Lake Area Prospect Watch: Week 3

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Senior Joe Brown is a workhorse back for Portage Northern.

Class of 2017

Tyler Black  6-0  175  Sr  WR  Forest Hills Northern: While not possessing the size or explosion to dominate, Black still impresses with how light he is on his feet, smoothness in routes and cuts, and his easy hands away from the body. Has a knack for finding open spots. Moves with finesse but can hold onto it and take a hit. One of the top return threats in the Lake Area.

Joe Brown  5-11  200  Sr  RB  Portage Northern: A power working class back who can find the end zone and is the Lake Area’s early rushing leader. Rumbling, full effort interior back, it’s not always pretty but somehow seems to always take two for three guys to take him down. Not particularly short yet still runs with a lower center of gravity. It was at times more like Jim than Joe Brown in week 2 against Gull Lake when he ran for four TDs, including a 93-yarder, and a screen pass he took for a 61-yard tackle-breaking score. He’s having a breakout senior season powering his way into the running back prospect rankings after the Gull Lake game and opener with Lakeview which saw Brown rush for 152 yards and two TDs. He’s already surpassed his junior year totals.

Ethan Hart  6-1  210  Sr  LB  Hastings: Mike linebacker who is exceptionally strong, when he gets a bead on you, going down. Uses quick hands and active feet to shed blockers. Questions will be about his 5 flat speed and flexibility to cover. Also start at right tackle for the Saxons where he’s a fast, eager blocker. Could get some looks at tight end.

Carson Rosa  6-5  215  Sr  QB  Traverse City West: The senior class has a dearth of prospects with the physical profile of the classic pro-style QB, which makes Rosa intriguing. He threw for 1,400 yards and 13 TDs as a junior and has led West to a 2-0 start going into their Thirlby Field clash with TC Central. He’s the vet you want in an environment like the Patriot Game in front of 10,000 fans, and playing with an extra edge to avenge last season’s OT loss. Rosa has a good not great arm. He can make plays outside the pocket and has deceptive speed for his size to extend for first downs on called runs. Will be that much more dangerous as he progresses and looks to second and third options. Most appealing his the heart he shows in the red zone.

Zac Saltzgaber  6-0  190  QB/DB  Byron Center: Trigger man for one of the Lake Area’s elite offenses which has scored 99 points in a 2-0 start. They have athletes galore and he mixes it up nicely between his own touches, twin brother Josh, power runner Chris Chin, big speed threat Shane Tagg and of course the Lake Area’s most explosive big receiver since Drake Harris, WMU bound Brayden Smith. Saltzgaber hit Smith for a pair of 27-yard scores in their blowout of Middleville, and hooked up for a 50 yard score against Forest Hills Northern. While leading the team in tackles as a third-year starter at safety.

Ben Sherwin  6-4  260  Sr  Traverse City Central: Fit, athletic two-way lineman who is similar to Derek Smith, now at CMU via Kenowa Hills. Spends a lot of times in opposing backfields putting pressure on QBs, running backs and even punters. Going the other way, defenses get a whole lot of Sherwin in TC Central’s running game with Ben pulling from left tackle to join junior brother Sam Sherwin their right tackle.That fraternal double-team is welcomed as the Trojans only use a tight end with goal line formations.  He’s a finesse, technique pass blocker who takes advantage of his wingspan, and in the run game moves well enough to get out on linebackers. Not particularly wide through the shoulders may give some coaches pause as to how much weight he’ll put on at the next level.

Devante Walker  5-8  160  Sr  ATH  Traverse City Central: Often the smallest kid on the field, but just as often making the biggest plays. The Trojans are deep with quick skill guys similar to Walker, he is the old hand sophomore QB Tobin Schwanekke looks to in the red zone. He is a threat returning kicks, showing some wiggle after the catch from the slot or rushing the ball and turning the corner on the reverse. With John Pupel having chosen the prep school route, the onus is also on Walker to lead TC Central’s defensive backfield.

Erik Walker  5-8  160  Sr  RB  Dowagiac: Another small but good Walker. Nice fit for Dowagiac’s versatile, blue-collar running game. They marched all over South Haven in week 2. Walker went five yards around right end untouched for his first TD, then was really impressive showing high-end quickness on a cut back before his 4.6 speed was good enough to beat three defenders again to the right corner. That just confirms what we saw in the spring LMFR combine where he blew it away with pro agility shuttle times of 4.09 and 4.15 seconds.

Class of 2018

Ryan Hayes  6-7  250  Jr  TE/DL  Traverse City West: With Antwan Reed matriculating from Muskegon to IMG Academy, Hayes becomes the Lake Area’s top line prospect for 2018. While technique is still in progress, he’s a much improved, more physical blocker than he was as a sophomore starter. Plays with some attitude and isn’t shy about tossing around smaller opponents. Has hands and body control as a receiver. On the D line Hayes is a 5 technique defensive end who is strong against the run. Could see him switching from TE to OT in college, like TC West alumnus Jake Fisher did at Oregon on his way to the Cincinnati Bengals. Hayes isn’t as explosive as Fisher, closer in talent to MSU tackle Cole Chewins who was a Clarkston tight end. He’s also a well regarded pitching prospect and was a sophomore starter in basketball.

Shane Tagg  6-1  200  Jr  RB  Byron Center: The Bulldogs have an embarrassment of offensive threats. Game 1 showed a glimpse of the future, when all of them will have graduated save Tagg. He scored three TDs against Forest Hills Northern include a 51-yard score. Tagg tested as one of the top underclassmen at the spring LMFR combine, where he ran a 4.6 40 with a 33-inch vertical and 4.28-second pro agility.

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