Category Archives: Trending Up

Lake Michigan Prospect Watch: Week 6

Class of 2013
Derrick Diver  6-3  218  Sr  LB  Traverse City West   
The kind of true competitor who will knock your teeth out then shake your hand when the game’s over, and mean both with as much sincerity. Diver controls the middle of the field for the Titans and also is the team’s emotional leader. He’s an old school middle linebacker with great football instincts and a motor that doesn’t quit. He’s also an ace in the classroom with a 3.6 GPA and 26 ACT. Diver is drawing interest from Division 1 and Division 2 schools. It’s telling that in TC West’s big win over Cadillac, when there were any number of D1 prospects on the field, Diver was out there making plays and turning heads.

Trent Karcher  6-1  185  Sr  WR  Chippewa Hills
Karcher is one of the few high school wide receivers that consistently catches the ball with his hands and not with his body. He has great speed — track guy who runs a true 4.5 — and good body control. He has been a major offensive weapon this year for the Warriors with nearly 700 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in five games. He’s drawing interest from D1 and D2 schools and could  be a player that contributes early at the next level.

Class of 2014
Chris Hendricks  6-5  265  Jr  OL  Fruitport
Hendricks is one of the myriad D1 lineman prospect in the Lake Michigan junior class. While it would’ve been nice from a scouting perspective had he stayed at Mona Shores, where he could be seen against the likes of the line from Muskegon, Mona’s Friday opponent, no one can say the move to Fruitport has gone poorly. Fruitport is 5-0 with Hendricks starting at left tackle and on the D line. Fruitport has a decent run-pass ratio, so Hendricks is able to practice both disciplines. He has a nice kick when pass blocking, while just swallowing Lakes 8 defenders in the run game. It’s no coincidence that in Dakota Gordon‘s 13 carry, 133 yard game last Friday in a win against Ludington, the majority came on the left side. With his 5.1 speed, Hendricks is able to get to the second level and keep plays alive, helping Fruitport be a big-play offense with Gordon and senior QB Tyler Feler. Hendricks’  best attribute: Balance. Needs work: Explosive hitting through his man, both offensively and defensively.

Jake Kaczynski  6-5  240  Jr  TE  Ludington
Last week we talked about a big, all-around athlete, Plainwell’s Tyler White, who is somewhat overlooked because he doesn’t get many touches, just plays his role. Kaczynski is the opposite. Playing tight end, H-back and linebacker for Ludington, he tops the Orioles in tackles and receiving, and is their third leading rusher. In Ludington’s only win, against Muskegon Orchard View, Kaczynski  ran for two TDs and caught another. Catching the ball, he’s rarely brought down by either the first or second hit. He probably projects as a MAC recruit if: as a linebacker, he can turn and cover; as a tight end, he can get a respectable 40 time at a combine. For his size, Kaczynski doesn’t look to have a particularly long or smooth stride like you see from a down-field tight end threat.

2016 Watch
Malik Smith  5-10  190  Fr  ATH  Boyne City
Smith is a really good two-way player, a physical specimen starting at fullback and linebacker for undefeated Boyne City. On offense, he runs with power but also has really good feet and enough speed to break away. On defense, Smith is a sure tackler and stays around the ball, and doesn’t shy away from physical contact.

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Lake Michigan Prospect Watch: Week 5

Class of 2013

Nate Jeppesen  6-4  265  Sr  OL  Portage Central
Portage Central had a heart-breaker last Friday, losing 41-40 at Stevensville-Lakeshore. But at least, for the first time this season, the 3-1 Mustangs put their best team on the field. The Lakeshore game marked the return of Jeppesen, who had missed the first three games with that long-time high school season killder, mononucleosis.  Jeppesen, who committed to Toledo, is one of the most athletic, versatile college-sized lineman in the Lake Michigan area. With him back in the lineup, against Lakeshore, Jacob Allan ran for 135 yards and two TDs, DeJuan James 87 yards and two TDs and QB Ryan Mergener 82 yards and a TD.

Matt Modreske  6-7  300  Sr  OL  Hopkins
The football commodity the Lake Michigan area produces most consistently is linemen. None of them were prep All-Americans. None of the five offensive linemen currently in the NFL even had Big 10 offers — Joe Staley (Rockford/CMU), Jared Veldheer (Forest Hills Northern/Hillsdale), Todd Herremans (Ravenna/SVSU), Joe Berger (Newaygo/Michigan Tech) and Cameron Bradfield (Grand Rapids Creston/GVSU). Such was the history and potential that saw us arrive last Friday to see Hopkins shut out Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 28-0. On Hopkins line at left tackle is one of those big, raw West Michigan boys, Matt Modreske standing a head taller than anyone else on the field. I liked how he got into the second level, and it looks like he’s been working on his body, with some triceps definition when he got in his three-point stance. Technique-wise is where Modreske has to improve, taking full advantage of his reach. Undefeated Hopkins plays with two tight ends and does nothing but run, so who knows what Modreske’s pass-blocking looks like. No one is promising a future like the five pros mentioned above. but he is a GLIAC project with big upside.

