A 6-6, 290-pound slab of clay. VanDort is best known as the big kid who made a 64-yard reception in the state finals against Marine City, showing the agility to keep his feet along the sideline, and the wheels to tag on much of the yardage after the catch. His duties have been widespread for the Dux as a junior. VanDort starts at tight end and plays both defensive end and tackle. As a defensive lineman, he looks like the next Tyler Hoover. More upside could be at offensive tackle — a gamble since VanDort hasn’t played the position in live games and never pass blocks in the wing-T. But given his body, fluidity and intelligence, college coaches are going to take that bet.
5. Jalen Brooks 6-3 185 Jr ATH Cadillac
The most dangerous skill position player in Northern Michigan. Brooks burst onto the state’s football consciousness with an exclamation point game in week 3 when from quarterback he ran for nearly 300 yards and six TDs in less than three quarters against Petoskey. Good size to speed ratio, running a 4.5 40. He’s already a playmaker as a QB, and continues to grow as a leader and passer. GLIAC schools would love to get him under center, while bigger schools like him as a receiver or defensive back.
6. Malik King 6-4 275 Jr OL Muskegon
Muskegon’s offensive line may be the state’s best. King is the only junior starting up front for the Big Reds, part of a unit that’s massive but can move. As more schools scout Muskegon junior defensive linemen Kenneth Finley, look for some to fall in love with King along the way. The word on the street is if he got an MSU offer, it would be all over.
7. Tommy Doles 6-5 240 Jr OL Grand Rapids Christian
He goes both ways for loaded GR Christian, projecting to the offensive line in college with offers from Michigan and Iowa State, and plans to be in East Lansing Saturday for the MSU-Ohio State game. Doles is athletic with both quick feet and hands, and balance; excels with technique rather than brute strength. Still, he has a big butt, the frame to add good weight and when he gets his heels can stone bigger linemen.
8. Kyle Steigenga 6-4 185 Jr WR Holland Christian
Like Drake Harris, a Christian school kid who first made his name on the hardwood but has blown up in the fall on the grid. Steigenga has scored 11 TDS (and thrown for another) and in each of the Maroons’ last five games and had at least 100 yards receiving. Has a great feel for where the ball is and is able to make plays in the air. Catches a high percentage of his targets and produces despite defenses shading him heavily. Steigenga is both a downfield threat or a guy who can take a short pass play and make things happen. He’s a loping long strider who will be that much more dangerous as his routes sharpen and he sprints like he means it on every play. Could block more, too.
9. Alec Stevens 6-4 265 Jr OL West Branch Ogemaw Heights
Stevens isn’t as well-known as some junior linemen statewide, because he was injured and didn’t make the summer camp circuit. He has the physical profile though — big, thick and square, but not fat. Doesn’t get moved off the line. Starting to play with a mean streak which will make him that much more dangerous.
10. Byron Bullough 6-2 195 Jr LB Traverse City St. Francis Michigan State
He’ll be the third Bullough brother, from the third generation of Bulloughs to play for MSU. So it’s not surprising he plays like he was born to be out there. Don’t be fooled though it’s more than the name, he can play. He has great football instincts and is a hard hitter. Also plays running back for the Glads. Bullough has good lateral quickness which will serve him well at the next level, where he should fit in nicely with the Spartans defense as outside linebacker.
11. Nick Padla 6-6 265 Jr OL Berrien Springs
Berrien Springs’ move to the Wolverine hasn’t been easy on the field, but Padla has held his own against some bigger schools. Padla has quick feet for his size and is a terrific pulling guard, and also starts at defensive end for Berrien Springs. Unlike some linemen who are happy go lucky big kids, Padla gets nasty when he puts on the pads and will play through the whistle. MSU is the leader, with interest from other BCS schools.
12. Connor Hayes 6-3 290 Jr OL Traverse City West
West is having a terrific season, and has to be optimistic for the future with some young skill position guys and their stalwart right guard Hayes coming back. He’s not overly athletic, but he’s a mauler and plays with really good pad level. He could actually play center or stay at his current guard position in college. Hayes already has offers from CMU, Indiana, Syracuse and WMU.
13. Will Hunt 5-11 205 Jr LB Muskegon
Hunt is a smart football player that doesn’t stay blocked. He’s never the most athletic player on the field, but makes a lot of big plays. Hunt is a throwback linebacker with great instincts, the kind of kid who eats, sleeps and drinks football. He’s a D1 prospect with Big Ten and MAC interest.
14. Jake Khoury 6-3 285 Jr DL Traverse City St. Francis
He’s a powerful defensive tackle that provides great push for TCSF on almost every play. But Khoury is more than just a run stopper. With his speed and quickness he gets to the quarterback often. He’s a master of how to use his hands to get off blocks and once he gets ahold of the ball-carrier it’s lights out. Khoury is a BCS recruit that’s drawing attention from Michigan, MSU, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.
15. Zach Evans 6-3 240 Jr DL Kenowa Hills
Started the season on fire before being slowed by a concussion. He’s a second-year varsity starter, but this is Evans’ first with his hand down and he’s excelled at right defensive end (also starts on offense at right tackle), with his motor and 4.8 speed. He’s quick off the ball and can make plays in space. Evans needs to work on his hands and strength to more readily free himself when it gets hectic in there.
16. Chris Hendricks 6-5 270 Jr OL Fruitport
He has all the physical tools, and is well-rounded as both a run and pass-blocker. The question from some coaches is, how badly does the former Mona Shores player want it?
