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Lake Michigan Prospect Watch: Week 9

Class of 2015
Nate Couturier 5-10 155 Sr WR/DB Allendale
For the third season in a row, Couturier is one of the most exciting players in the Lake Area. Few make better use of their chances. Going into the final game of the regular season, Couturier had 31 catches, which covered 592 yards and 10 TDs. It marks the third season that he’s reached double-digit receiving touchdowns. He’s a threat in coverage as well, having returned an interception for a TD. Unfortunately for Allendale, Comstock Park held them to 4-of-16 passing in the shutout win. When he does get touches, Couturier, with an offer from Air Force, is a ticket-seller. Many of his big plays begin with little passes at scrimmage, then the talent takes over; while also being able to split wide and get behind defenses at the high school level. Couturier has 4.55 speed, better still he has quickness, feel and vision.

Lamar Jordan 6-0 195 Sr LB Muskegon Catholic Central
Jordan is a returning starter and holds it down as the mike linebacker for defending Division 8 state champion and odds on state repeat favorite MCC. He has a high IQ on his reads and is able to play tight to the line without getting his pursuit angle exploited. Jordan is more wrapper than hitter and will have to retain his 4.8 speed while adding bulk to play linebacker at the next level. He goes both ways for the Crusaders who shows a motor and some toughness as a blocking tight end.

Class of 2016
Monterio Smith 5-10 175 Jr RB Comstock Park
An understudy to All-Lake running back Jake Bush in 2013, Smith has proved a more than capable replacement as a junior. He has a career game last Friday in Comstock Park’s shutout of O-K blue rival Allendale running for 318 yards and a TD. The touchdown was a 65-yarder up the middle behind pulling guard NickVanOost for the game’s first score in the second quarter. As with Bush, Smith is alone back there with QB Pat Naughton and really took advantage of the Panthers’ disciplined line play. He has the speed to turn the corner, which he did on his first big run proving hard to take down spinning a tackler for 10 more yards at the end.

Shane Goebel 6-1 260 So DL Ravenna
Goebel is that rare commodity, a high school nose guard who excels in a 3-4. He has a strong lower body and can get some good push to occupy the interior of the line. Key for Goebel will be increased explosion off the ball as he matures and gets bigger.

Riley Fairfield 6-4 200 So ATH North Muskegon
He has the frame and athleticism as a sophomore that makes coaches rub their hands together gleefully, speculating what he will become, and how his various talents can be utilized. Fairfield showed his versatilty and value last Friday in North Muskegon’s big win over Shelby. He caught a 34-yard TD, threw a 36-yard TD, and returned a fumble 74 yards for a TD.

Corey Malone-Hatcher 6-3 235 So DL/LB St. Joseph
He’s the early No. 1 recruit in the Lake Area’s sophomore class, as not many his age can match Malone-Hatcher’s combination of versatility, production and physical tools. He’s both an energetic end-rusher for St. Joe, as well as a middle linebacker with the size and nose to stop the run and good enough feel and flex to drop into coverage. He already has an offer from Ohio State and Malone-Hatcher is being recruited by power programs such as Alabama, Michigan State and Notre Dame.

Nate Umlor 6-5 225 So DL/TE Allendale
He’s going to be a rare four-year starter for a Class B school, a prototypical 5 technique D end in a 3-4 and a top five overall Lake Area prospect in the 2017 class. Umlor is strong at the point of attack to where he’s often occupied by two blockers. Despite being much bigger than he was as a freshman, if anything he’s more athletic. Being still an underclassman albeit an experienced one, Umlor still doesn’t have the full-go motor. But when there are flashes, like the swim moved last Friday to suddenty make Comstock Park QB Pat Naughton’s world shrink real fast and force him into a touch throw on the retreat, it’s hard not to get really excited about Umlor’s potential. He’s also recruit-able at a high level as a tight end, with big frames, basketball timing and big, trusty hands.

Week 9 Team Rankings

Division 1
1. East Kentwood 7-1
2. Rockford 6-2
2. Hudsonville 5-3
3. Grandville 4-4
5. West Ottawa 5-3

Division 2
1. Muskegon 8-0
2. Caledonia 6-2
3. Muskegon Mona Shores 7-1
4. Lowell 7-1
5. Portage Central 6-1
6. Portage Northern 6-2
7. Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills 4-4
8. Forest Hills Central 3-5
9. Traverse City Central 6-2
10. Mattawan 5-3

Division 3
1. Zeeland West 8-0
2. Grand Rapids Christian 5-3
3. Cedar Springs 7-1
4. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 6-2
5. East Grand Rapids 5-3
6. Stevensville Lakeshore 6-2
7. Byron Center 7-1
8. Plainwell 7-1
9. Grand Rapids Northview 6-2
10. Petoskey 6-2

Division 4
1. Grand Rapids South Christian 6-2
2. Cadillac 8-0
3. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 5-3
4. Edwardsburg 7-1
5. Comstock Park 4-4
6. Hudsonville Unity Christian 4-4
7. Allendale 4-4
8. Vicksburg 6-2
9. Paw Paw 5-3
10. Whitehall 6-2

Division 5
1. Grand Rapids West Catholic 8-0
2. Muskegon Oakridge 7-1
3. Hopkins 7-1
4. Newaygo 7-1
5. Reed City 7-1
6. Chippewa Hills 6-1
7. Grandville Calvin Christian 4-4
8. Central Montcalm 5-3
9. Wyoming Kelloggsville 5-3
10. Berrien Springs 5-3