Plainwell tight ends
In the preseason, we ranked Plainwell tight end Tyler White the No. 5 senior prospect in the Lake’s area. Anyone who has looked for his stats since then, may think we’re crazy. He mostly blocks for the 3-1 Trojans. He’s ranked so optimistically because White, the one-time running back, “looks like you’re supposed to look,” as one college coach put it, 6-6, 240 and can move.  He’s one of two senior tight end prospects for Plainwell, along with 6-4, 235 Chance Terry. MLive’s Scott DeCamp broke down how both affected the game in Plainwell’s 23-7 win over neighboring Otsego.

Andon Ware  5-11  170  Sr  RB  Baldwin
OK, enough blockers, how about a runner? Ware has been a one-man gang for Baldwin. He ran 14 times for 285 yards and three TDs and caught two passes for 49 yards and a TD last Friday in a rare, but emphatic, 48-13 win over Manistee Catholic Central. Ware is a GLIAC kid who MAC schools are starting to show interest in despite playing at a Class D school. He was a standout at our Traverse City combine in July, running a 4.6 40 with a 9’8 broad jump, 4.3 pro agility and 28.5″ vertical.

Class of 2014

Alec Stevens  6-5  265  OL  West Branch Ogemaw Heights
Stevens isn’t as well-known as some junior linemen, because he was injured and didn’t make the summer camp circuit. He has the physical profile though — big, thick and square, but not fat. Michigan’s coaches have noticed, and Stevens was at the Big House for U-M’s win over UMass. The Lake Michigan area is just loaded up front in 2014, with what looks like at least seven BCS guys. Here are Lake Michigan’s top 10 linemen for — some go both ways, some are already specializing on one side of the ball:

  1. Jordan VanDort  6-6  290  Jr  Zeeland West
  2. Kenneth Finley  6-4  265  Jr  Muskegon
  3. Tommy Doles  6-5  240  Jr  Grand Rapids Christian
  4. Alec Stevens  6-5  265  Jr  West Branch Ogemaw Heights
  5. Nick Padla  6-5  265  Jr  Berrien Springs
  6. Connor Hayes  6-3  290  Jr  Traverse City West
  7. Jake Khoury  6-3  265  Jr  Traverse City St. Francis
  8. Chris Hendricks  6-4  265  Jr  Fruitport
  9. Austin Labus  6-6  270  Jr  Portage Northern
  10. Tristen Fleet  6-3  275  Jr  Mancelona

Will Hunt  5-11  Jr  LB  Muskegon
Part of the Muskegon Machine that is 4-0 against the state’s toughest schedule. Hunt is a smart football player that doesn’t stay blocked. He’s never the most athletic player on the field, but makes a lot of big plays. Hunt is a throwback linebacker with great instincts, the kind of kid who eats, sleeps and drinks football. He’s a D1 prosect with Big Ten and MAC interest.

2016 watch
Sticking with the lineman theme, the Big North has two potential standouts in the 2016 class — 6-2, 260 freshman Tommy Roush of Petoskey and 6-4, 270 freshman Thiyo Lukusa of Traverse City West. Both of these guys aren’t just pubescent freaks, they have legitimate athletic resumes. In July, Roush, the son of Petoskey track and field coach Kevin Roush, placed fifth in his age group nationally in the shot put and 12th in the hammer throw. For his part, Lukusa was the starting center for Parallel 45, one of the state’s top five 14U AAU basketball teams with a 39-7 spring record.

Lake Michigan Prospect Watch: Week 4

Labor Day had passed, game day temps dropped 20 degrees as the wind and rain came. Real football time, with real players, real prospects, emerging.

Class of 2013
Cadillac linemen: Jack Ford and Riley Norman
Cadillac unleashed the cave trolls on Petoskey’s heretofore stout offensive and defensive lines. Ford is 6-6, 270, Norman is 6-7, 315. Offensively, they cleared the way for junior QB Jalen Brooks to run for six TDs and nearly 300 yards. Defensively, they helped hold Petoskey’s typically potent running game to under 100 yards.  Ford is headed to Central Michigan. Norman is going to MSU to throw on the track team. If he ever has a change of heart, there’s NFL potential.

Daniel Green  6-0  290  Sr  DL  Grand Rapids West Catholic
Green was a one-man show on West Catholic’s line in their loss to Grand Rapids South Christian. He’s a force at defensive tackle who collapsed double-teams and still made the stop, and if going one-on-one was simply too quick and able to cleanly reach the backfield. Against most high school quarterbacks Green, who moonlights at guard, would’ve piled up some sacks, but Sailors sophomore Jon Wassink is no average QB with his quick release and escapability.

