Midwest Takeaways: Games begin in Illinois and a Midnight Madness Camp
MIDWEST – Illinois was the only Midwestern state that did not conduct any high school football this past fall, postponing its season to the spring. This past weekend saw the first of those spring season games take place, but it also featured a big Midnight Madness Camp near Michigan that hosted top prospects from Detroit and Nashville.
LOYOLA ACADEMY VS. CHICAGO ST. RITA
The first game I covered in Illinois Friday night featured three of the top 15 prospects in the state’s 2022 class. The highest-ranked of those prospects was St. Rita four-star athlete Kaleb Brown, who comes in at No. 72 overall in the 2022 class and is the No. 2 ranked prospect in the state of Illinois.
Brown is listed as an athlete, but wants to play receiver in college. He lines up at both slot receiver and running back for St. Rita’s offense, but only touched the ball six times Friday night. That may explain why St. Rita only scored a field goal in a 7-3 loss to Loyola. When Brown did touch the ball he was electric, making defenders miss with his explosive quickness and agility.
Physically, Brown reminds me a lot of current Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams at the same stage of their developments. He is solidly-built and could handle ball-carrying duties in college, but slot receiver also fits his skill set well. Notre Dame is one of the teams Brown mentioned wanting to visit as soon as the dead period ends, with Michigan and Ohio State also being named. He is largely putting recruiting on the back burner during this spring season, however, and sounds nowhere close to making any big recruiting decisions.
Blocking for Brown and the St. Rita offense was three-star offensive lineman Valen Erickson. He lined up at right tackle Friday night and that looks like a good fit for him at the college level as well, but I could also see Erickson kicking inside to guard. He has the length and foot speed to handle edge rushers, but is at his best when he can get into defenders quickly and control with his hands.
Loyola featured three-star tight end James Kyle, the No. 10 ranked prospect in Illinois’ 2022 class. Kyle had just two receptions for 23 yards, but was a willing and able blocker who lined up both in-line and as an H-back. Kyle checks a lot of boxes at the tight end position. He has great size for the role, and is a good athlete who looked to have a natural pair of hands. We just did not get to see a lot of offense in a game that featured just 10 total points.
WAUBONSIE VALLEY VS. NAPERVILLE CENTRAL
Four-star Naperville Central wide receiver Reggie Fleurima was playing his first game as a Northwestern commit after pledging to the Wildcats last Wednesday. The very first thing I noticed is Fleurima enters his junior season physically transformed from where he ended his sophomore season 17 months ago. Listed now at 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds, Fleurima could pass for a college wide receiver with his physique.
Naperville Central jumped on Waubonsie Valley quickly and was up 33-0 at the half. Fleurima was out of the game midway through the third quarter, but he was able to make a few plays in that limited time.
Fleurima finished the game with two receptions for 72 yards. That included a 63-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter that put the game into a running clock situation. On the touchdown, Fleurima caught a quick screen pass, then outran the defense to the end zone. He also weaved his way through the defense earlier in the game for what would have been a 68-yard kickoff return touchdown, but that was called back on a penalty.
The performance, though limited in repetitions, further confirmed Fleurima’s four-star status. His size and skill set are ideally suited to play on the outside in the Big Ten, and he is a major pick-up for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern early in this 2022 class.
RISING STARS MIDNIGHT MADNESS LINEMEN
The talent at Saturday night’s Midnight Madness Camp put on by Rising Stars Academy was pretty equally spread between linemen and skill positions. While the majority of the prospects in attendance were from the state of Michigan, Daryl Graham brought several top prospects up from Nashville who work with his TeamDGA (Developing Great Athletes). One of those prospects was Montgomery Bell Academy offensive tackle Grayson Morgan, who may be the hottest prospect on the recruiting trail over the last month.
After a smattering of interest following his junior season, Morgan saw the scholarship offer dam break at the end of February. A total of 16 schools offered Morgan over a 25-day stretch including Duke, Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and UCF. His parents are both Auburn grads, and former Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is now at UCF. That is a team to watch here, but so are Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
As for performance, Morgan showed why he was the recipient of all the recent interest. He is just starting to fill out his 6-foot-6 frame and still looks very lean. There was no issue handling the point of attack, though, and his foot quickness was particularly impressive. There is a long way to go before Morgan reaches his potential, but the raw tools and want-to certainly appear to be there.