Division 6
1. Boyne City 8-0
2. Constantine 8-0
3. Ravenna 7-1
4. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 7-1
5. Niles Brandywine 7-1
6. Watervliet 7-1
7. Schoolcraft 5-3
8. Elk Rapids 4-4
9. McBain 4-4
10. Manton 6-2

Division 7
1. Traverse City St. Francis 6-2
2. Decatur 7-1
3. Gobles 6-2
4. Lawton 5-3
5. Suttons Bay 7-1
6. Bridgman 6-1
7. Saugatuck 5-3
8. Cassopolis 5-3
9. Frankfort 5-2
10. Onekama 5-3

Division 8
1. Muskegon Catholic Central 8-0
2. Beal City 7-1
3. Baldwin 7-1
4. Johnessburg-Lewiston 7-1
5. Eau Claire 3-4

Lake Michigan Prospect Watch: Week 8

Caden Burrows 6-1 270 OL/DL Cedar Springs
A veteran at center, Burrows has helped ease the transition for Cedar Springs’ sophomore quarterback Collin Alvesteffer and the Red Hawks are going to the playoffs. From the snap to finding his man, Burrows really gets his hands on quickly to help spring free the dangerous backs in Cedar’s wing T. He plays physically on the D line as well. A better athlete downhill than side-to-side, and pass block remains something of a myster given the high school offense.

Jarod Rodgers 6-0 205 Sr RB Byron Center
He’s getting stronger as the season progresses, with 493 yards and six TDS on the ground in Byron Center’s last two games alone. That includes touchdown runs of 91 and 87 yards last Friday against Holland Christian. All the way back from a sophomore ACL injury, Rodgers has nearly doubled his per carry rushing average from his junior season. He’s hard to bring down, then has enough straight line speed at 4.7 to take it to the house when he gets to daylight.

Kenny Willekes 6-3 215 Sr LB Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian
He’s on the top of the GLIAC recruiting charts at linebacker, and with that textbook size sand 4.7 speed some MAC interest as well. As a senior Willekes is having some fun running the ball too. Last week was his high to date, 202 yards and two TDs against Godwin Heights. It’s the defense that will pay the bills though. Willekes fills job requirement one — he beads in on the ball, squares and finishes as a tackler. He can pursue sideline to sideline. Willekes plays with some rambunctiousness and edge, without losing his fundamentals. This is a big school talent playing at the Division 7 level, which can really make things fall apart for the opposition.

Gabe Baumann 6-3 245 Jr LB Rockford
Grand Haven had a nice ground game going in their overtime loss last Friday to Rockford. But most of that damage was done running off left tackle, far away from Baumann on the other side of the line. He plays with his hand down now but athletic enough to do either. Despite his size he has some wiggle which caused some problems for one of the Lake Area’s top senior tackles, Grand Haven’s Chase VanHoef, and ended up drawing double-teams. He closes well for his size as well. It was hard to see how Baumann does against the run in this game, but he’s clearly a top five overall prospect from the Lake Area in 2016.

Michael Holdship 6-0 210 Jr LB/RB Grandville
Baumann is the top outside linebacker in the 2016 class, and Holdship the best on the inside and, like his 131 neighbor, is a top five overall junior talent in the Lake Area. Cadillac may have been underestimated after graduating one of the best players in the school’s history, quarterback Jalen Brooks, to Ferris State. But the Vikings are undeated and running away from the Big North. Holdship is a carryover starter and a two-way workhorse for Cadillac. He’s playing defensive tackle this year. On the other side, Holdship has run for 190 yards the past two weeks, including last Friday against Traverse City West (a Division 1 school, Caddy is D4). With 4.6 speed and blue-collar toughness, he could end up a linebacker or Big Ten fullback.

Lake Area’s Top 5 2016 Linebacker Prospects
1. Gabe Baumann 6-3 245 Jr Rockford
2. Michael Holdship 6-0 210 Jr Cadillac
3. Zach VanValkenburg 6-4 230 Jr Zeeland West
4. Nolan Meekhof 6-1 215 Jr Grandville
5. Zane Gorby 6-3 200 Jr Caledonia

Nolan Meekhof 6-1 215 Jr RB/LB Grandville
We’ve long loved Meekhof for his measurables, he was a big powerful athlete as just a freshman. The he blew it away again at our combine last spring running a 4.6 40, clearing over 30″ standing vertical and making the top powerball toss at over 40′. But how does that translate to the field? Increasingly well. In what was a surprise blowout win only those who haven’t followed West Ottawa’s two boys’ money sports for decades, Meekhof ran 25 times for 145 yards and two TDs against a talented defense from the then No. 1 team in Division 1.