Nic Lamica  6-4  210  Sr  LB  Forest Hills Central
He’s so big and fluid with 4.7 speed, and plays with a motor, so Lamica is a play-maker on both sides of the ball. Against East Kentwood he scored two TDS, one as a tight end and one returning an interception (one of his two picks).

Class of 2013
Kyle Steigenga  6-4  175  Jr  WR  Holland Christian
Pure athlete who isn’t quite as fast as Drake Harris, but this fellow all-state basketball player has the body, ups and play-making ability in the air, similar. While he’s basically Maroon senior QB Ross Schreuer’s only legit weapon, Steigenga has already had two outstanding games. In the season opener he made nine catches for 152 yards and four TDs against Zeeland West, then last week against Hudsonville Unity caught four balls for 122 yards and two TDs.

Jalen Brooks  6-3  185  Jr  ATH  Cadillac
We had Brooks ranked Lake Michigan’s No. 7 2014 prospect in the preseason. That proved prescient, but even then may have been short-changing him considering what he did against Petoskey. The Vikings’ aforementioned leviathan line opened up the holes, then Brooks broke tackles to the pace of 26 carries for 294 yards and six TDs. It might’ve been worse if he hadn’t cramped up. All that running. It’s not all legs, though. Aside from the team work, Brooks spent 20 hours last week at home watching video to get ready for their Petoskey showdown. As his rep continues to grow, the GLIAC likes him as a QB, while bigger schools are looking at him as a DB. He’s very similar to Jamie Gasparella, South Lyon’s quarterback over a decade ago who became an All-American cornerback at Brown, only bigger.

Lineman in A2: Tommy Doles and Kenneth Finley
Doles, a 6-5, 240 junior from Grand Rapids Christian, and Finley, a 6-4, 255 junior from Muskegon. Both were guests at Michigan Stadium on Saturday. Ironically, these two play a bit like the Air Force linemen that nearly upset the Wolverines — smaller, but athletic, mobile hitters. Finley will be moving up with a bullet next week in our 2014 rankings. He’s a ball-hawk with a knack for getting to the quarterback. Friday in Muskegon’s win at Rockford, Finley led the Big Reds with eight tackles, including three behind the line, as they limited the Rams to 21 rushing yards. He’s athletic with good size so even though he’s a high school defensive end, he could transition to become a great outside liebacker at the next level. Stylistically, Finley reminds you of Clay Matthews, and he’ll likely end up Lake Michigan’s top defensive prospect in 2014.

2015 Watch
Two of Lake Michigan’s top young QBs, South Christian’s Jon Wassink and West Catholic’s Travis Russell, squared off Friday. With more talent around him, and no shortage of it himself in that arm, those legs, Wassink and South Christian came out with the better end on West Catholic’s field, 33-7. It was windy and rainy, far from ideal passing conditions. The wind seemed to affect Wassink’s ball more than the tighter rotation coming off of Russell. I’d like to see Wassink’s arm again in a more neutral environment. But what really makes this kid special right now is his poise, smarts and mobility. He can stay in the pocket and get the throw off just before taking a hit, or scramble and make throws on the move. Wassink, 6-2, 175, competed 12-of-23 throws against West Catholic for 148 yards and three TDs. For his part, Russell threw for 64 yards and ran for 47. He’s smaller than Wassink, so was most effective throwing when he was able to roll out and see the field.

2016 Watch
Playoff appearances were the norm during Dave Hills first tenure on Boyne City’s sidelines. Here we go again, in his first season back the Ramblers are halfway there, 3-0. And they won’t have to worry about the skill positions for awhile. Starting QB Corey Redman, who has committed to Central Michigan for basketball, is a sophomore, while emerging running back Malik Smith is just a freshman. In Boyne’s fortunate win Friday against Kalkaska, Smith turned in his second 100-yard rushing game of the young season, toting it 24 times for 108 yards and two TDs.

Lake Michigan prospect watch: Week 3

Trending Up

Class of 2013
Antwan Billings  6-3  275  Sr  OL  Muskegon
Muskegon has college talent at every position, and even amidst all that Billings stands out. In the Big Reds’ 40-37 win at Sylvania, OH Southview, they had three 100-yard rushers running behind a mammoth front line anchored by Billings at right tackle. He has been receiving interest from Division I schools, but has yet to win them completely over. With offers on the table from several Division II schools, Billings will improve his stock if he continues to perform at the level he’s demonstrated over the past two weeks. His upside includes good feet and ideal size to play the guard position at the next level.

