Helmholdt's Takeaways: Class of 2020 steals the show in Detroit
DETROIT – The 13th Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic featured a seven-game schedule spread out over the first weekend of football in the state of Michigan. The event, held at Wayne State University’s Tom Adams Field, featured dozens of FBS prospects.
TAKE TWO: Is Clemson now a perennial power?
CLASS OF 2020 PROSPECTS STEAL THE SHOW
There was plenty of upperclass talent sprinkled throughout the schedule of games, but several sophomores stepped up to overshadow the seniors on the field in multiple games.
Oak Park, Mich. features two 2020 prospects who already sport multiple Power Five offers in cornerback Enzo Jennings and offensive lineman Justin Rogers. Jennings is a long cornerback at 6-foot-2 and 178 pounds who is very rangy with an explosive break on the football and shows instincts for the position that belie his years. Rogers was the best offensive lineman we saw all weekend – impressive considering multiple four-stars played in the Kickoff Classic. He was lined up over 2018 Army commit Henry Janeway for much of the game and it was a physical mismatch, in favor of Rogers.
The final game of the weekend was a showdown between Detroit power Martin Luther King and one of the Midwest’s most talented squads in Indianapolis Cathedral, and even this game was nearly overtaken by 2020 prospects. Cathedral sophomore quarterback Roman Purcell throws a beautiful football and did a solid job leading his offense back after getting down two touchdowns early. The play of the game, though, goes to Detroit King 2020 wide receiver Rashawn Williams, whose toe-dragging 23-yard touchdown reception was both spectacular and crucial to the Crusaders' ultimate victory. Williams was outstanding throughout the game, making several tough catches in traffic.
Even in the first game of the slate there was a sophomore sensation to be had Walled Lake (Mich.) Western versus West Bloomfield. Wisconsin commits Taj Mustpha and A.J. Abbott play wide receiver for West Bloomfield and I talk about them further down the page. The top wide receiver performance from that game, however, came from Walled Lake Western’s Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen. In fact, Yaseen was a talent on both sides of the football, stepping up to do a good job locking down Abbott from his cornerback position.
OHIO STATE, KENTUCKY, SYRACUSE SETTING EARLY PACE FOR 2020
Recruiting in the state of Michigan means contending with the two local Big Ten programs, Michigan and Michigan State. When it comes to recruiting the class of 2020, though, the Spartans and Wolverines are being beaten to the punch by out-of-state schools.
Ohio State has offered a pair of southeast Michigan prospects after seeing both at their summer camps. Detroit King wide receiver Rashawn Williams picked up an offer from the Buckeyes in June, while Oak Park offensive guard Justin Rogers landed his offer after showing out against senior defensive linemen like Micah Parsons and Jayson Oweh at Ohio State’s Friday Night Lights Camp in July.
Kentucky has also started to make inroads in southeast Michigan after landing a commitment from four-star lineman Marquan McCall in the 2018 class. The Wildcats have offered two of McCall’s teammates in Rogers and Jennings. They also have an early offer out to Belleville, Mich., cornerback Andre Seldon.
Syracuse, meanwhile, has been papering the state of Michigan with offers since the winter. Class of 2020 prospects from Michigan with offers from the Orange include Williams, Rogers and Jennings as well as Oak Park defensive tackle Dondi Price and wide receiver Maliq Carr, West Bloomfield wide receiver Christian Fitzpatrick and his teammate, cornerback Calvin Brown, all of whom played in the Kickoff Classic this weekend.
DEPTH OF SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN QB TALENT ON DISPLAY
Oak Park, Mich., 2019 four-star Dwan Mathis had some ups and downs during the first game of his junior season, but definitely showed flashes of the talent that made him an early Rivals100 prospect including ripping a touchdown pass into his receiver’s hand on a seam route in the first half. He was also intercepted on a poor throw and fumbled on the one-yard line, though, so, as I said, was up and down in game one.
Walled Lake Western three-star 2019 quarterback Samuel Johnson III was mostly up in his season-opener with a new school. Johnson holds offers from the likes of Cincinnati, Indiana and Syracuse and came away with game MVP honors after completing 17-of-27 passes for 237 yards and rushing for two touchdowns in his team’s win. Johnson shows excellent poise and is starting to fill out his 6-foot-3 frame, which is also helping with arm strength.
Another 2019 quarterback, Dequan Finn, has not received as much recruiting attention as his classmates Mathis and Johnson, but he was just as impressive in his season opener. The 6-foot, 176-pound Finn is the best runner of the trio and has a live arm, though his mechanics are not as refined as the other two.
WISCONSIN COMMITS MEET EXPECTATIONS
The Wisconsin Badgers have been more active than usual in Michigan, landing five commits from the state in their 2018 class. Three of those prospects played in this weekend’s Prep Kickoff Classic, including West Bloomfield teammates Taj Mustapha and A.J. Abbott and River Rouge safety Reggie Pearson. All three are rated at different levels within the three-star designation, and all three played to expectations in their season openers.
Both Mustapha and Abbott are listed as wide receivers and that is where they played exclusively in Thursday’s game against Walled Lake Western. Mustapha is rated as a 5.6 three-star and shows more playmaking ability. Abbott did not get many chances to showcase his skills on Thursday, and said after the game that he could see some time on defense later in the season and that side of the football is still a possibility with Wisconsin as well.
Pearson was Wisconsin’s first commit in the 2018 class, announcing his decision immediately after his season opening game at this event last year. A little undersized for the position at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, he has no problems coming up in run support and presents wide receivers thinking about catching the football over the middle with a dilemma. His strength, though, is in coverage and he nearly came away with an interception, but it was turned over by a targeting penalty.
OFFENSIVE LINE REPORT
We will wrap up this article by looking at the four-star offensive linemen who participated in the Kickoff Classic. We were expecting to see four four-star offensive linemen in action at the Kickoff Classic, but Indianapolis Cathedral’s Emil Ekiyor suffered a high ankle sprain in his team’s first game of the season a week prior was sidelined for Saturday night’s contest. The Michigan commit is not expected to miss much time, however.
Walled Lake Western 2019 Michigan State commit Spencer Brown was the first one we saw. He has added probably 50 pounds to his frame since his sophomore season and is now committed to offensive tackle after playing primarily on defense earlier in his career. Brown did a solid job handling the outside speed rush and his technique held up for the most part. He still has development ahead of him, but is on a good pace right now.
There was little question as to the performance we would see from Detroit East English Village offensive center Tyrone Sampson. The four-star 2018 prospect has been everywhere this off-season and always brings a consistently impressive performance. He rotated between right tackle and center in this game, and accounted for himself well in both roles.
We were very interested what we would see from Oak Park four-star offensive guard Marquan McCall because his performances over the last year have not been as consistent. Another issue coming into this evaluation was that McCall had a lingering injury from early in summer camp when someone fell on his leg, but honestly the state’s No. 2 ranked prospect in the class looked on par with his current rating. The Kentucky commit pancaked the defender on Oak Park’s first offensive play and he moved very well for a 6-foot-3, 330-pounder, especially one with a lingering leg issue.