Week 8 Team Rankings

Division 1
1. Rockford 6-1
2. East Kentwood 6-1
2. Hudsonville 4-3
3. Grandville 3-4
5. West Ottawa 5-2

Division 2
1. Muskegon 7-0
2. Lowell 7-0
3. Muskegon Mona Shores 6-1
4. Caledonia 5-2
5. Portage Central 5-1
6. Portage Northern 5-2
7. Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills 3-4
8. Forest Hills Central 2-5
9. Traverse City Central 5-2
10. Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 3-4

Division 3
1. Zeeland West 7-0
2. Grand Rapids Christian 5-2
3. Cedar Springs 6-1
4. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 6-1
5. East Grand Rapids 4-3
6. Stevensville Lakeshore 6-1
7. Byron Center 6-1
8. Plainwell 6-1
9. Gaylord 5-2
10. Petoskey 5-2

Division 4
1. Grand Rapids South Christian 5-2
2. Cadillac 7-0
3. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 4-3
4. Edwardsburg 6-1
5. Allendale 4-3
6. Hudsonville Unity Christian 3-4
7. Comstock Park 3-4
8. Vicksburg 5-2
9. Whitehall 6-1
10. Paw Paw 4-3

Division 5
1. Grand Rapids West Catholic 7-0
2. Muskegon Oakridge 6-1
3. Hopkins 6-1
4. Newaygo 6-1
5. Reed City 6-1
6. Chippewa Hills 6-1
7. Central Montcalm 4-3
8. Berrien Springs 5-2
9. Wyoming Kelloggsville 5-2
10. Grandville Calvin Chrsitan 3-4

Division 6
1. Boyne City 7-0
2. Constantine 7-0
3. Ravenna 6-1
4. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 6-1
5. Niles Brandywine 6-1
6. Watervliet 6-1
7. Schoolcraft 4-3
8. Elk Rapids 4-3
9. McBain 4-3
10. Manton 5-2

Division 7
1. Traverse City St. Francis 5-2
2. Decatur 7-0
3. Gobles 6-1
4. Saugatuck 5-2
5. Suttons Bay 6-1
6. Frankfort 5-1
7. Bridgman 5-1
8. Cassopolis 4-3
9. Lawton 4-3
10. Onekama 4-3

Division 8
1. Muskegon Catholic Central 7-0
2. Beal City 6-1
3. Baldwin 6-1
4. Johnessburg-Lewiston 6-1
5. Eau Claire 3-3

Lake Michigan Prospect Watch: Week 7

Class of 2015
Mason Dekker 5-10 210 Sr LB West Ottawa
“Inspectah Deck he’s like that dude that’ll sit back and watch you play yourself and all that, right? And see you sit there and know you lyin’, and he’ll take you to court after that. Cuz he the Inspectah.” — Method Man
West Ottawa’s own Inspectah Dekk is now in his third year as the Panthers’ leading tackler, there’s no fooling him either. He makes great reads to the gaps, and other than one whiff going low was a rock at middle linebacker in West Ottawa’s win last Friday against East Kentwood, one of the biggest in school history. He’s also WO’s starting fullback and provides a receiving threats out of the backfield to help offset the loss of their top back, injured senior James Lacy. He had a first-down reception against East Kentwood. He can catch it the other way, too, with a 65-yard interception return for a TD earlier in the season.

Mike Egeler 6-4 225 Sr DL/TE Comstock Park
Egeler was a versatile role player on terrific Comstock Park teams as a sophomore and junior. As a senior it’s that versatility that continues to be his value, lining up as a six technique down lineman or sam linebacker, and is the Panthers’ tight end when they use one. He has the physical tools of a pass rusher, just would like to see more motor, like a Jacob Howe. As a tight end, Egeler used angles well to help spring Comstock Park’s runners, but needs to do a better job sustaining blocks in the passing game.

Caleb McNitt 6-2 215 Sr QB West Ottawa
He’s doing a reverse Jay Riemersma position switch. In 2013 McNitt was a tight end, his brother, senior Jared McNitt, was the QB. Now it’s Caleb under center, the position he played in JV ball. Three was nothing junior varsity about last Friday’s homecoming environment, when he led West Ottawa to an epic comeback win over then undefeated East Kentwood. McNitt plays a lot like another more heralded O-K Red QB, Mason Opple, as he’s just a football player as much or more so than a pure quarterback. He’s been nothing if not clutch, as the East Kentwood game marked the third come-from-behind. But the most recent one was special, as McNitt threw a fourth-quarter 40-yard TD pass to tie the Falcons then ran it in from five out to win it with under a minute to play. East Kentwood’s small, athletic defensive front had McNitt on the run in the first half. He had more time in the second half and defied the wind with his deliberate over-the-top motion to complete 13-of-21 throws for 276 yards and two TDs, while running for two TDs as well. He’s WO’s leading rusher on the season, hard to bring down with upper body strength and 4.7 speed. Throw in his grades, and McNitt is a versatile, low-risk recruit from one of the top leagues in the Midwest.

Maceo Vroman 5-11 160 Sr DB/WR Boyne City
He’s fast for any level, but put him at a small school Up North and there haven’t been many who can touch Vroman. The most they can do is not kick to him. He’s going to pile up scores on explosive runs around the ends. Primarily a runner but will also line up split wide and on rare occasions a blocker at tight end. He breaks away so often, tacklers often aren’t ready for Maceo when they do catch him, he’s so fast, aggressive and live-bodied he’s hard to bring down. Vroman also starts at cornerback for the Ramblers, a likely college destination at his size with his greatest value likey returning kicks.

Tristan Waters 6-2 160  Sr WR East Kentwood
While EK has re-emphasized the run game under first-year head coach Tony Kimbrough, and who can blame him with senior John Keenoy at center and senior Michael Ivy at tailback. But the Falcons can beat you through the air as well, as Kyle Friberg, one of the Lake Area’s top quarterbacks, has a lot of weapons to work with, and a stellar line to let him do his job. Waters is the long-striding outside threat to complement the quicker Kevin Smith, also a senior. Waters had a 68-yard TD reception last Friday at West Ottawa.