Andrew Trautman  6-2  215  Sr  LB  Elk Rapids
He’s a three-year starting QB, too — including with the 2010 Lake Michigan Conference title team — but Trautman’s best college position is likely middle linebacker. He has the right mix of size and speed — 4.6s in the 40, 4.3 in the pro shuttle. It looks like Trautman could be a key part of another playoff team. They’re 1-1, with a close loss to undefeated Mancelona then a 35-0 shellacking of Kingsley. There’s another big game this Friday at vanquished Lake Michigan foe Traverse City St. Francis.  Back in their LMC days, before the Glads got the boot, Elk Rapids actually beat them in that 2010 season. St. Francis had gone 55 league games since last dropping one in the Lake Michigan Conference, to Boyne City.

Class of 2014
Marcus Lambert  5-11  175  Jr  RB  Zeeland West
Sure, Lambert has it made in John Shillito’s offense, hidden by two tight ends and with the fullback trap the go-to play. But he’s still gotta hit the hole, still gotta be fast enough to take it to the next level. That hasn’t been a problem. After his 300-yard, 5 TD behemoth effort against Zeeland East, Lambert is the Lake Michigan area’s top rusher with 467 yards and nine TDs. In two games.

2015 watch
After a 9-0 2011 regular season and best-ever 10-1 overall mark, its fearless showing at Cincinnati Moeller, and 2012 state championship aspirations in Division 3, Grand Rapids Christian’s future is now. And with talent spread throughout all four classes, this program isn’t just a Drake Harris moment. Under Don Fellows, GR Christian runs a no-huddle, spread offense that serves as a great showcase for prospects as it’s easy to see their fit into modern college ball. But the athletes aren’t limited to the offensvie side of the ball. Two sophomore starters on D showed flashes against Moeller. 6-2, 215 soph Qi’ante Ewing makes plays on instinct right now. When the underclassman becomes and upperclassman with inside-out knowledge of the system, he’ll be consistently dangerous. Playing next to senior MLB Matthew Hall can only help his learning curve. As a 6-0, 215 soph, Jalen Jarnegen is undersized playing with his hand down in the Eagles’ 3-4, but more than makes up for it with his motor, which enabled him to get up and down the line and into Moeller’s backfield.

2016 watch
More Grand Rapids Christian? Told you they were talented. Fellows calls freshman Luke Thompson a “Drake Harris type football player.” He’ll be making his varsity debut starting at cornerback Friday against 2-0 Kenowa Hills. The Knights have one of the top senior receivers in the Lake Michigan area, Dylan Smith.

Lake Michigan prospect watch

Trending up
Class of 2013
15. Ryheem Stokes  5-10  170  DB  Grand Rapids Catholic Central
Stokes is ably picking up for Kevin Vicari, who was a utility all-state player and is now at Grand Valley State. When you dominate East Grand Rapids on all three units, you’re legit. In CC’s 33-14 win, Stokes twice intercepted the Pioneers, blocked a punt, and ran for a 53-yard score. He’ll be a big-time rankings mover at this rate.

Class of 2014
9. Kenneth Finley  6-4  265  Jr  DL  Muskegon
Westside stand up. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s found out that the real Big Red certainly isn’t their garish home turf. Finley shut it down inside, keying a yeoman line effort that sent Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in defeat back to Oakland County. And that puddle they dare call a lake.

20. Zach Evans  6-3  235  DL  Kenowa Hills
Kenowa Hills had four junior standouts on defense. But Evans was on a level of his own, with his motor going both ways, ears down big play ability and terrific 11th-grade frame.

On the Lake Michigan horizon
This category covers players whose performance warrants a shot at the next 2013 player rankings. Matthew Hall, a 6-0, 210 Grand Rapids Christian senior, is a playmaker for the Eagles’ D at middle linebacker. He led them with nine tackles in their win against South Christian and returned a fumble for a TD. He did the same thing last year against Northview. Hall will hit to cause fumbles, too, and is a consistent threat to break through into the offensive backfield. A typical effort from Hall Saturday at Cincinnati Moeller will go a long way towards helping the Eagles’ compete.

2015 watch
Two sophomores are already impact quarterbacks. Grand Rapids Christian came into the season a consensus top 10 pick and a roster double-digit deep with college prospects. All South Christian’s 6-2, 180 soph QB Jon Wassink did in his high school debut, a 10-point losing cause agaisnt the Eagles, was complete 12-of-24 throws for 227 yards and three TDS, while running for 145 and another TD. “He didn’t make a bad decision … he never forced the ball anywhere,” South Christan coach Mark Tamminga said.

Tyree Jackson is already a second-year starter for Muskegon Mona Shores. The 6-0, 165 sophomore loves the long ball, but Mona didn’t really need it in a 42-6 dismantling of injury-ravaged Muskegon Catholic Central.