Detroit Cass Tech three-star offensive lineman Jackson Pruitt also had a nice showing Saturday night. I like him best as an interior guy. He may not have the same upside as Morgan, but he is also closer to his potential and has a high floor. Indiana, Kentucky, Penn State, Pittsburgh and West Virginia are some of the bigger schools that have offered Pruitt.
The group of 2023 offensive linemen also featured several Detroit-area prospects with budding recruitments. Amir Herring out of West Bloomfield, Dylan Senda out of Dearborn Divine Child and Johnathan Slack out of Detroit Martin Luther King all look to be interior players at the college level. Herring was particularly good, with active hands that allowed him to maintain leverage along with good footwork, though Senda and Slack were solid as well.
RISING STARS MIDNIGHT MADNESS SKILL
The skill positions at Saturday’s camp in Auburn Hills held the majority of the star power. Although they have not been rated yet, 2023 quarterbacks Dante Moore and Chris Parson were some of the most heavily-recruited prospects at the camp. Moore led Detroit Martin Luther King to the state title game as a freshman and holds more than 20 scholarship offers from some of the biggest names in college football. He has it all for the quarterback position – size, arm talent, athleticism and leadership.
Parson came to Michigan with the TeamDGA group. Originally from Texas, Parson transferred to Ravenwood High School just outside Nashville earlier this year. This was my first time seeing Parson live, and it reminded me of the first time seeing former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd live at the Army All-American Underclassmen Combine. Parson is similarly-size to Boyd, but it is the efficient arm mechanics and the way the ball jumps off his hand that reminds me most of Boyd. He will clearly be among the top quarterback prospects in the 2023 class, and already has an offer list numbering in the double digits.
RECRUITING UPDATE: Myles Rowser close to a decision
The bulk of the top skill position talent was at wide receiver and defensive back. Of all the defensive backs in attendance, I thought the Belleville (Mich.) High four-star duo of Myles Rowser and Jeremiah Caldwell performed best. Caldwell, a Kentucky commit, took reps at defensive back and wide receiver. He is competent at both, but I like him best at defensive back where his length and stickiness in coverage make him a very intriguing cornerback prospect.
This was the latest in a string of strong outings I have seen from Rowser since his freshman year. We now list him as a safety, but I was not fully comfortable with moving him from cornerback. Having watched Rowser again Saturday, we should not have moved him to safety. That is what he plays in high school, but he is best when manning up receivers, either in the nickel or at cornerback. Like his brother, class of 2020 four-star Andre Seldon, Rowser is ultra-competitive and those are the guys you want lining up over slot receivers or playing out on an island.
Rowser is set to announce his commitment later this month from a final four of Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Michigan State. Arkansas looks to be in the best shape heading into the final days of that recruitment.
Four-star cornerback Myles Pollard also came up from Nashville with the TeamDGA group. I have seen Pollard perform better in the past, but when you talk total physical tools, there may not have been a better cornerback prospect in attendance. His performance was solid, but in a group as talented as the one I saw Saturday, there were others who just had better nights.
Among the underclassmen defensive backs, a name to definitely watch is Harper Woods, Mich., class of 2024 Jacob Oden. He has safety size, but was lockdown in Man Coverage and was every bit as good as the upperclass defensive backs during the one-on-one portion of the camp. Oden holds seven early offers from FBS schools.
Four-star Birmingham Groves athlete Jaden Mangham went through position drills with the defensive backs, but played exclusively at wide receiver during the one-on-ones. On film I like him best at safety, and he did look fluid and agile running through defensive back drills. Size-wide, though, Mangham looks like a college wide receiver. He is being recruited for both positions.
The two wide receivers who impressed me most Saturday night were Detroit King’s Lynn Wyche-El and Belleville, Mich., three-star Christian Rapley. Camp settings showcase everything that makes the small, but explosive, Wyche-El special, and he was a difficult cover all night for even the four-star defensive backs. Rapley is not as flashy, but he is extremely efficient at creating separation and just has a really high IQ for the position.