Jarrad Whited 6-2 230 DL/TE Vicksburg
Whited is the kind of guy scouts like because he’s good in a combine setting — and even better with the pads on. Whited is about as tough as the come on the ends, with a lot of GLIAC interest including visits to Grand Valley State and Saginaw Valley State. Despite being circled in red on the scouting reports of every Wolverine Conference teams, Whited defies the double teams and continues to create havoc in opponents’ backfields. While an ears pinned pass rusher, Whited is also tough against the run thanks to his toughness and closing speed. Perhaps his most spectacular play of the season came when he picked off a Paw Paw pass at the line of scrimmage and returned it 30 yards for a TD. That’s one more touchdown that Whited has a tight end, where he’s an aggressive and willing blocker.

Bryce Wilker 6-5 290 OL/DL Belding
Wilker is Belding’s left tackle, but may not be lithe and quick enough to do it at the next level. While Belding was largely overmatched last Friday against Comstock Park, Wilker had to be accounted for at all times. When he did catch pad level in the run game, it was all over. He also plays defensive end for the Redskins, and while he couldn’t catch CP’s talented junior QB Pat Naughton, he was able to flush the pocket, and the Panthers had trouble running his way. The interior of the line on either side would appear to be Wilker’s best bet in college.

Class of 2016
Pat Naughton 6-2 190 Jr QB Comstock Park
A returning starter who has Comstock Park back on track in the O-K Blue, Naughton remains a strong contender for the title of the Lake Area’s top 2016 QB. Even though he has fewer weapons to work with, Naughton is more patient and judicious than he was as an underclassman. He’s poised in the pocket and makes 40-yard tosses look easy. Not that he struggled in 2013 — CP went 12-1 as the sophomore threw for over 2,000 yards and 18 TDs. Through six games this year he’s completed 48-of-92 throws for 665 yards and six TDs. Like South Christian’s Jon Wassink, Naughton is dangerous on designed runs, but is more likely to keep a play alive in the pocket than bust it open. He’s run 76 times for 589 yards and six TDs.

Jean Pierre Nkolo 6-3 200 Jr DL/LB East Kentwood
East Kentwood has a small front seven by O-K Red standards, but they balance that with speed. Nkolo is part of that rotation, an explosive passing down rusher. He’s raw but when those flashes become more consistent, he’ll be heavily recruited. Other potential college players from EK’s D line are 6-0, 220 seniors Sammie Ryans, 5-9, 200 senior Melvin Sylvester and 6-2, 225 junior Vincent Hayes.

Luke Sage 6-0 185 Jr LB/DB Boyne City
The Ramblers have no losses through six games, thanks to a defense that’s allowed no points in five of those wins. The D embodies the makeup of Dave Hills’ best teams at Boyne City, not big but pursuers and hitters. More often that not it’s middle linebacker Sage the tip of the spearhead of this shutout unit. He anticipates so well, just seems to manifest from thin air in the gaps. Sage is lanky and athletic, looks almost laissez faire until the snap, then bring the sound and the fury. His wingspan helps him bring down bigger runners. He’s also valuable running the ball, blocking and on special teams. He’s likely a strong safety at the next level. It was ironic to watch Sage play against Traverse City St. Francis, as in many way he favors former Glads all-stater Riley Bullough. Sage is Green himself, his dad Dave having played at MSU in the 1980s.

Lake Michigan Prospect Watch: Week 6

Class of 2015
Brandon Childress 6-3 185 Sr QB Baldwin
Talent is so deep in the Lake Area that there are legitimate, athletic prospects at rural Division 8 schools.  Childress, who will officially visit Cal-Davis for basketball after Friday’s game, is on pace for another season in which he both throws and runs for over 1,000 yards. He’s dangerous on designed runs, but also maintains pocket integrity when passing and is more likely to step up and make a throw than break loose before his receivers are open. Good right now, it’s scary to think how Childress might project if he were playing behind an East Kentwood or Muskegon type of line.

Eddie Kelly 6-1 215 Sr RB Caledonia
When Eddie Kelly ran for a nine-yard score to finish off Caledonia’s opening drive against Rockford, who could’ve guessed it would be the winning TD? It was, though Kelly added two more TDs and Caledonia shocked Rockford and the state at large with a 42-0 victory. He’s similar to former Zeeland East star Spencer Viening, now a linebacker at the College the Canyons in California, in that Kelly’s strength in his hips and core allow him to shed tacklers then throws on the 4.7 speed to finish the deal.

Jaeden MacPherson 6-2 245 Sr DL Muskegon Catholic Central
Defending Division 8 state champion Muskegon Catholic is so loaded this season they’d be capable of competing at a state level up through Division 4. MacPherson is part of that talented mix, a pocket-collapsing defensive end. Can at times be dominant with his upper-body strength, but will have to keep adding weight and with that m.o. and barely sub-5.0 speed may be best-served on the interior of the line in college.

Bryce Witham 6-4 240 Sr TE/DL Grand Rapids West Catholic
Witham is an impact two-way force for the undefeated D5 state champions and one of the Lake Area’s top 10 overall senior prospects. He’s a reliable target over the middle who will make tough grabs in traffic then drag tacklers with him. Runs with some Jeremy Shockey attitude to finish plays. He embraces the blocking aspect of the job decription too, as Witham is explosive off the snap and plays through the whistle. On the other side, he is a defensive end with a motor who flushes the pocket, makes good reads and is a sound tackler.

