Make Danil Young an honorary member or the Rat Pack. It was hard not to hum “Me and My Shadow” while watching the Grandville junior lock it down as a cover man in one-on-one drills at the Lake Michigan Football Report Combine. He was equally adept turning and going, or reading underneath routes and going into drape mode. Cover 0, Young was anything but a zero. In the testing, Young cracked the 4.6s in the 40 and one of the top five pro shuttle times. Coaches will have to determine if his agility, technique and instincts outweigh what isn’t elite burst or speed.
If Young has Westside coverage options, Northern Michigan’s playmaker as a QB or receiver but perhaps a future brightest in the defensive backfield is Ogemaw Heights‘ Ben Hartley. Rangy at 6-2, 180, ran sub-4.7; free stride, instinctive athlete. Showed off his QB pedigree with how he read and reacted to routes.
Caledonia’s 6-0, 175 junior Lougan Soule was strong off the ball and in coverage. He was part of a contingent of Caledonia players who are just tough, blue-collar all-around athletes who will find a way to contribute, like their QB 5-11, 170 senior Kobe Wilson or one of the combine’s best overall performers 6-0, 205 junior Eddie Kelly. Also from Caledonia is a sophomore linebakcer, 6-3, 200 Zane Gorby, who is he gets as fit as some of his older teammates will be trouble.
Zach VanValkenburg is touted as the next do-it-all D1 prospect after JordanVanDort from the powerhouse Zeeland West program. While he lacks the sheer mass of JVD, ZVV is impressive in his own right. He’s a 6-3, 210 Dux sophomore who worked out primarily as a hand-down 5 technique. Flexible but coiled and quick off the snap, loves the swim move and can complete a play. Like so many underclassmen, college future will depend on if he bulks up or can can speed and prove something in pass coverage. As he adds strength could see VanValkenburg as a 4-3 middle linebacker as well.
VanValkenburg wasn’t the only underclassman D line prospect showing bursts of potential. Grand Rapids West Catholic has had an amazing run up front with Daniel Green, Mitchell Stanitzek, Bryce Windham and sophomore Carl Myers in successive classes. All four are quite different players. Myers is a 6-2, 240 two-way lineman. He tested very well for his age in both speed and strength.
The top 2015 linemen were Comstock Park’s Mike Egeler, East Kentwood’s Victor Williams and Vicksburg’s Jarrad Whited. 6-4, 225 Comstock Park junior Egeler could be the third GLIAC lineman in as many years produced by the Panthers, after former LMFR camp stars Blake Mazur (Ferris State) and Ryan Gruszka (Saginaw Valley State). They’re three different players, Mazur a big guy who’d duke it out, Gruszka just one of those guys with special sense for getting to the QB. Egeler isn’t as strong as Mazur, nor does he get lean like Gruszka. But he has a big, square frame that you can do a lot of things with, and plays stout at the point of attack. Likely a 3-4 defensive end; could also play tight end.
East Kentwood’s 6-2, 269 junior Victor Williams impressed both in drills and test. He mixed up moves in his pass rush, with good balance, timing and explosive strength. A full off-season with a coaching staff that has EK poised for big things, and MAC interest would seem imminent for Williams. There was another O-K Red lineman who looked intriguing when he started to run at 6-4, 225, but West Ottawa junior Darrius Moragne pulled up lame in that very first 40 attempt and couldn’t compete the rest of the day.
Whited’s performance was no shock. He always shows up, whether as one of the top underclassman at the 2013 combine, his terrific junior season film, or working out here as a defensive and tight end. He’s sub-5.0 at 6-2, 225 with strong closing speed. Plays with a mean streak. Offensively, he took advantage of his strength to separate and also had good concentration bringing it in under duress.
He’s not the athlete of the first three 2015 lineman, but Reed City’s TJ Patterson does some good things. He’s quick and strong at a 6-3, 260 junior, a GLIAC interior guy on one side of the ball or the other. From even further up 131, 6-3, 185 Cole Butler is a sleeper prospect at linebacker, well-coached and a smooth if not explosive all-around athlete.
A couple juniors who would jump to the top of this list if they went full pads are 2013 All-Lake picks Smith Saenbouttarath from Zeeland West and Elk Rapids’ Dillon Thompson. At 5-11, 270 Saenbouttarath makes up for reach with how he gets low and is quick for his size. Thompson looks more like a linebacker at 6-0, 230, but with a built similar and pass-rush technique that reminds of former combine standout Jacob Howe (Grand Valley State).
The top middle linebacker prospects by class were West Ottawa’s 5-10, 210 junior Mason Dekker and Cadillac’s 6-0, 210 sophomore Michael Holdship. Dekker will be a three-year tackling machine in the O-K Red, better at play speed than time speed. Holdship was an impressive two-way player as only a 10th-grader on Cadillac’s historic team, and showed here the athletic bonafides as well, with a 4.68 40. He plays with pop either with or without the ball, kid’s a truck. Other 2016 linebackers to remember are 6-0, 220 Trevor Shurlow from Lowell and 6-2, 180 Jonas LaMont from Onekama. Not often you hear those schools’ football teams in the same sentence.
The top all-around testing junior linebackers were Fruitport’s 6-1, 190 Nathan Kriger and from Independence, Tenn. 6-0, 175 Dom Childress. Kriger had the combine’s quickest shuttle time and a 4.7 40. Childress ran a 4.66 40 and looked capable both running or defending routes.
Don’t look for Lake Area D line talent to diminish. From 2017, 6-5, 225 Nate Umlor started as a freshman Allendale and competed like a varsity player. He looks the part all around, and has the wingspan you like. Another freshman, 6-4, 213 Jayk Slager from Zeeland West, ran a sub-5.0 40. Also for 2017, West Catholic’s 6-1, 192 freshman David Fox moves really well for his age, too good an athlete for the Falcons not to find a spot for him in the fall.