17. Marcus Lambert 5-11 185 Jr RB Zeeland West
If you’re a running back in the Lake Michigan area, your dream locales are either as Peter Stuursma’s tailback at East Grand Rapids, or John Shillito’s fullback at East Kentwood now Zeeland West. Lambert is fortunate enough to be the latter, though he also shows his natural running ability as a kick returner. No back in the Lake Michigan area breaks the big ones with the frequency of Lambert and his reported 4.5 speed. Through six games he ran 88 times for 1091 yards and 15 TDS. Those come out to average 12 yards per carry for 181 yards and 2.5 TDs per game.
18. Jacob Howe 6-2 240 Jr LB Forest Hills Northern
Goes both ways for hard-luck Northern. Whether starting upright from either end or as a middle linebacker, Howe has a way of ending up in the offensive backfield. Moves like a linebacker despite being a junior with college size and could be college fullback because he can catch, has a nose for space and blocks with first-hit explosion. He ran 19 times for 123 yards and a TD against Sparta. Howe is high on the recruiting charts of the in-state MAC schools.
19. Mitchell Wynkoop 6-3 220 LB Traverse City Central
A veritable unknown we uncovered in Week 2 at Grand Haven, Wynkoop has gone on to be an impact guy for TC Central. He is the type of player that is a coaches’ dream because he plays one way — full speed! Wynkoop is a relentless pass rusher that lets nothing get in his way of getting to the quarterback. With good size, speed and productivity, expect him to start drawing the attetion of college coaches because the cat’s out of the bag: Wynkoop is a big-time playmaker.
20. Asantay Brown 6-1 175 Jr DB Mona Shores
The rare Muskegon Heights transfer that didn’t end up at Muskegon High. Brown’s been so good, he would’ve made an impact wherever he ended up. He’s the leading receiver for the best Mona team in over 20 years, and has two games with three interceptions.
21. Mitch Stanitzek 6-3 215 DL Grand Rapids West Catholic
A two-year starter at defensive end with 4.9 speed who was out with an injured back when we saw West Catholic against South Christian. There’s a good chance Stanitzek will be moving up the rankings.
22. Austin Labus 6-6 285 Jr OL Portage Northern
Line play has been a plus for the Huskies, with Labus showing the most upside next to some solid seniors on a unit that has opened the way for three different backs who average over 5 yards per carry. He’s put on 15 pounds since last season but like Padla, Labus gives a taller, lankier look than the other linemen on the list. Runs a 5.3 40.
23. Jake Kaczynski 6-5 240 Jr ATH Ludington
A “jumbo athlete” who plays tight end, H-back and linebacker for Ludington. As such, he’s their leading receiver, leading tackler and third on the team in rushing yards. This kid is a load, and delivers hits both as a tackler and runner. 40 times in the spring could be crucial to the level of college ball he ends up playing.
24. Isaak Newhouse 6-0 185 Jr WR Grand Haven
Were Newhouse playing in the Grand Haven offenses of recent vintage, his receiving numbers would be right up there with those of Drake Harris and Kyle Steigenga. Newhouse also excels in the defensive backfield and as a kick returner, and threw a TD pass against Grandville. Newhouse has been huge on special teams. He had a 75-yard punt return for a TD against Grandville, and against Mona Shores returned a blocked field goal for a score.
25. Drew Marion 6-2 190 Jr QB Lake City
He had a terrific sophomore debut when he threw for 1,217 yards and 13 TDs while running for 846 and 13 TDs, and has been even better this time around leading Lake City to a 5-0 mark headed into their Highland showdown with Beal City. Marion’s best game thus far was against Pine River, when he was 16-of-20 for 343 yards and four TDS while running 14 timers for 123 yarsd. College size for his position with 4.8 speed and sometimes looks like a man amongst boys in Class C ball. Plays with four- and five-receiver sets, and has nice touch on his deep ball. Not sure of Marion’s arm strength if he has to zip one in across the field.
26. Dwayne Barfield 6-1 170 Jr ATH Grand Rapids Christian
He was off to a great start before being injured in GR Christian’s game at Cincinnati Moeller, and is now back in action. Projects as either a receiver or defensive back. Tough, athletic, coachable kid.
27. Nick Swore 6-2 185 Jr QB Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian
He’s been fighting a hand injury, so didn’t play quarterback when we saw NorthPointe play at Hopkins. Swore did play safety though, and looked good with his reads and closing speeds, so add athlete to coach’s son.
28. Lucas Walesky 6-4 265 Jr OL Grayling
Grayling is undefeated, and should only get better as QB Jake Swander, like Walesky, is a junior and there are key sophomores also starting for the Vikings. Walesky finished in the top 10 in the bench press at our July combine in Traverse City. He’s a technique guy who can beat his man to pad level. There’s a lot of pass blocking in Grayling’s offense, but Walesky can also drive and grind it out. If he can figure out the trick of improving his speed while putting on weight, Walesky is a scholarship lineman.
29. Tristen Fleet 6-2 275 Jr OL Mancelona
A second-year starter for one of the top small school teams in the Lake Michigan area, as Mancelona is on pace for its second-straight undefeated regular season. The strength of the line is inside with Fleet and center and 6-2, 230 senior Dalon Sulz at guard, helping senior running back Wyatt Derrer put up all-state numbers. While a few linemen on this list could become centers, Fleet is the only one currently at the position.
30. John Hall 6-0 180 Jr DB Muskegon
Hall was terrific in the off-season two years ago at Sound Mind, Sound Body, and has translated that to live football as one of the Muskegon Heights transfers who has fit right in and helped the Big Reds return to the championship form of the past decade. Starting in the defensive backfield now, he should have some big running numbers as a senior.