Class of 2016
Mike Bordeaux 6-3 255 Jr OL/DL Muskegon Mona Shores
While it’s another Mona Shores junior lineman, Christian Boyd, whom we have ranked, Bordeaux is another one to check out for the Sailors. With all their pretty offense, someone has to be doing the dirty work, and Bordeaux does just that as a two-way tackle. At an offensive right tackle in Mona’s spread offense he does a good job clearing N-S routes for breakout senior running back Deontay Moffett. In pass protect does well stringing out edge rushers but can get beat by an explosive four technique. Going the other way, Bordeaux is a blue-collar tackle for both four- and three-man fronts whose college potential may be best served as an interior defender.

Wade Buckman 6-6 205 Jr QB Holland
After two classes heavy with college-talent QBs in the Lake Area, there’s a lesser haul in 2016. But coaches will keep looking, as will we which brings us to Buckman. His responsibilities with the Dutch 1 and 1A are to get the ball to senior running backs Elroy Payne and Brandon Davis. Buckman is a loping pro-style QB who looked to throw on the rollout against Byron Center. Arm strength will likely be the deal maker or breaker here.

Tanner Christian 5-11 180 Jr ATH Caledonia
A ball-handling and running QB, Christian clocks a 4.6 40 and proved an effective speed counterbalance to powerhouse senior running back Eddie Kelley as Caledonia’s rushing attack rolled over Rockford. Christian ran for 118 yards and two TDs, over half of it coming on a 61-yard scoring run as Caledonia put the game out of reach in the second quarter.

Zach Pangborn 6-0 175 Jr WR Grand Rapids Northview
He’s one of the Lake Area’s leading receivers at the turn with 15 catches for 265 yards and six TDs. Pangborn is also a standout shooting guard in basketball, and the hand-eye crossover is apparent on the field. You can also see some hooper in the the little free-up and double-moves he pulls off to create space on cornerbacks. He runs solid routes, finds holes and is quick in space which Pangborn needs because as a 4.7 40 guy he doesn’t have blow-by speed. He has a good feel along the sidelines to make life easier for senior QB Cameron Houston, and shows a team-first ethos with some actual hearty blocking.

3rd annual Senior Exposure Camp set for December 7th in Grand Rapids

lmfr recruiting

Participants at the LMFR Senior Exposure Camp meet college coaches one-on-one after showcasing their skills on the field.

For the third straight year, high school seniors with the desire to play college football will have a chance to showcase their skills in front of college coaches, media, and scouts on Sunday, December 7th. The LMFR’s Senior Exposure Camp — held at Woodland Sportsplex in Grand Rapids — gives players one more opportunity to square off against top talent in combine testing, position drills, and one-on-ones before National Signing Day on February 4th, 2015. Click the picture for more information or to register.

Lake Michigan Prospect Watch: Week 5

Class of 2015
Rhys Adle 6-3 215 Sr LB Traverse City Central
TC Central had a rude awakening to downstate football against perennial state power Detroit Catholic Central, but remains the favorite on the more comfortable ground of the Big North. One of the reasons is Adle, a gifted edge rusher. He starts both ways for TC Central as a tight end, but moves well enough that sometimes he’ll line up split wide. The key will be for Adle to retain that 4.7 speed as he adds requisite weight.

Thompson McWatters 6-4 250 Sr OL/DL Grand Haven
Grand Haven’s most highly regarded recruit is at right tackle, 6-4, 280 senior Chase VanHoef. But the Bucs have an intriguing prospect starting opposite him at left tackle as well. McWatters doesn’t have VanHoef’s sheer mass and power, but shows good technique as both a run and pass blocker. Does he have the athleticism and foot speed to play in space against bigger, faster college linemen, or will it call for a move to the interior or even defense?

Class of 2016
Tyler Bradfield 6-1 185 Jr  ATH Rockford
In the first half of last Friday’s win at Hudsonville, Rockford’s offense resembled the anemic 2013 version. But the Rams were saved by their defense and the big-play special teams punch of Bradfield. A 30-yard interception return by Spencer Andrus was Rockford’s first TD, and their second was set up by a 50-yard punt return by Bradfield. He also picked off Hudsonville QB Mason Opple at the end of the first half. The week before, he ran for the winning touchdown against Mona Shores; ran for a TD, returned a kickoff 70 yards and led the team in tackles against Holt; and had a pick and returned a fumble 37 yards in the opener with Utica Eisenhower. Bradfield was already an impact speed weapon as a sophomore, when he was an honorable mention All-OK Red safety. Now he’s bigger, a top 10 overall Lake Area prospect in 2016 who will beat you as a kick returner, running between tackles or hunting down passes in the defensive backfield. Rockford has also lined up Bradfield at QB and gotten the ball to him on a fake punt. He’s dangerous as he can both cut back and break away. He’s a real football player, too, and makes hits at the line as Rockford’s second-leading tackler of the season.

Juanye Johnson 6-4 275 Jr OL Muskegon
Johnson is yet another high-end O Line propsect in the Lake Area for 2016 .A flexible, mobile and tough run plow for the Big Reds at right tackle. He has quick hands and typically beats the opposing lineman to the punch. A strongside momentum-maker who will roll right into the second level and play through the whistle. Johnson needs to work on his vertical quickness, and footwork in pass protect.

Jonathan Berghorst 6-3 230 So DL Zeeland East
He’s been getting Big Ten interest since being called up to play varsity as a freshman in 2013, then performing well at school’s cams and Sound Mind Sound Body. A former linebacker who many are looking at as a De end, Berghorst had the strong legs, now as a sophomore he’s filled out all over. He runs a sub-5 second 40 and that straight-line speed is evident in his pass rush. Michigan is considered the early leader for Berhorst, a quarter-century after Jay Riemersma left the Chix for Ann Arbor a quarterback, and returned an NFL tight end.

