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Helmholdt's Takeaways: Season kicks off in Midwest

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

The states of Illinois, Michigan and Ohio kicked off their 2018 season last weekend, capped by a Sunday interstate showdown between defending state titlists Chicago (Ill.) Phillips and Pickerington (Ohio) Central. In all, five games were covered in those three states during the opening weekend.

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Demeatric Crenshaw
Demeatric Crenshaw

The series of games covered this weekend gave us a chance to see several top quarterbacks in the region from the classes of 2019, 2020 and even 2021. Here is how I would rank the performances of the Power 5-offered quarterbacks from Week 1, followed by a few more worth noting.

1. Demeatric Crenshaw, Pickerington (Ohio) Central

A Rivals250 prospect in the 2020 class, Crenshaw only needed to throw 10 passes to lead Pickerington Central to a 49-18 win over Chicago power Phillips Academy on Sunday, but those 10 attempts resulted in eight completions for 227 yards and four touchdowns. Oh, and he also ran for a score. Crenshaw throws a good ball with both accuracy and velocity, and he has dual-threat capabilities, but his best weapon is between his ears. He is calm, cool, collected and processes the game faster than everyone else on the field.

2. Dwan Mathis, Oak Park, Mich.

There is not much more to say about Mathis that we haven’t already said. He’s one of the top athletes in the Midwest’s 2019 class, regardless of position. At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Mathis is often the speculation of a position switch in college. My answer to that is going to be, yes, he can play another position, like wide receiver, if needed, but his highest upside is at quarterback. He has a very talented arm, and though he is not a finished product as a passer, there is nothing there that should be a hindrance to Mathis reaching his potential as a distributor of the football.

3. Riley Keller, Toledo (Ohio) Whitmer

Keller has generated early offers from Iowa State, Ole Miss and West Virginia. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds he’s not the biggest quarterback, but he does have some elusiveness to keep the play alive and pick up yards with his feet when needed. At the college level, though, he is a pro-style quarterback and he was a little up and down in his junior season opener. His footwork is really strong for a young quarterback, but his release point was all over the place, resulting in some poorly thrown footballs. At the end of the day, though, his team won big and Keller completed 56 percent of his passes for 189 yards and a score.

4. Sam Johnson III, Walled Lake Western

The best asset that the Boston College quarterback commit has shown throughout his prep career has been his mental proficiency while playing the position, but that attribute eluded him on Thursday. After a few drops by his wide receivers, Johnson lost his usual poise and struggled to move the offense down the field. The end result was a 28-7 loss to Detroit Catholic Central in which Johnson completed just 9-of-24 passes and threw two interceptions.


DeWayne Carter
DeWayne Carter (

Talking about prospects who delivered with performances worthy of their rating, near the top of that list has to be four-star Boston College linebacker commit Tommy Eichenberg. He plays outside linebacker for St. Ignatius, but his ability to diagnose plays, shed blockers and gobble up tackles makes him an ideal MIKE linebacker candidate. He has the size for that position, he is fast and athletic and when he gets a ball carrier teed up, he knows how to finish.

The Pickerington (Ohio) Central three-star defensive line duo of TCU commit Karter Johnson and Duke commit DeWayne Carter were both impressive during their team’s win over Chicago Phillips. Although Phillips’ star power is primarily at the skill positions, it boasts an offensive line that his both big and tough. Johnson and Carter, however, wore them down and by the second half were wreaking havoc on whatever that offense wants to do. Johnson has noticeably grown and is now over 300 pounds, but it’s good weight gain and he still moves well at that size. Carter has almost gone the other way and looks even leaner than last year. He could be a candidate to stay at the five-technique defensive end position for the Blue Devils.

Although it was in a losing effort, Illinois wide receiver commit Fabian McCray continued his impressive momentum from the offseason. He is still listed as an athlete prospect after there were questions early in his career whether he projected higher on offense or defense, but McCray has answered those questions succinctly. He is a polished pass catcher who should have the ability to put up big numbers from the outside receiver position at Illinois.

