Big 10: Michigan
While U-M only has one Lake Area recruit, he is one who, the last time he played football, achieved the greatest receiving game in state final history. The only problem for Drake Harris — that was 2012, and he hasn’t played since. The former Grand Rapids Christian two-sport all-stater is already enrolled at Michigan. Harris is the Lake Area’s No. 1 prospect. No. 2 is his former teammate Tommy Doles, an athletic lineman headed to Northwestern. Michigan State has the largest Big Ten class in numbers, with two Lake Area kids St. Francis LB/DB Byron Bullough and Berrien Springs lineman Nick Padla, though both are ranked lower here than on national recruiting sites.
MAC: Western Michigan
It was a regrettable debut on the field for first-year WMU coach PJ Fleck, but he did row the boat the right direction on one front — prioritizing in-state recruiting. That included locking down the Broncos’ own backyard, which was never the case during Bill Cubit’s tenure. WMU landed two of the Lake Area’s top 5 seniors, in defensive tackle Kenneth Finley of Muskegon and do-it-all mammoth athlete Jordan VanDort from Zeeland West. Not only do these guys have Big Ten measurables, but they’re winners. VanDort started on West’s 2011 and 2013 state championship teams, while Finley did the same on the Big Reds squads that twice finished state runner-up to to Brother Rice. WMU also added Asantay Brown, an all-state receiver from Mona Shores who spurned a Minnesota offer to play DB in Kazoo; and Elliot Jordan, a lanky, athletic tackle prospect from East Kentwood. Preferred walk-on Cory Carr is a brawling offensive lineman and linebacker who played on the Portage Central team that went undefeated before losing to Muskegon in the Division 2 semifinals.
HM in the MAC is CMU. The Chippewas have long thrived recruiting the Lake Area, from their first All-American Leo Wisneski, through Jim Bowman, Curtis Adams, Gary Hogeboom, to Ray Bentley or Dan Bazuin, and Rockford’s finest Bryan Anderson and Joe Staley. Central has smaller scholarship numbers in 2014 with a fewer than 20-man class, slow-playing the Lake Area before swooping in to add some quality prospects. They flipped Grand Rapids West Catholic’s Mitchell Stanitzek from EMU and also took Bridman’s Cooper Mojsiejenko. Both have the size, versatility and athleticism to be quality starters. Mojsiejenko’s talent won’t be fully realized if CMU uses him only as a punter, the position his father played in the NFL. Portage Central running back Jerrod Davis made the most of his one season in the Lake Area after moving from Detroit King, and Maple City Glen Lake’s Trevor Apsey is a walk-on with scholarship athletic ability.
GLIAC: Ferris State
The Bulldogs hit up the Lake Area hard for what was a nationally-recognized Division 2 class in 2013, with the likes of Montague’s Brandon Moore, Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Ryhem Stokes and Rockford’s KC Zenner amongst their dozen local signees. There are eight on Ferris’ board in 2014, and the high quality continues led by the Lake Area’s top running back or linebacker, Zeeland East’s Spencer Viening, and top quarterback, Cadillac record-setter Jalen Brooks. Viening, injured most of his senior season, is a top 10 overall prospect (ahead of three BCS recruits) and Brooks top 20 (ahead of four MAC scholarship players). Ferris State is fond of Division 2 semifinalist Portage Central, taking three Mustangs — RB/LB Jacob Allen; TE/DL Matt Capasso; and TE/OL Hunter Lassiter, originally a CMU commitment. The linebacking corps is impressive — Grand Rapids Union’s Paul Brown; pass-rusher Carl Grant from Dowagiac; and Muskegon’s Will Hunt.
It would be remiss not to mention GLIAC HM Northern Michigan. Marquette came out of nowhere in previous recruiting cycles to enter West Michigan and land one of the best defensive players in Rockford history, all-state linebacker Brent Showers, and the Lake Area’s most explosive running back, Danny Bauder from state champion Zeeland West. NMU also added two guys who didn’t just put up sterling numbers against legit competition, but did it with college bodies, 6-1 195 Muskegon Reeths-Puffer running back Julian Munday and 6-4 240 GR Catholic Central receiver Austin Gordon.
Small College: Siena Heights
The Saints have a sweet star logo and had a number of big recruiting wins in the Lake Area. Ogemaw Heights lineman Alec Stevens, Traverse City St. Francis linebacker Adam Armour, Grand Rapids Christian WR/DB Dwayne Barfield and Forest Hills Eastern receiver Sam Harrison are all in the Lake 100.