Steven Spenner 6-3 205 So LB Berrien Springs
Berrien Springs, of all places, had two big-time recruits last year, with Jhonathan Williams going to Notre Dame and Nick Padla to MSU. There could be another making his way through for the Shamrocks in Spenner, who was an was honorable mention All-Wolverine linebacker as just a freshman. He’s a two-way starter, also a tight end, who thrives as a middle linebacker. Between making the right reads and his smooth approach, Spenner is too quick for linemen and has a knack for getting cleanly to ball-carriers. He’s a high tackler and with his big frame keeps the backs from falling forward, but will have to work on pad level and power to finish as the talent, speed and strength of the opposition increases. He plays like a classic run-stopping middle linebacker, Spenner needs to be able to show sideline-to-sideline speed and the pass cover ability needed for the position in the modern game, and could end up as an OLB. Certainly one to remember as he fills out over the next two-and-a-half seasons, and keep an eye on Berrien Springs’ other sophomore linebacker 6-3, 225 Phillip Paea.

David Thompson 5-8 175 So WR Ravenna
Like Berghorst and Spenner, Thompson was a freshman phenom on varsity who has matured and is even better as a sophomore. He already has over 1,000 career receiving yards for the Bulldogs, still undefeated in 2014. What you like best about Thompson is he’s not just some speed guy, but someone who will make grabs across the middle and break tackles after the catch. Thompson had a rushing TD last week in Ravenna’s blowout of Hart. He has the athleticism and toughness to play running back, defensive back or linebacker as his career progresses.

Lake Area Prospect Watch: Week 4

Class of 2015
Ethan Campbell 5-9 185 Sr RB/DB Traverse City Central
The best running back in the Big North, and it’s not really close. Teams plan for him and stack the line, but Campbell continues to produce. His 61-yard TD run down the left sideline gave Traverse City Central it’s first and go-ahead score in their rivalry win over TC West. He added a 10-yard TD in the second half and finished with 121 yards on 10 carries. Campbell identifies and explodes through the hole and can make it happen in the open field with 4.5 speed. He’s also a dangerous kick returner and had an interception against West.

Tony Curry 6-6 320 Sr OL Muskegon Oakridge
One of the largest players in the Lake Area, he absolutely dwarfs his Oakridge teammates on the line and there just aren’t many, if any, like him at the Division 5 level in Michigan. Curry is on track to be a two-time all-leaguer in the West Michigan Conference, where he also starts at D tackle. While his mass would be reapportioned in college, Curry doesn’t carry a lot of bad weight and runs a 5.6 as a pulling guard. He’s not a bad athlete, as a pretty good basketball player in the winter. Where he needs to improve is in space, whether to try and use his size and wingspan to get a look as a college tackle, or getting out to the next level to hunt linebackers. He doesn’t have that kind of range yet.

Johnny Nutter 6-2 180 Sr WR/DB Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central
One of the most stunning results of Week 3 came in O-K White opener as Forest Hills Central got its first win 31-19 over Caledonia. Nutter had 15- and 16-yard TD catches. He’s a very good athlete — a former quarterback who is also a basketball standout, now producing at receiver while playing both ways as a physical starting cornerback. He was formerly a safety and would be his likely college spot of not as a receiver. He has good hands, good feel, football toughness and a nose for the goal line and down marker. Nutter and junior Dylan Otosiki give senior QB Brett Miller perhaps the best pair of receivers in the O-K White — no small compliment given the talent in that league.

Daniel Shanley 6-2 235 Sr LB Grandville
Grandville is one of the Lake Area’s surprise teams at 2-1, the lone loss a strong showing against Muskegon. Shanley is part of a solid senior class that has helped ease the transition of new Bulldogs coach Eric Stiegel. Shanley is a run-stopping linebacker who gets a good jump and uses his strength to navigate lineman and has a keen sense for the ball in traffic. He won’t wow you but has a nose for the backfield and will consistently pile up tackles. Tends to shuffle more than let loose and just run which, while it’s a safeguard against over-committing, can limit Shanley’s finishing power. At the college level, will need to get quicker as he won’t be able to out-muscle the offense.

Will Stecker 6-4 270 Sr OL Gaylord
Gaylord has already won as many games this year, all three, as it did in the previous four seasons. But only one of those four, 2013, came with coach Will Cleaver on the sideline. While it remains to be seen if the Blue Devils will return to the golden days of Cleaver’s first tenure at the beginning of the century, they’re playing with a toughness and confidence that could make them a playoff threat out of the Big North. Traverse City West isn’t the only team in the league with two big, talent linemen, as Gaylord has a couple productive ones in Stecker and 6-3, 300 junior Kyle Augustine. Stecker is Gaylord’s left tackle, where you like his size and strength that would be even more useful with improved flexibility and pad level. In pass pass protect he uses his hands well to redirect edge rushers, and is able to block down against a four technique in the run game. Likely guard at the next level.

Seth Tice 6-3 270 Sr OL/DL Traverse City Central
Traverse City West may have the sexy tackle prospects. Tice toils on the interior but with a toughness and intent that was needed last Friday at a rainy Thirbly Field, and which embodies the approach of a Trojans team that is 3-0 heading into this week’s matchup with Detroit Catholic Central. Tice is physical, mean, and made an impact on the line going either direction, a space-eater on defense and run-puncher on offense. Much better run than pass blocker at this juncture.

