As the high school season starts, one can’t but help and link it to the similarly approaching college season. With that in mind we look at the top Lake Area high school alumni now playing at the next level.
OT Jake Fisher 6-6 299 Sr Oregon (Traverse City West)
NFL.Com says the Ducks have the third most Draft-able team in college football. Fisher is in that mix as an athletic fourth-year senior and three-year starter. He went out to Oregon as a TC West tight end but has been a right tackle ever since. Fisher is all kinds of athlete, helping QB Marcus Mariota pile up Heisman numbers. With more consistency and better pass blocking, Fisher is first-team Pac-12 material (he was honorable mention as a sophomore and junior) and will have his named called early next April.
OT Jack Conklin 6-6 303 So Michigan State (Plainwell)
In those same NFL.Com Draft talent rankings, MSU is No. 4 behind the aforementioned Ducks. Conklin is just another example of the Spartans staff’s ability to recruit without the distraction of star rankings and turn these “nobodies” into pros. The son of Plainwell head coach Darren Conklin, Jack signed with Michigan State in the spring of his senior year in 2012. By the fall of 2013, he was MSU’s starting right then left tackle and eventually a freshman All-American on a Rose Bowl champion. Now a redshirt sophomore down 30 pounds from last season, Conklin is on the Outland Trophy Watch List.
C Connor Kruse 6-5 325 Sr Michigan State (Lowell)
Kruse is MSU’s first-team right guard, but for our purposes penciled in at center, a position he’s seen time at in the past. Kruse walked on in East Lansing after a state championship and two all-state seasons at Lowell. He’s been a scholarship player since the 2012 season.
OG Jon Ackley 6-3 292 Jr Albion (North Muskegon)
This right guard was Albion’s rookie of the year as a freshman in 2012. He moved to left tackle in 2013 and was first-team All-MIAA. To make this theoretically loaded lineup replete with potential pros, Ackley will move back to guard.
OG Parker Ehinger 6-7 292 Jr Cincinnati (Rockford)
Another lanky Rockford lineman who pulls well, Ehinger found his way onto the field in 2012 when Cincinnati’s starting right tackle was injured and started 10 games. He played both right side spots as a redshirt sophomore on Cincinnati’s 9-4 team.
QB Tyler VanTubbergen 6-3 198 Sr Western Michigan (West Ottawa)
The redshirt senior is second on WMU’s depth chart heading into the fall. In 2013 VanTubbergen started six games before injuring his shoulder, completing 82-of-183 throws for 930 yards and four TDs.
RB Bronson Hill 5-10 215 Sr Eastern Michigan (Grand Rapids Catholic Central)
Over the last half century, few Lake Area schools have put out like Catholic Central has across generations. Hill set the CC record for single-season rushing TDs as a senior. He hasn’t been quite prolific in the MAC, but he’s certainly been good. As a junior he ran for 1,100 yards (a hefty 5.6 yards per carry) and 5 TDs. It had been a decade since an EMU runner reached the millenial lark. Over the past two seasons he’s put together 2,389 yards total offense and 13 TDs. He’ll have an NFL shot.
RB Kitwana Clark 5-8 190 So Ferris State (Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills)
Sharing time his first season at Ferris with another former Lake Area standout, Jamaal Jackson a senior from St. Joseph, Clark showed flashes of what made him so special at Kenowa Hills. On just 45 carries he ran for 308 yards and four TDs.
FB Joe Kerridge 6-0 244 Jr Michigan (Traverse City St. Francis)
He was a scoring machine for St. Francis’ back-to-back state championship teams who has transitioned to being a blocker and occasional pass catcher in Ann Arbor. The redshirt junior started seven games for Michigan in 2013, in addition to special teams duties. Kerridge was twice named Academic All-Big Ten.
TE Jamie Potts 6-3 225 Jr Grand Valley State (Muskegon Oakridge)
This one-time Oakridge quarterback is as good an athlete as you’ll find from the Lake Area regardless of college level. Potts was as first-team Division 2 All-American as both a tight end then in baseball as an outfield for the Lakers. 2013 was the most prolific pass-catching season by a tight end in Grand Valley State history, as Potts had 54 catches for 900 yards and 11 TDs.
WR Matt Kroll 6-2 190 Jr Hope (Grand Haven)
He came from one of the Lake Area’s most pass-friendly offenses in the next town up from Hope, Grand Haven, and in 2014 will provide a veteran target for a new Flying Dutchman QB. As a sophomore Kroll had 24 catches for 338 yards and five TDs.