Two more pass catchers who answered questions were 2020 Alabama tight end commit Caden Clark and 2020 Oak Park, Mich., wide receiver Maliq Carr. Clark had reportedly gotten up to almost 260 pounds in the offseason, but he looked fit and athletic in Saturday’s contest with Cleveland St. Ignatius. He moves effortlessly and brings that size/athleticism combination to the position that should allow him to play in-line and flex. Carr, meanwhile, has a frame at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds that could grow into a tight end, but his acrobatic first quarter catch in which he had to contort his body and high point the football showed he still can play on the outside.


DeaMonte Trayanaum
DeaMonte Trayanaum (Marc Givler)

From the very beginning of DeaMonte Trayanaum's recruitment, which took off with quick offers from Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and West Virginia at the end of last winter, the question about which position the 2020 athlete projects best to at the next level has persisted. Trayanaum did not really give us an answer to that question Saturday night. At 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds Trayanaum physically looks like a running back, and he looked quick enough to play that position at the college level when he got into a rhythm in the second half, finishing with 11 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Defensively Trayanaum plays a hybrid safety/linebacker role, and in the right defense that is definitely a fit as well. We’ll have to wait to determine his best future position at a later date, however.

Several more 2020 prospects with significant college interest had up-and-down days or did not have a chance to showcase much. Rivals100 cornerback Enzo Jennings picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown in Oak Park’s (Mich.) win Thursday night, but was not tested much through the air. Chicago Phillips three-star cornerback Ronald Pledge is big for the position. He also played some offense and returned kicks, but didn’t have a lot of big plays. Walled Lake (Mich.) Western three-star wide receiver Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen, meanwhile, had a big 50-yard reception that set up his team’s only score, but also had a few uncharacteristic drops.

Four-star offensive lineman Nolan Rumler is listed as a college offensive guard prospect, but he plays left tackle for his Akron (Ohio) Hoban team. In high school many times you are going to put your best lineman at left tackle, and I do not blame Hoban for using Rumler there. Saturday night’s contest with St. Ignatius showed his limitations at that position, though. One thing that has to be noted is Rumler was either blocking three-star defensive end Aidan Wells or four-star rush linebacker Tommy Eichenberg 90 percent of the time, but he struggled with quickness around the edge. In truth, though, that shouldn’t be an issue for Rumler at Michigan, where he is expected to line up at center or guard. He will not need an explosive kick-slide to handle edge speed from those positions.

Kentucky commit Cavon Butler was pretty quiet in Toledo (Ohio) Whitmer’s season-opening win gathering just a handful of tackles, but upon evaluation of the film the three-star defensive lineman was more a victim of circumstance than an unwilling participant. Canton Glenoak did a good job accounting for Butler, but he was disengaging from blockers and showed good quickness despite not having big stats. His biggest play of the game actually came on offense, when he subbed in as an H-back and caught a two-yard touchdown pass out of the backfield. Butler is not quite as tall as his listed 6-foot-3. He lined up at defensive end, but I’m going to say he projects best to a three-technique defensive tackle role in college.


Justin Rogers
Justin Rogers (Josh Helmholdt /

One of the biggest surprises of the opening weekend of games was seeing Rivals100 offensive guard Justin Rogers, all 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds of him, playing linebacker for Oak Park. Impressively Rogers finished the game with 11 tackles on the defensive side, some of them coming from the defensive end position as well, while also playing to the level we have come to expect from him on the offensive side. But, Rogers was not the only two-way four-star standout from the weekend.

Walled Lake (Mich.) Western four-star offensive tackle Spencer Brown started off his prep career about 50 pounds lighter than he currently plays, and fancied himself more of a defensive end prospect until his sophomore year of high school. Brown is back to his defensive ways as a senior, though it is still clearly his second position after offensive tackle, which he will play for Michigan State. What was most impressive about Brown on defense is that his motor stayed running at a high level throughout the game despite playing nearly every snap on offense and defense. Physically he’s in great shape and the stamina he showed Thursday evening was impressive.

Chicago (Ill.) Phillips four-star Jahleel Billingsley is headed to Alabama to play tight end (or wide receiver if you think he has the explosiveness to stay on the outside in college, which I do), but he made several plays from the defensive end position on Sunday. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Billingsley looks the part of a FBS defensive end prospect. And, he probably would be one if he was not so dynamic with the football in his hands. At Alabama he will only get to play one side of the football, but Phillips has the luxury of utilizing Billingsley’s unique skill set on both sides.