Class of 2016
Daymion Archuleta 5-9 180 Jr RB  South Haven
The combination of the return of Archuleta from a two-game suspension and a size and experience advantage on Sturgis up front, were enough to give South Haven its first win of the season. Archuleta made up for lost time, carrying the ball 38 times for 308 yards. It will be interesting to see how he goes from here — if he can stay on the field, and against better competition.

Jake Cerny 6-5 272 Jr OL Traverse City West
He starts at right tackle as a counterbalance to his more renown junior teammate, left tackle Thiyo Lukusa. Cerny also spent some time at left guard when the Titans went big against TC Central with 6-7, 255 senior Cody Gravette at right tackle. Cerny impressed at our Traverse City camp in May and continues to improve, having added CMU and WMU offers since then. He has the frame of a tackle, good lateral movement and balance. Don’t be surprised if he were to eventually follow the path of TC West linemen Jake Fisher, Connor Hayes and Lukusa to a BCS school.

Thiyo Lukusa 6-5 302 Jr OL Traverse City West
He’s the Lake Area’s No. 1 ranked and most widely recruited 2016 prospect, who today, Tuesday, said on Twitter he will make his college announcement on December 1. As of now, he’s TC West’s starting left tackle. It’s easy to see why Lukusa is so highly regarded in the recruiting world, as his 3 bills moved well both straight ahead and side-to-side. He gets lots of work in pass protect as he continues to work on technique. For the attention he’s received, one may forget that this is still a very young football player who was hurt most of his sophomore seasons and for whom until recently basketball was his first sport. The nastier he gets on the field, the closer Lukusa will come to realizing his potential. He could be headed for guard, as he’s not as long and fast as a real high-end tackle prospect.

Lake Area’s 2016 Top 25 Recruits
1. Thiyo Lukusa 6-5 302 OL Traverse City West
2. Michael VanHoeven 6-5 277 OL Paw Paw
3. Jake Cerny 6-5 272 OL Traverse City West
4. Gabe Baumann 6-3 245 LB Rockford
5. Michael Holdship 6-0 210 LB/RB Cadillac
6. Luke Thompson 6-0 180 DB Grand Rapids Christian
7. Tyler Bradfield 6-2 185 ATH Rockford
8. Zack VanValkenburg 6-4 230 LB Zeeland West
9. Juanye Johnson 6-5 275 OL Muskegon
10. Gabe Steed  6-0  160  WR  Lowell
11. Hunter Broesma 6-1 175 WR/DB Muskegon Mona Shores
12. Trenton Fincher 6-9 300 OL East Kentwood
13. Derices Brown 6-1 257 OL/DL Muskegon
14. Quinn Nordin  6-2  190  K  Rockford
15. Luke Sage  6-0  185  LB/DB  Boyne City
16. Carl Myers 6-2 250 DL/OL Grand Rapids West Catholic
17. James Wyrick 5-9 190 RB Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills
18. Jake Martin  5-11  175  ATH  Forest Hills Northern
19. Darece Roberson 5-10 160 WR/DB Mona Shores
20. Zane Gorby 6-3 200 LB Caledonia
21. Karson Murley 6-3 275 OL Lowell
22. Casey Brinks 5-10 170 DB Zeeland West
23. Gourney Sloan 6-0 165 WR/DB East Grand Rapids
24. Christian Boyd 6-2 270 DL Muskegon Mona Shores
25. James Haverkamp 6-5 247 OL Grand Rapids Christian

Lake Michigan Prospect Watch: Week 3

Class of 2015
Dan Harazin 6-2 210 Sr OL Stevensville Lakeshore
First-year Lakeshore head coach Bryan Keim has some solid seniors to transition from the tenure of legendary Denny Dock. They improved to 2-0 with a win Saturday at Kalamazoo Loy-Norrix. Amongst those seniors is Harazin, who is an ideal high school center. His fundamentals are strong, with good initial quickness, violent hands and is fast into the second level to put down linebackers. We liked his enthusiasm and leadership as Lakeshore’s running game picked up momentum. If he’s not able to put on enough weight to anchor the line at the college level, Harazin’s 4.7 speed and football IQ will find him a spot somewhere on the field.

Nick Marosi 6-2 195 Sr WR Grand Rapids Catholic Central
He’s seen a lot of football, as a rare four-year starter who now doesn’t just go both ways for Catholic Central, but all over the field including special teams. That versatility contributed to Marosi’s over 200 yards from scrimmage and a TD in the Cougars’ opening loss to EGR. Saturday against Indiana state champion Gary Andrean, it was tougher going. Marosi’s best and likely college position is receiver, but lines up most often in the backfield so as to ensure more touches. If not, he’ll start split wide or in the slot. Defensively Marosi starts at cornerback. It’s not hard to project him physically to linebacker, but would have to greatly improve his tackling.

Mason Opple 6-3 207 Sr QB Hudsonville
The Big North’s a pretty good conference. But it’s the talent equivalent of the O-K Blue, and last Friday Traverse City West found itself once again overwhelmed by an O-K Red opponent when Hudsonville headed North and beat the Trojans 48-17. Opple was the best athlete on the field, with his rugged body and 4.6 speed running 13 times for 181 yards and three TDs. He also went 8-of-14 passing for 153 yards and a TD. Athleticism is a given for Opple, who starts for statewide top 10 teams in both football and basketball and whose best sport may be baseball. If he were to focus just on football there’s a lot of upside, whether red-shirting for a crash course in quarterbacking or moving him to another position.

Derek Smith 6-4 250 Sr OL/DL Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills
Terrific looking prospect who was injured his junior season and is just coming into his own. With a lean 250 on an athletic frame, jersey No. 55 and a neck roll, Smith looks like a linebacker. That fitness reaped its reward with consistent production in Kenowa Hills’ win over Greenville at both left tackle and left defense end. Kenowa’s biggest offensive plays for senior running back Andrew Wawrzyniak came behind Smith and 6-2, 280 junior Jake Boonstra on the left side of the line, Smith able to run right with him 20 yards downfield. Kenowa is strong on both sides of the line, which includes 6-3, 240 junior two-way tackle Brenden Bott and 6-2, 310 senior Malik Swain a double-team magnet at defensive tackle. But Smith is a cut above, and it’s hard not to get excited about a kid who seems right out of the mold of the under-recruited athletes that have gone to CMU and, in some cases, gone on to become wealthy NFL tackles. Right now he’s a top five Lake Area senior, not a bad starting point.

Lake Area’s 2015 Top 25 Recruits
1. Wesley French 6-5 295 DL/OL St. Joseph
2. John Keenoy 6-3 285 Sr  OL East Kentwood Western Michigan
3. Tyree Jackson 6-4 190 Sr QB Muskegon Mona Shores Buffalo
4. Derek Smith 6-4 250 QB OL/DL Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills Central Michigan
5. Jon Wassink 6-3 190 Sr QB Grand Rapids South Christian Western Michigan
6. Carter Masek 6-3 235 Sr LB East Grand Rapids Miami-OH
7. Sam Beal 6-2 175 Sr WR Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills Western Michigan
8. Brandon Childress 6-3 185 Sr QB Baldwin
9. Bryce Witham 6-4 240 Sr DL/TE Grand Rapids West Catholic
10. Matt Seybert 6-4 230 Sr DL/TE Traverse City St. Francis Buffalo
11. Gabe Andree 6-0 185 Sr DB Grand Rapids Christian Toledo
12. Qiantae Ewing 6-3 235 Sr LB Grand Rapids Christian
13. Mason Banbury 6-4 225 Sr TE East Grand Rapids
14. Steve Eipper 6-4 270 Sr OL Greenville Central Michigan
15. Adam Trautman 6-5 210 Sr QB Elk Rapids
16. Jacob Geter  5-8  180  RB  Plainwell  Davenport
17. Deontay Moffett 5-9 210 Sr RB Muskegon Mona Shores
18. Andrew Duckett 6-1 185 Sr QB Niles Brandywine
19. Travis Russell 6-2 185 Sr QB Grand Rapids West Catholic
20. Bryce Wilker 6-6 280 Sr OL Belding
21. Mason Opple 6-3 207 Sr QB Hudsonville
22. Jarrad Whited 6-2 225 Sr DL Vicksburg
23. Trevor Raby 6-4 240 Sr OL/DL Zeeland West
24. Eddie Kelly 6-1 215 Sr RB/LB Caledonia
25. Alezay Coleman 5-9 175 Sr DB Muskegon

Grant Tennehill 5-10 210 Sr LB Grand Rapids Catholic Central
Gary Andrean had Notre Dame linebacker recruit in Josh Barajas and a big-play back Trevor Berg. But the most “wow” plays in Andrean’s shutout win under a bearing late summer sun at Houseman Field, came from Tennhill. The Catholic Central outside linebacker got to Andrean’s QB three times in the first half alone. And all were whallops. He also had a sack in CC’s season opening loss at EGR. Tennehill has a terrific motor — he’s a wrestler — and can either out-quick or out-last bigger blockers and recover with power finishes.

Class of 2016
Jake Martin 5-11 175 Jr DB/QB Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern
We loved the poise Martin showed last season as a sophomore safety on Northern’s O-K Bronze championship team, when we saw the Huskies in the playoffs at Grand Rapids Christian. His athleticism and leadership have been further mined this season as he’s also the quarterback for first-year head coach . He threw for a TD and ran for over 100 yards in FHN’s opening win against Kenowa Hills while sharing snaps with Spencer Peterson, then threw for two TDs and ran for another against Byron Center as Northern improved to 2-0. What really stands out his just how he competes.

Class of 2017
Kalamazoo Loy-Norrix Linemen
Loy-Norrix started three sophomores in their Saturday afternoon home loss to Lakeshore, 6-3, 225 right tackle Joe Hruska, 6-1, 240 left tackle Jeudevine McClain and 6-1, 220 one technique Nick Reed.

Keegan Cossou 6-5 200 So TE/LB Greenville
Greenville has a strong group of linebackers with 6-2, 210 senior Chase Harrington, senior Kolton Dunham and Cossou. Cossou is a member of another talented group, and that is the Lake Area’s pass-rushing prospects in sophomore class. The Lake Area’s sophomore class has a Big Three of potential BCS ends with St. Joseph’s Corey Malone-Hatcher, Zeeland East’s Jonathan Berghorst and Alledale’s Nate Umlor. Cossou doesn’t yet have the mass and/or technique of that group. But there were certainly flashes during Greenville’s loss at Kenowa Hills, moving well for his age and frame . Once he learns to like blocking, he projects as a tight end prospect as well, taking advantage of the athleticism that also has Cossou a future basketball standout.


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